Hiren Pandit: The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has declared February 21 February as ‘International Mother Language Day’. This recognition is an honor for us. To preserve the dignity of such recognition, we need to pay attention again to the preservation of the languages spoken by the small ethnic groups of our country. They should ensure that their children receive education in their mother tongue and at the same time join the mainstream of development. As the language movement has made us proud, it has also made us responsible for certain tasks, which cannot be avoided. If we cannot advance in education, and culture and develop human resources then we cannot glorify our language and country. We can’t move the country forward. In this case, steps should be taken to eliminate discrimination to ensure equality of opportunity. Which is very important.
Along with working for economic liberation in this country created as a result of the language movement, political and cultural development must be ensured. During the Pakistan era, we rejected the cultural divide and nurtured the democratic spirit, which should not be avoided. We should move forward on the path of unity, not division. Progress should be practiced. In the changing global scenario, it is difficult for each country to move forward among these backward elements separately. There is no option to move forward in this stream. Non-communal spirit and democratic culture, opportunism and compromise cannot be tolerated on the Bengali question.
It will cause a great disaster in the national life. As a result, one day it may be seen that even if we can move forward economically, politically and culturally, we have fallen far behind. At the core of this fight is education. Therefore, the foundation of unity should be strengthened instead of division in the education sector. Unfortunately, despite these advances, state-funded written and printed textbooks continue to face unexpected controversy. It is getting a chance to appear with a line of division, a statement of power. Supporters of the liberation war should be careful about these things. February, Language Movement Month and Awareness Month gives us an opportunity for introspection. Let us not get caught up in the excited talk of great achievements that have not yet been achieved or are in danger of being underestimated. Bengali language month starts from 1st February. This month we acquired our beloved Bengali language.
Amar Ekushey Granth Mela is popularly known as Ekushey Book Fair. One of the traditional fairs of independent Bangladesh, the history of this fair is as old as independent Bangladesh. As far as is known, on February 8, 1972, Chittaranjan Saha started the book fair by arranging 32 books brought from Kolkata on a piece of chaat in front of Burdwan House of Bangla Academy. These 32 books were published by Swadhin Bangla Sahitya Parishad founded by Chittaranjan Saha and written by Bangladeshi refugee writers who stayed in India during the Liberation War. We pledged that we would make the mother tongue the medium of education or spread Bengali at all levels. To what extent have we been able to make the concerted effort to accomplish that? How much progress has been made in writing and even translating Bengali-quality books at the higher education level?
Bangla Academy is organizing a book fair in the immortal commemoration month of the language movement. With time the fair has expanded and its fame is spreading far and wide. Various books including literature are being published on this occasion. But if you look at the quality, you will be disappointed in many cases. Anarchy is also going on in the use of language. The subjective use of language on social media is also responsible for this. However, writing in Bengali online has increased a lot. Youth participation is significant. High-quality literature written in Bengali, written in widely used languages including English, requires quality translation and dissemination. Bangla Academy, a symbol of hope and desire of the nation, should also come forward in this work. It should not be forgotten that the Bangla Academy is a direct product of the language movement. In 1973Bangla Academy arranged to sell books published by the Academy at a special reduced price from 15th February to 21st February. Apart from this, Muktadhara, Standard Publishers, and some others arrange to sell their books on the grounds of Bangla Academy.
In 1974, the Bangla Academy organized the National Literary Conference on 14 February. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman inaugurated the conference. On this occasion, Bangla Academy organized its own published book exhibition and mural exhibition. Professor Abu Mohammed Habibullah inaugurated the book exhibition. Given the public gathering, various publishing houses in Dhaka set up some stalls along the eastern wall of the academy to sell books.
In 1978, the then Director General of Bangla Academy, Ashraf Siddiqui directly associated Bangla Academy with the fair. The premises of the Ekushey Book Fair have been named after four language martyrs, Salam, Rafiq, Barkat and Shafiur. In addition, there will be a publishing house for children and teenagers in Shishu Corner in front of Nazrul Manch. Every time, there will be a new book unveiling ceremony at Nazrul Mancha. The information center for the promotion activities of the fair will be on the west altar of Burdwan Bhaban. There is a media center in the fair. Where there are computer and internet facilities. There is also a writer’s corner and an information center.
The fair premises are kept polythene free, smoking and hawker free. There is a 20-25 percent discount on book sales at the fair. Apart from this, a special task force is kept along with the security forces at the fair. Every day during the fair, discussions on various topics, and poetry reading sessions are held. Every evening there is a cultural program. In addition, the writers of the fair discuss their books with readers and visitors. From the information center of the fair, the news about the unveiling of new books, the names of the books published daily, and the names of the authors and publishers are published. Besides, various radio and television channels become media sponsors of the fair and inform the audience about the immediate news of the fair.
This is the longest book fairs in the world, either in terms of duration or in terms of caliber. There is a total presence of printed books. Although there have been separate stalls for digital media books on the premises of Bangla Academy for the last few years, it is clear that it is not influencing the readership. On one hand, tech people say, there will be no printed books, and on the other hand, the world’s longest printed book fair is taking place there. The number of Amar Ekushey Book Fair is increasing day by day. Naturally, the expression of people’s interest around this book fair. First in front of the Bangla Academy, then in the Bangla Academy premises and now beyond it in the historic Suhrawardy Udyan, the scope of the book fair has spread.
However, there is no such work on the history of the beginning of the book fair. Although there are many pros and cons to the Ekushey Book Fair organized by Bangla Academy, the book fair is unique in terms of taste, excellence, and sophistication. The book fair has become a monument of Bengali thinking and excellence. A fertile ground for collective creation. Just thinking about the book fair makes the soul feel happy, and the mind becomes cheerful. The book fair is a dynamic destination for joy, fellowship and exchange of ideas. Meeting loved ones at the book fair. Talks with favorite authors. The book fair is not only a book fair but also a talk fair. The book fair opens the door to an immense potential for social communication and networking. Around the book fair, there has been an incredible development in the publishing industry of Bangladesh. It can be said that the publishing industry of Bangladesh has stood on a solid foundation around this fair.
An international book fair was organized on the premises of Bangla Academy in the month of December that year. Since then, the book fair has started at Bangla Academy. Germany’s Frankfurt is recognized as the world’s traditional book fair, the world’s largest book fair. That book fair started about five hundred years ago, that is, in the fifteenth century. It is said that the printing of books in letterpress started only after Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press. Fairshave been organized since then to display, promote, and sell those printed books. In this fair of only five days, more than three lakh visitors and seven thousand publishers gathered. After that, the London Book Fair, the capital of England, is called the second-largest book fair in the world.
A cultural revolution took place in the country in the month of February, in front of this book fair, which is mixed with the current culture of Bangladesh. Thousands of organizations, including prominent publishing houses of the country, increased their activity around the Ekushey Book Fair. Book publishing is an industry where many creative people make a living. Creative people work in creative works like books. In continuation of the tradition, the entire Suhrawardy Udyan has been taken as the place of the fair due to the overflowing crowd of the book fair which once started at the Bangla Academy premises. This month of February is eagerly awaited by the book-loving readers, writers and publishers of Bangladesh throughout the year.
The entire book fair premises are filled with the smell of new books, and the Burdwan House premises of Bangla Academy and Suhrawardy Udyan are transformed into a fair of heart. But when we talk about history, what needs to be said is that this book fair was named ‘Amar EkusheGrantha Mela’ and it is celebrated every year in the month of February, and is regularly held on the premises of Bangla Academy, is the memory of the martyrs of the great language martyrs alive for the Bengali language on February 21, 1952. Coming, however, since 2014 Amar EkusheyGrantha Mela has expanded to Suhrawardy Udyan opposite Bangla Academy.
During the fair, various discussion meetings and cultural programs are organized daily on the premises of Bangla Academy. Besides, the fair has a Writers’ Corner, where writers are present and interact with readers and visitors about their books. From the information center of the fair, the names of the newly launched books, the name of the author and the publisher are announced and the overall list of published books is recorded daily. The month of February is not just a fixed month in the calendar – it has now become a symbol of Bengali self-respect, pride of expression, and self-discovery. Language martyrs are remembered in February. The book fair runs throughout the month.
Every Bengali waits for when February will come and when or when the book fair will start. Writers, readers, and publishers are eagerly waiting for this watch. A book fair was full of emotions and love of Bengalis. Many books were published. The name of the book has changed. The cover size is attractive. Nature is colorful in the well-decorated book fair. The book fair is not only a meeting place, but also a unique center dedicated to memories. With the pull of love and the smell of new books, we come to book fairs and return home. Take with you close memories of loved ones. A character read in a book becomes unnoticeable. Both eyes sometimes get wet after being immersed in pleasure and pain. A sigh comes out of his chest. We can hold little of the way we are trapped in the unattainable past. The fair of Amar Ekushey, the fair of our souls, is a festival to awaken our consciousness.
Hiren Pandit is a columnist and a researcher.