“The Bengali Language and Its People” by Debkanya Mitra

We sing in love, the story of those skies, that make my heart want play in the tune of the flute. Those springs, with the sunlit colors from the mango groves, which are everything to me. Those autumns, where I have seen blossoming rice fields, and your delicate smile. Amar Shonar Bangla (My Golden Country), we sing for our mother, god’s soil, and all of our brothers and sisters.

In the past, we’ve struggled for our language. Years ago, when we were deprived of our language, together we ignited an invocation for the realization of Bengali Identity: We will fight, we will protest, till we die, but we will never let go of our language. In the past, the British partitioned India. They tried to break Bengal apart, and surrendered us to become the foreign hearts of Pakistan.. They tried to make us forget our mother language, (which we forever love), and live under the Urdu language. But we fought back, renewing our dedication through each protest; and we died upon our own soil, and underneath our own soil. Amar Shonar Bangla, present day Bangladesh’s national anthem was written at that time, by our poet and songwriter, Rabindranath Tagore.

The most famous of our protests, was on February 21, 1952. Students rallied, near the University of Dhaka, at the gate. The Police were lined up, as if they were waiting to attack. The Police fired tear gas shells. An opposition leader commanded the police to stop firing, and for the students to leave. But the students did not, and would not move from their school’s protective soil. And the police fired. And as they shot us down, we sang louder, and they kept shooting. The officials of West Pakistan killed our students at Dhaka, and when we rose monuments, they tore them down. We kept singing, and years later, the songs from our heart reached their ears, far away.

In 1972, when Bangladesh won its Independence, the Shaheed Minar Monument was rebuilt permanently in front of the University of Dhaka, remembering and commemorating, our soldiers that served our language till their death. On November 17, 1999, all the 188 countries at the UNESCO meeting, accepted the proposal, marking February 21st as International Mother Language Day.

Bengal today, is part of two different countries. The same vivid language, is what connects us, to each other. We have different religions, mainly Hindu, and Muslim, but we’ve learned to accept that, with our hearts, and our compassion. We’re the same river, that runs through both countries, that diverges into two streams, the Ganges  and the Padma. Bengal’s heart will always remain one, undivided.

The protest song, and call, Amar Shonar Bangla was written by Rabindranath Tagore. Jana Gana Mana, India’s national anthem, was written by the same hand. Among the Bengali people, his voice is very beloved, and the words to his songs are sung in chorus. He won the Nobel prize for his collection of songs, titled Gitanjali, in 1913. He was the first non-European to win. This man’s words have touched that hearts, of each person, that have heard them.

In 1893, the son of Bengal, Swami Vivekananda, came to Chicago, and spoke to the people, addressing the audience in the Parliament of the World’s Religions, as “the Sons and Daughters of America” and spoke about religious tolerance, and unity. His words and legacies, are relevant in our diverse world clashing with religious conflict.

The Bengali Community in the United States, has kept their culture and at  the same time has  become amalgamated with the heart of American society. These include, ideas in science, economics, education, philosophy, and daily life. The Bengali speaking individuals are found in all 50 States of USA, and one of every 2,037 people of age five and older speaks Bengali at home.

Our language is a significant part of the Bengali identity. In my home, right here in Maryland, I’ve come across people, from different regions, who’ve struggled for acceptance, just as much as we have. It’s important, in Montgomery County, that we encourage diversity, to understand and connect with the people around us, and their cultures. And through understanding, we can see the world.

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