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Midnight torch rally, overnight cultural events, rice and fish usher in International Mother Language Day in Kolkata, Indo-Bangla border

Dinner comprised items typical of Bengalis in Kolkata and Bangladesh.

kolkata Updated: Feb 21, 2017 15:18 IST
Snigdhendu Bhattacharya
Snigdhendu Bhattacharya
Hindustan Times
International Mother Language Day,February 21,Kolkata
A rally near Petrapole on Indo-Bangladesh border on Monday night in which more than 1,000 persons took part.(Facebook)

A midnight torch rally in Kolkata and Bongaon on the Indo-Bangladesh border accompanied with traditional Bengali dinner of rice, fish and potato-poppy seed curry, blood donation camps at the border and overnight cultural events since Monday evening stood out in the International Language Day celebrations in West Bengal.

At Benapole in Bangladesh and Petrapole in India about 80 kms from Kolkata blood donation camps were organised. The blood collected from each camp will go to the blood bank on the other side of the border.

A giant 500 feet long typically Bengali motif created on auspicious ceremonies, known as alpana, was drawn on the road in front of Academy of Fine Arts in Kolkata.

The event was one of the rare occasions where both ruling party and opposition politicians such as power minister Sovandeb Chatterjee, chairman of poetry academy Subodh Sarkar and CPI(M) MP Mohammad Salim and CPI(M) leader Bikash Bhattacharya attended.

A few hundred torches were lit up at the stroke of midnight on February 20 in front of Academy of Fine Arts in Kolkata to welcome International Mother Language Day, as eminent cultural personalities from Bangladesh and Sri Lanka walked in a silent rally, together with writers, artistes and civil society personalities from West Bengal, Tripura, Assam, Jharkhand and Meghalaya, to commemorate the martyrs of language movement in Bangladesh.

The midnight torch rally in front of Academy of Fine Arts in Kolkata. (Emanul Haque/Facebook)

Participants in the rally joined the chorus and sung Bangladesh’s national anthem, Amar Sonar Bangla, as well as other songs dedicated to the language movement in 1952 and its martyrs.

In 1999 UNESCO announced February 21 will be observed as the International Mother Language Day to promote multilingualism and cultural diversity. It was a recognition of the prolonged struggle of the people of Bangladesh who fought with the rulers of Pakistan who imposed Urdu as the official language in 1948.

Throughout Monday night, plays were staged, songs and dances performed and poetry read out. Food stalls serving quintessential Bengali cuisines ‘aloo-posto’ and ‘machher jhol-bhaat’ were set up.

Read: City Bengalis to celebrate Mother Language Day

The cultural event organised by the city-based Bhasha O Chetona Samiti started on Monday evening and went on till Tuesday morning. From the morning, the day was observed at various places across the city as well as different parts of West Bengal.

In Kolkata, students from Dhaka University participated in a rally that walked down a two-kilometre stretch carrying posters highlighting the historic movement in Bangladesh in 1952. A replica of the Shahid Minar in Dhaka was installed on the college campus for the celebrations jointly organised by the alumni association of St Xavier’s College and the Bongo Sahityo Samiti.

On the International border with Bangladesh, too, the cultural programmes started on Monday evening on both sides of the border – at Petrapole in Bongaon and Benapole in Jessore – where thousands joined the candle light march at midnight.

Prominent artistes from West Bengal and Bangladesh performed at the events organised by the civic chiefs of the neighbouring towns on two sides of the border that was thrown open on Tuesday morning for people to attend both events.

“This is the first time civic bodies on both sides of the border co-organised the remembrance of the language martyrs,” said Shankar Adhya, chairman of the Bongaon municipality in North 24-Parganas district of West Bengal.

The day was observed at the office of deputy high commissioner of Bangladesh as well. Chief minister Mamata Banerjee, too, participated in an event. “Let mother tongue be the medium of expression,” she said.

First Published: Feb 21, 2017 15:18 IST