Bangla in UNGA: Continuation of legacy from father to daughter

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Published on September 26, 2021
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September 25 is a glorious day in the history of the Bengali nation and the Bangla language as Bangabandhu addressed the UN General Assembly in Bangla for the first time on the day in 1974.

Terming the day significant, prime minister’s ICT Affairs Adviser Sajeeb Wazed Joy on Saturday shared a video of Bangabandhu’s UNGA speech, the Prime Minister of independent Bangladesh, on his verified Facebook page remembering the day.

When Bangabandhu delivered his UNGA speech on September 25, 1974, in his mother tongue Bangla, it marked the culmination of a process that had started on February 21, 1952.

The language rights movement for Bangla had snowballed into a movement for an independent Bangladesh under Bangabandhu’s leadership.

His UNGA speech not only announced the birth of a new nation but one based on linguistic and cultural pride rather than religion.

Earlier, on September 17, Bangladesh became a member of the United Nations.

It was the first time that the use of the Bangla language started in any official meeting of the international body, he added.

Columnist Ajoy Dasgupta said Bangladesh is a classic case of continuity of legacy from father to daughter, despite the massacre of much of the Sheikh Mujib’s family in 1975 and the dozens of assassination attempts against Bangabandhu’s daughter, now the prime minister of Bangladesh.

Dasgupta, an Ekushey Padak awardee, said the military rulers who had taken over and ruled Bangladesh for the next 15 years legitimized the pro-Pakistan Jamaat-e-Islami, introduced constitutional amendments that undermined the country’s secular democratic polity, and finally declared Islam as the state religion of Bangladesh.

He also said that some parties like BNP (founded in the barracks) and its ally, Jamaat-e-Islami have tried to restore the Pakistani military-fundamentalist model of radical Islam but failed.

When the world worries for Afghanistan, especially its women, and terror-sponsor Pakistan sinks into an economic abyss, the world is all praise for Bangladesh's amazing economic turnaround and social inclusion, for its battle against climate change and gender empowerment -- all rooted in Bangladesh unique Bengali culture and the language, Dasgupta added.

This September, as Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina again addressed the UNGA in Bengali, two women diplomats flanked her to chair the session and translate -- an amazing reminder of the Bengali roots of this fast modernising nation from the basket case of the 1970s, he said.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina addresses the 76th UNGA session at the UN Headquarters in New York on Friday, September 24, 2021 I PID

"Only those countries who have earned freedom after long years of struggles and sacrifices have strong will and strength of mind, Remember president, my Bengalis can endure sufferings but will not die. In the challenge to survive, the will of my people is my greatest strength,” Bangabandhu reminded the UNGA.

Twenty-five years later, his daughter Sheikh Hasina moved the Unesco, in 1999, to secure recognition for February 21 as the International Language Day.

Bangabandhu secured global recognition for Bangla, spoken by the seventh-largest linguistic group in the world, a global recognition.

His daughter carried it further and got institutionalised recognition of Bengali, the only language to have produced a Nobel Laureate in Literature in South Asia.

Source: UNB