Anti corporal punishment crusader Sir Frank Peters expressed his disappointment today upon learning the Mother Language Day celebrations at a school in which he was to be Chief Guest was cancelled.
Undaunted by the set-back, he addressed a large group of awe-struck students near the school in Laionhati (Khilgaon) and reminded them that February 21 is their day, a day to feel proud to be Bangladeshi, a day of solemn celebration.
“This is a day worthy of the most profound respect by each and every pupil, both male and female, individually and collectively, in respectful tribute to the memories of the language heroes,” he said.
“As you know, February 21 is the anniversary of the day on which four Bengali students were mercilessly killed in 1952, because they dared speak out and campaign to exercise their Allah-given right and officially use their mother language.
“It is also the anniversary of the day brave young Bengali voices were heard, echoed, and ricocheted worldwide protesting against language enslavement. It is the day these principled young people unselfishly forfeited their lives for their noble convictions,” he said.
Asked if he would be paying homage in private: “most definitely,” he replied. “The greatest love a person can show for a worthy cause is to give his own life. These young men did. We’ve seen that also in 1971 during the historic struggle for Bangladesh independence.
“While students Abdus Salam, Rafiq Uddin Ahmed, Abul Barkat and Abdul Jabbar died in police fire at the University of Dhaka, their voices will live on, never to be silenced, never to be forgotten. Their names are etched in marble and will live on and be revered eternally.
“They are heroes… they are martyrs,” he said. “It is they who inspired the International Mother Language Day that was promulgated by UNESCO in 1999 for the entire world to observe, honour, and respect.
“International Mother Language Day is indeed a day for all Bangladeshi students to stand tall, hold their heads erect, and feel proud. It is a day when all Bengali’s, wherever they may be worldwide, to feel proud.
“February 21 is a day for the world to salute Bengali students in recognition of their noble contribution to the annals of history. It is a day I’m particularly proud of Bangladesh and proud to feel half-Bangladeshi,” Sir Frank said.