This weekend, I was honoured to give a brief introductory talk for the Toronto Bengali community’s celebration of Basha Shahid Dibos, Martyr’s Day and International Mother Tongue Day. This six-hour event began at 8 p.m., Sunday, February 20, the eve of the holiday, and featured the marking of the day itself at 12:01 a.m. February 21, the anniversary of the 1952 police killing of peaceful Bengali demonstrators asking for official language recognition of Bengali (Bangla) in what is now Bangladesh. The event was available online as well as on Canada’s first twenty-four hour Bangla television channel, NRB TV.
This day of Martyrdom was the origin of the United Nations’ establishment of February 21 as International Mother Language Day. The UNESCO declaration states: ‘The mother language, in which the first words are uttered and individual thought expressed, is the foundation for the history and culture of each individual.’
In my role as Poet Laureate of Toronto and along with High Commissioner of Bangladesh to Canada Dr. Khalilur Rahman, I declared the opening of the Canadian Basha Shahid Dibos celebration. Special guests at the event included Nathaniel Erskine-Smith MP and Dolly Begum MP. And the event itself was presented by renowned writer and researcher Subrata Kumar Das.
Of course, the heart of the event was the participation of Canada’s Bangladeshi organizers, thinkers, writers, artists and cultural personalities, who contributed songs, poems, discussions and much more.
The NRB TV broadcast in its entirety is available on Facebook Live:
You can also sample my own brief involvement here, with my many thanks to NRB TV: