Saturday, February 28, 2009

Ekushey February: A Timeline -- 6

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On the night of February 23, 1952, mourning and emotionally-charged Dhaka Medical College students hurriedly constructed this first Shaheed Minar (Language Martyrs' Memorial) with bricks on the spot of the February 21 shooting. The black colour of the memorial symbolizes the death of the martyrs as well as mourning of the people. Armed policemen demolished the first shaheed minar on February 26.
Photo Courtesy:www.banglamusic.com

THE POST-21ST FEBRUARY EVENTS:

1952 (February 22):
Thousands of people -- both males and females -- rushed to the University Arts Faculty, Medical College and Engineering College areas to pay their respect and offer their prayers for the shooting victims. Police again fired upon the crowd when they started to proceed in procession.

There were other firings elsewhere, too. Angry mob attacked different government offices. When a group set fire and caused a heavy damage to the press and office of the pro-government and pro-Urdu The Morning News daily, the police shot and killed four people. The goverment called on the army to control the situation.

The Morning News printing press had also a Bangla composing section that used to take job orders from outside customers. The Pratibeshi (neighbour) was a Bangla monthly, published by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Dhaka, and it was being printed from the Morning News press on contract basis. It was a purely Catholic religious monthly that had nothing to do with politics. All composed matters along with manuscripts of this monthly were also burnt down by the fire. In its next issue, printed from elsewhere, it published an editorial in support of the Bangla and Bangla language movement.

Nurul Amin, the Chief Minister, under pressure from the opposition as well as some members of his own Muslim League party, moves a motion recommending to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan that Bangla be one of the state languages of Pakistan. The motion passes unanimously.

1952 (February 23):
In spite of the provincial Assembly's pro-Bangla resolution, a spontaneous general strike is observed. In reply, the government still resorts to repression.

The All-Party Committee of Action announces a general strike for February 25 to protest government's repressive actions.

The Dhaka Medical College Students uses bricks, cement and sand, already available in the nearby construction site, to erect the first Shaheed Minar (Martyrs' Memorial) on the spot where Abul Barkat was killed. From that time on the Shaheed Minar became a rallying symbol for the Bangalees.

(Conntinued)

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Friday, February 27, 2009

Ekushey February: A Timeline -- 5

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1952 (February 3):
In an All-Party Committee of Action protest meeting, Maulana Bhasani, at the advice of Abul Hashim, announces February 21 the 'Bangla State Language Day' and calls for a hartal (an all-out general strike), meetings and demonstrations throughout the province on that day, when the East Bengal Assembly is to meet for its budget session.

1952 (February 4):
Thousands of students rallied around Dhaka city and after the procession they gathered at the Beltola of the University of Dhaka. In that meeting, leaders called on the people of East Pakistan to make February 21 hartal a success.

1952 (February 20):
In the late afternoon, the government of Chief Minister Nurul Amin (a Bangali and a Muslim League party member) announces throughout the city by miking that all types of public gatherings, processions and demonstrations have been banned on February 21 under the Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code of Pakistan.

Members of the political parties, who were in the All-Party Committee of Action, decide not to violate the public gathering ban thinking that any confrontation with the police or any untoward incident may give the government of East Pakistan an excuse to postpone the coming election. The students of the Dhaka University, however, express their determination to defy the government ban on public gatherings and demonstrations. Students campaign throughout the city in favour of the hartal.

1952 (February 21):
From 8:00 a.m. onwards, small groups of school students from different parts of Dhaka city march toward the University of Dhaka and assemble at the Arts Faculty foyer. [It is important to note that at that time the Faculty of Arts of the University of Dhaka was housed in a section of the present Dhaka Medical College Hospital building. There was an old mango tree near the entrance. That was the famous Amtola where many student protest gatherings were held. Another section of the same building housed the Dhaka Medical College and a third section was used as Dhaka Medical College Hospital.] College students do the same around 9:oo a.m. By 9:30 a.m. several thousand students from different halls of the University and Medical and Engineering College hostels join the assembly. By 11:30 a.m. there were 20,000 to 25,000 students there. The slogan, "We demand Bangla to be the state language", reverberated the university campus.

Armed police were patrolling the streets in front of the Arts Faculty and behind them were tear-gas squad, waiting for intruction to make their move.

In the meantime, news reached the students' agitating group that there was a tear-gas attack on a section of students' procession near Lalbagh of the old section of Dhaka. Abdul Matin, the convenor and Gaziul Huq, the President of the Dhaka University State Language Action Council gave speeches and asked all to break the Section 144 prohibitions.

At the suggestion of Abdus Samad Azad, students in tens began to go out of the campus towards the Provincial Assembly building. Habibur Rahman Shelly let the first group, Abdus Samad Azad the second group, Anwarul Huq and Obidullah Khan the third group. University girls were in the fourth group. After the girls, there were several boys' groups. The police were arresting them group by group and students did not give a fight.

So far so good, but the police's violent interference turned the situation into a worse one. After few groups of students passed throught the gate, the police, without any provocation, started to baton-charge on the students at the gate and on the road in front of it. The riot police then started to lob tear-gas shells on the campus. Many students rushed towards the pond to wash their burning eyes and brought with them wet handkerchiefs to counter further police attack. Then the students began to throw bricks and stones at the police. Gaziul Huq, hit by a tear-gas shell, became unconscious and was taken away to the girls' common room. This attack and counter-attack continued for hours. When cornered by the police, students broke down the brick wall between the Arts Faculty and Medical College. The fight then spread to the Medical and Engineering College areas. The number of injured students were countless.

Around 3:00 p.m., the police, at the instruction of the District Magistrate Qureshi, with a sudden move entered the Medical College hostel and took position on the ground there and opened fire. Some bodies fell on the street. Among the dead were Mohammad Salauddin, Abdul Jabbar, Abul Barkat, Rafiquddin Ahmed, and Abdus Salam.

The news of the shooting on the demonstrators spread like a wildfire throughout Dhaka. Thousands of students and general public rushed to the Dhaka Medical College Hospital to pay their tribute to the martyrs. They are called 'martyrs' because they sacrificed their lives for a greater cause, a cause that would preserve the dignity of Bangla -- their mother language -- and give it a special place nationally.

When the news reached the East Bengal Assembly, six opposition members urged the government to adjourn the House and at the same time they demanded an inquiry into the shootings. Chief Minister Nurul Amin brushed aside their request and asked the House to proceed with the planned agenda for the day. The opposition members then walked out of the House in protest.

In the evening, curfew was imposed in the city and the military started to patrol the streets. To provide an efficient leadership, the "All-Party State Language Action Committee" was reformed and a full-day strike, Gayebana Zanaza (prayers for the departed) and a procession were announced for February 22.

Dead bodies were taken to the Dhaka Medical College Hospital morgue. Thinking that the police may try again to move away dead bodies from the morgue, as they did earlier in the day from the tear-gas filled situation, students stood on guard at the morgue gate. At late night, a group of armymen, escorted by police, stormed the morgue gate and took away dead bodies. Few determined students followed them stealthily on foot and saw them bury the dead in nearby Azimpur cemetary. As soon as the police and army personnel left the cemetary, students rushed in and marked the spots of the language martyrs. Next day thousands of mourning people paid their tributes to martyrs in the cemetary.

(Continued)

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Ekushey February: A Timeline -- 4

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THE CLIMAX OF THE LANGUAGE MOVEMENT

1952 (January 26):
Khwaja Nazimuddin, a Muslim League member and then the Prime Minister of Pakistan, at a public meeting at Paltan Maidan (an open-air field for sports and huge public gatherings) in Dhaka, repeated late Mohammad Ali Jinnah's earlier statement that Urdu would be the state language of Pakistan. This latest anti-Bangla speech, coupled with the Basic Principles Committee's 1950 interim report suggesting Urdu to be made the state language, started a new wave of language agitation in East Pakistan. The University of Dhaka students again began to take the leading part in this.

1952 (January 28):
East Pakistan Jubo (Youth) League and East Pakistan Students' League organized a protest rally at the Amtola (under an old mango tree in front of the university Arts Faculty building). In his speech, Habibur Rahman Shelly, publicly criticized Mr. Jinnah's anti-Bangla statement of 1948, Prime Minister Liaquat Ali's sychophancy, and Khwaja Nazimuddin's latest mimicry of Jinnah. Students also denounced the East Pakistan provincial ministers' toeing the line of the West Pakistani ruling elite.

1952 (January 30):
At the call of the Awami Muslim League party (later renamed Awami League), a secret meeting is held in Dhaka where a few communist and other small party members attend. They decide that the Awami Muslim League, under the leadership of Maulana Bhasani, take up and continue the Bangla langauge movement as the students themselves cannot do it alone.

1952 (January 31):
In this all-party gathering, an "All-Party Committee of Action" is formed with representatives from the Awami Muslim League, Khilafat-e-Rabbani party, Students' League and Youth League, and the Dhaka University State Language Committee of Action.

(Continued)
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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ekushey February: A Timeline -- 3

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1948 (March 11):

A general strike was observed in different cities and towns of East Pakistan. There were protest demonstrations and meetings against the omission of Bangla from languages of the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan, the absence of Bangla letters in the Pakistani coins and stamps, and the use of only Urdu in the recruitment tests of the Pakistan navy. The protesters also renewed their demand for making Bangla as one of the state languages of Pakistan and the official language of East Pakistan. There was also a protest meeting on the Unversity of Dhaka campus.

Some protesting leaders and workers of Tamaddun Majlish and East Pakistan Muslim Chhatra League were arrested on the day. Among them, were Shawkat Ali, Kazi Golam Mahboob, Shamsul Huq, Oli Ahad, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, and Abdul Wahed.

1948 (March 12-15):
Strikes were observed in support of Bangla language and the arrested leaders.

1948 (March 15):
Governor General Mohammad Ali Jinnah was scheduled to visit East Pakistan from March 19. It was to be his first visit here as the Governor General. Continuous language agitation made East Pakistan Chief Minister Khwaja Nazimuddin nervous as he was desperate in making Mr. Jinnah's visit undisturbed. He sent out a letter inviting Professor Abul Kashem to meet him for discussion.

On March 15, Professor Abul Kashem with a group of representatives of the Language Movement went to meet Khwaja Nazimuddin. Professor Kashem presented a memorandum of agreement to the Prime Minister. After discussion, the Agreement was signed in eight clauses between the Prime Minister and the leaders of the Language Movement Committee.

The points of agreement were as follows:
  1. Those arrested in the movement of Bangla language from 29 February, 1948 onwards shall be released immediately.
  2. They shall set us high-powered commission to enquire about eh complaint of police torture within one month and a statement should be made on it by the Prime Minister himself.
  3. In the first week of April, 1948 meeting of East Bengal Legislative Assembly, a date will be fixed for discussion on a special proposal of making Bangla one of the state languages and giving it an equal status with Urdu in the Pakistan Constituent Assembly and different central government examinations.
  4. A proposal shall be raised in the Pakistan Constituent Assembly in the first week of April to replace English with Bangla as the provincial government langauge of East Pakistan. In addition, the medium of education in East Pakistan will be Bangla.
  5. Those involved in the Language movement should not face any action against them.
  6. Bans should be withdrawn from all East Pakistan and Calcutta newspapers.
  7. From February 29, the Section 144 shall be withdrawn from the places of the Language movement.
  8. "After discussion with the Language Movement Committee, I (Chief Minister Khwaja Nazimuddin) am free from doubt that this movement has not been inspired by any enemy of the state." (Ref: Bangladesher Swadhinata Juddha -- Dalilpatra, published by the Ministry of Information, Government of Bangladesh, Vol. 1, 1982, p.77)
Although the Chief Minister avoided his direct responsibility of making Bangla the state language of Pakistan, the Language movement people and others in East Pakistan were satisfied at the signed agreement. Those arrested for language agitation were later released.

1948 (March 19):
Mohammad Ali Jinnah comes to East Pakistan for the first time after becoming the Governor General of Pakistan on August 14, 1947, the day of the country's independence from the English.

1948 (March 21):
At the University of Dhaka convocation ceremony at the Curzon Hall, Governor General Mohammad Ali Jinnah declared that while the language of the province can be Bangla, the "State language of Pakistan is going to be Urdu and no other language. Any one who tries to mislead you is really an enemy of Pakistan." Some students, including Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, immediately voiced their protest there against Mr. Jinnah's statement and they were arrested.

Later the Governor General met with representatives of the students' Action Committee and tried to convince them of the importance of having one national language, but the students did not agree with him.

(Continued)
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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Ekushey February: A Timeline -- 2

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1947 (December 6):

University of Dhaka students were furious at the demeaning and insulting language used by Fazlur Rahman, the Central Education Minister, against Bangla and its script and the decision of the Pakistan Educational Conference to make Urdu the only state language of Pakistan. At the students' call, a meeting was held in the university campus on December 6 where they denounced the Education Minister and his anti-Bangla efforts and demanded that Bangla be made one of the state languages of Pakistan.

1947 (Last Week of December):
Towards the end of December, Tamaddun Majlish helped form the first Rastra Bhasha Sangram Parishad (State Language Action Committee) with Professor Nurul Huq Bhuiyan of Tamaddun Majlish as its convenor. The purpose was to provide organized resistence against the anti-Bangla policies of the Pakistan Central Government and to protest the degrading comments and actions of the Education Minister against Bangla. This Sangram Parishad was able to attract support of students of the University of Dhaka and other educational institutions, teachers and general public.

1948 (February 23):
At the first session of the Muslim League-dominated Constituent Assembly of Pakistan, presided over by the Farsi-and-Urdu-speaking Governor General Mohammad Ali Jinnah, in Karachi -- the then capital of Pakistan, it was proposed that members either speak in English or Urdu. One opposition member, Mr. Dhirendra Nath Datta (1886-1971) -- a Hindu lawyer from Brahmanbaria and member of the Pakistan Nationalist Congress Party -- moved an amendment motion to include Bangla along with Urdu and English as one of the languages of the Assembly. He reasoned out that among the total population of 69 million people in Pakistan, 44 million people were from East Pakistan with Bangla as their language. The Farsi-and-Urdu-speaking Pakistan Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan and the Farsi-and-Urdu-speaking Chief Minister of East Pakistan Khwaja Nazimuddin opposed the motion. Some other Bangali East Pakistani Muslim League members along with the West Pakistanis also helped defeat this motion. At this news, there was an uproar among students, intellectuals and politicians in Dhaka. Newspapers, like the Bangla daily Azad, also criticized the motion-rejecting politicians in Karachi.

1948 (Early March):
Under the convenorship of Shamsul Huq, a new action committee was formed to struggle for making Bangla as one of the state langauges of Pakistan.

(Continued)
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Monday, February 23, 2009

Ekushey February: A Timeline -- 1

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THE POLITICAL BACKGROUND:


13th Century:

Turkish Muslim conquerors begin their advance on Bengal from other parts of India. Gradually Turkish, Afghan and Mughal Muslim rulers were in-charge of Bengal. In the 15th century, Abyssinian black slaves, for a time, were in power in Bengal.

15th Century:
The Europeans -- Portuguese, Dutch, French and English traders -- start trading with Bengal.

1690:
Job Charnock of the [English] East India Company receives the trade settlement right in and around the villages of Kalikata, Sutanauti and Gobindapur on the eastern bank of the Hughli (Bhagirathi) River. This English settlement later came to be called Calcutta (presently Kolkata).

1757 (June 23):
Several disputes between the Nawab of Bengal Mirza Muhammad Sirajuddaula (popularly known only as 'Sirajuddaula') and the East India Company traders came to a head and led to an 8-hour battle in the village of Palashi (the English call it 'Plassey'), in present Nadia District of West Bengal. Due to bribing by the English and also personal ambitions, Nawab's army chief Mir Jafar Ali Khan (popularly known as 'Mir Jafar') and some other high-ranking officials betrayed the Nawab in the battle of Palashi in spite of having well-armed superior forces than the English. The Farsi-and-Urdu-speaking Nawab was thus defeated and later killed. This crucial defeat laid the foundation of the English rule in Bengal and later expansion of their hegemony in other parts of India.

1857:
The English East India Company by this time was ruling a large part of the Upper Ganjetic Plain and Central India, including the greater Bengal. On May 10, a rebellion (termed 'mutiny' by the British) of Indian sepoys ('sipahi' or soldier) of the Company broke out in Meerut town of present Uttar Pradesh, India. Then it quickly spread to different parts of the Company-ruled India, including the region of present-day Bangladesh. This revolt was the first War of Independence of India. It is also called the 'Sepoy Mutiny', 'Indian Mutiny', or 'Indian Rebellion of 1857'. The rebellion was completely suppressed with much bloodshed in the following year.

1858:
Since 1757, the East India Company ruled India in the name of the British monarchy. After the suppression of the soldiers' rebellion, the British Government under the monarchy took over the full and direct control of governing India. This is called the British Raj (rule), which ended in August, 1947, with the independence of India and Pakistan.

THE BANGLA (BENGALI) LANGUAGE MOVEMENT:

1947 (July):
Even before the independence of Pakistan, Dr. Muhammad Shahidullah, an educationist, writer and philologist, was the first to propose and reason out that Bangla (Bengali), not Urdu, should be the state lanaguage of the independent Pakistan.

1947 (August 14):
Muslim-majority regions of East Bengal and the region, later known as West Pakistan, gained independence from the English and became Pakistan. On August 15, the Hindu majority areas of the subcontinent became independent India. The Farsi-and-Urdu-speaking Muslims, mostly from north India gave leadership to Muslim independence movement.

1947 (September 1):
An Islamic cultural organization, called Pakistan Tamaddun Majlish (popularly known as 'Tamaddun Majlish'), was founded in Dhaka in the light of Calcutta Renaissance Society. Professor Abul Kashem of the Physics Department of the University of Dhaka was its founder.

1947 (September 15):
Tamaddun Majlish published a pamphlet, called Pakistaner Rastra Bhasha: Bangla Na Urdu? (Pakistan's State Language: Bangla or Urdu?). Professor Abul Kashem, Abul Mansur Ahmed and Kazi Motahar Hossain were among the writers of the pamphlet. Some of their demands were:
  • Bangla and Urdu be two official languages of the Central Government of Pakistan.
  • Bangla be the medium of instruction, court language and official language of East Pakistan.
  • Urdu be taught as a second language in East Pakistan.
  • English be the third or international language of East Pakistan.
  • For the first few years, both English and Bangla be the official languages in East Pakistan.
1947 (November):
At the call of Fazlur Rahman, a Bangali, who was also the Central Education Minister of Pakistan, representatives of both the wings of Pakistan attended the Pakistan Educational Conference in Karachi. In this conference, the Education Minister made slanderous comments on Bangla (Bengali) langauge and script. Finally, the majority participants of the conference took the unilateral decision of adopting Urdu as the only state language of Pakistan.

(Continued)

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Poem of the Month (February, 2009): EKUSHEY (21st) FEBRUARY



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The Ekushey (21st) February early morning scene at the Central Shaheed Minar (Language Martyrs' Memorial) in Dhaka in 1975. People with flowers, garlands and wreaths are coming to pay their homage to the fallen martyrs who gave their lives on this day in 1952 in defending the dignity and status of Bangla (Bengali), their mother language
Photo (Dhaka: February 21, 1975) © Jerome D'Costa

Ekushey (21st) February

The matrilingua, mother language, or mother tongue --
Whatever we call it, it is the language of our mother.
It is our language that we inherit from her since our birth.
It is so precious, so near and dear to us
That it's like an umbilical cord, a lifeline for us all.

It was in the late 40s and early 50s
When West Pakistani ruling coterie attempted to deprive the majority Bangalees
Of their legitmate right of using their mother language nationally.
Some so-called scholars, stooges of the ruling class,
Even proposed to introduce Arabic script to write Bangla!
How dare say!

There was no connection, no relation with the Urdu and Farsi,
The languages of the rulers.
They write theirs from the right, whereas Bangalees write from the left.
There's bound to be a clash -- a collision -- you know,
Which really happened on the 21st February, 1952!

Shots were fired on protesting students and folks,
Several persons lost their lives,
Among them Salam, Jabbar, Barkat, Rafiq, and Safiur.
The blood of the language martyrs was the seed of the independence of Bangladesh.

The Shaeed Minar in their memory and honour,
Symbolizes their struggle, their sacrifice, and their death.
It reminded us of the importance of our rights and freedom, and more struggles ahead.
Ultimately, yes ultimately in late 1971, we could earn our independence because of them.





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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Ekushey (21st) February and International Mother Language Day


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(L-R): The writing of "Ekushey February" in Bangla (Bengali),
and the Central
Shaheed Minar (Language Martyrs' Memorial)
in Dhaka

Graphic Design (Toronto: February, 2009) © Joachim Romeo D'Costa

Today is the Ekushey (21st) February, the great Language Martyrs' Day in Bangladesh, observed with high spirit, respect and splendor. Bangladeshis go to their shaheed minars (language martyrs' memorials), built in different cities and towns to pay homage to the martyrs and lay flowers and wreaths. Ex-patriate Bangladeshis elsewhere in the world do the same in their makeshift shaheed minars.

The Ekushey February symbolizes the struggle and ultimate victory of the East Pakistanis (presently Bangladesh people) who broke the chain of political, economic and social domination perpetrated by the West Pakistanis (presently Pakistanis) at that time in the name of Islam.

Language Used as a Means of Domination

If we look at the history, we see that people of any domineering group or victors always want to impose their own language over the dominee group to make their sway complete. This happened with the Greeks, Romans, Persians, Aryans, Portuguese, Spanish, British, French, Dutch, Italians and the like. The West Pakistanis at the time wanted to do the same over the East Pakistanis. They wanted to make Urdu the only state language of Pakistan, although the eastern wing of Pakistan had more people than West Pakistan and their language was Bangla (Bengali).

The Ekushey February of 1952

When the Pakistani ruling class was adamant in imposing Urdu over the East Pakistanis, a hartal (an all-out general strike) was called in Dhaka on February 21, 1952. The government imposed Section 144 prohibiting a gathering of more than four persons in one place. Although opposition East Pakistani politicians at the last moment backed down, majority students of the University of Dhaka decided to defy the prohibition. From the present Medical College Hospital area students tried to move in procession towards the East Pakistan Provincial Assembly building (present Salimullah Hall of the university) where East Bengal Legislative Assembly was about to begin. Police, by firing blanks, tried to disperse the students and general public, but they failed. Then they directly fired at them and killed Abul Barkat, Rafiq Uddin Ahmed, Abdul Jabbar and Abdus Salam. At this news, schools and colleges in other cities and towns brought out protest demonstrations and rallies. Later this language movement gained more momentum and with the victory of the United Front in 1954 election, Bangla was recognized as on the one of the two (the other being Urdu) national languages of Pakistan.

International Mother Language Day

At the initiative of Bangladesh, the proposal of February 21 as the International Mother Language Day was accepted by the UNESCO General Conference in Paris. From the year of 2000, this day is officially being observed throughout the world in recognition of the sanctity and preservation of all vernacular languages in the world. Bookmark and Share

Thursday, February 19, 2009

President Barack Obama Visits Canada

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On his first foreign visit as the President, Barack Obama was in Canada on a seven-hour visit today. " I love this country," he said and thousands of spectators waiting in cold and muggy weather returned their respect and admiration from far.

Canadian Governor General Michelle Jean, who is also a black, received the US President at the airport in Ottawa, capital of Canada. She is said to have told the President: "You would never have imagined that you and I could both be here like today, coming from African descent," reports the Toronto Star.

President Obama then went to the Parliament Hill and met with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and promised closer cooperation on the troubled economy and environment. They also talked amicably about border security, war in Afghanistan and free trade.

The President said: "I came to Canada on my first trip as president to underscore the closeness and importance of the relationship between our two nations and to reaffirm the commitment of the United States to work with friends and partners to meet the common challenges of our time," reports the Canadian Press.

President Obama promised to come to Canada again in warmer days. Canadians would be happy to have him in their midst as they have a special fascination for him. Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation in Hot Water Again

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The forensic audit by Deloitte and Touche of the insider lottery winnings placed the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) in hot water. The audit detected that lottery retailers (sellers), OLG employees and their families took away in $198 million in prizes in the last 13 years. It is beyond the $106 million previously estimated by the OLG, reports The Toronto Star.

This figure of the defrauded prize money increased as the OLG broadened the definition of the "insiders" encompassing "family members and those living with OLG employees or lottery retailers," said the OLG's CEO Kelly McDougald.

In 2007, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's the "Fifth Estate" programme showed some fraudulent practices and the OLG's unwillingness to investigate the insider fraud. Late in the same year, Ombudsman Andre Marin's report clearly showed the OLG's lax security measures and the demand for protection for lottery players.

In response, the OLG in the meantime took some measures to that effect. Yet the latest forensic report shows how much more yet to be done to make the lottery system further fraudulent-proof.

What is the OLG?

The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation is a provincial government agancy operating and managing province-wide lotteries, casinos and slots facilities at horse racing tracks.

For over 30 years, the OLG has generated more than $23 billion dollars to support Ontario's healthcare, physical fitness, sport, recreation and cultural activities. It also supports the Ontario Trillium Foundation, a provincial government agency, "to help build healthy and vibrant communities across Ontario by increasing the capacity of the voluntary sector through investments in community based initiatives."

Anyone 18 years and older can participate in the lotteries.

Some Observations

  • Lotteries, casinos and horse race slots facilities are legalized gambling.
  • The lottery system is a kind of unjust, in the sense that, everybody by purchasing tickets is contributing to make one or only few persons millionaires. It is all the more unjust because it is government managed. The government is supposed to benefit as many persons as possible. Is it happening through the lotteries? Most of the lottery players are from the poor and middle class families.
  • There is no doubt that the government has been doing a lot of good works with the funds raised through lotteries. At the same time, there are numerous compulsive lottery players who are overspending themselves and bringing a lot of misery and frustration in their lives.
  • Very few people are ready for or capable of managing an extremely large amount of money (in millions) received in a free fall.
  • Several years ago, there was a survey of the big winners of lotteries. In the survey, most of the winners mentioned that they were not happy after the winnings. Some said that their families broke down fighting over the money, a few said that they overspent their winnings in a few years and were living in poorer houses than before receiving the lotteries, and others said that they could not go out and face people as they were accosted by people requesting money from them.
  • From the media reports we come to know that a good number of lottery retailers went to the OLG and claimed prizes again and again and in large amounts. How could this happen if there wasn't some kind of collusion between them and some of the OLG employees?
  • There has been few cases where customers hand-marked one-dollar box of Lottario sheets at different times without marking the Encore, but when these sheets were fed in the lottery machine, two-dollar tickets came out. The markings were clear and there were no smears, no splotches. The lottery machine scanner was clean, there were no specks of dirt. The quirkiness of the machine could not be understood.
Some Proposals

  • Let the OLG give prizes, including big prizes, as it is. Each time save some money from there to create a big prize fund that will be compulsorily awarded once a month to as many people as possible. For example, if the fund is of $1,000,000, let it be given to many people in small amounts (let's say: $10,000; $20,000; $30,000; and $40,000). Winners from poor and middle class background would benefit the most this way. They would be able to pay off their small debts and get some relief in their life.
  • A thorough study needs to be done on the total impact -- both good and bad -- of the lottery and gaming system on the Ontario society. Proper steps are also required to identify and help compulsive and self-destructive gamblers.
  • If the OLG comes to know of any other quikiness of lottery machines, they should do a thorough checking of these machines.
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Monday, February 16, 2009

The Family Day

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Types of Canadian Family
Graphic Design © Joachim Romeo D'Costa

Today is the Family Day in the province of Ontario. The third Monday of February is being observed as the family day since 2008. It's a statutory holiday in this province. The purpose of this day is to let busy and hard-working Ontarians spend quality time together in or with the family. On his re-election as the Premier of Ontario, Dalton McGuinty had declared this holiday on October 11, 2007 by saying: "There is nothing more valuable to families than time together. And yet it seems tougher than ever to find, with so many of us living such busy lives."

Family Day in Different Countries

The Family Day is not an all-Canada holiday because it is not a federal day of observance. Out of 11 provinces and two territories in Canada, this day is observed only in the provinces of Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario and Saskatchewan. Other countries that have the Family Day of their own on different dates are Australia, South Africa, Arizona State of the USA, and Vanuatu, an island in the South Pacific Ocean.

What is a Family?

This may seem to be a strange question, but the definition of family has been evolving in the last decade. The standard definition of a family is the religiously or civilly married man and woman and their biological or adopted children. This definition is no longer valid in some countries, including Canada.

In Canada, a family can be of different kinds:

  • Religiously or civilly married husband and wife and their own or adopted children, if any.
  • A man and a woman living in common-law relationship (living together without religious or civil marriage) and their own or adopted children, if any.
  • A man and another man living in the same-sex marriage relationship and their own children (from previous marriage to women but now divorced) or adopted children, if any.
  • A woman and another woman living in the same-sex marriage relationship and their own children (from previous marriage to men but now divorced, or from in vitro fertilization) or adopted children, if any.
Let this Family Day give some respite to family members who are otherwise busy bees in their daily grinds. Bookmark and Share

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Photo Meditation of the Month (February, 2009): THE ELDERLY


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An elderly lady in Kalikapur Village, 
Natore District, Bangladesh
Photo (December 15, 1989) © Jerome D'Costa

The Elderly

They are everywhere -- in families, societies and countries.
Some call them the elderly, the aged, the seniors -- whatever suits them.

Some see hopelessness in them, expect them not to last the next day or two.
Some tolerate them, take their existence for granted, but think of them as know-nothings.
Others see them pregnant with age and wisdom, source of knowledge and hope.

In reality, every fold of their skin, every white hair on their head, tells tons of stories.
Their faces are mirrors of the earlier generations, their faces bear messages for the next ones.

Their smiles, their tremulous lips can be forecasters of the good news, if you're attentive.
Their slowness, their gaunty walk can give them a dignity, a grand poise, though.

Whatever their limitations, they are ours, they passed life as we are passing.
We have to tread on the same path they have trodden.
Let's give them our respect, our love and our sacrificial care,
So that their remaining days on earth be worth living, fruitful and enjoyable.



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Saturday, February 14, 2009

February 14: The Valentine's Day

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A Valentine's Day image

Graphic Design © Joachim Romeo D'Costa

In the western world, the Valentine's Day (also called Saint Valentine's Day) is a long-standing social tradition. Gradually with the spread of western-type of education, foreign travels, education in western countries, and migrant work, this traditional day is also observed in other parts of the world, including Bangladesh.

On this day lovers demonstrate their love for each other by exchanging Valentine's cards, flowers, sweets including chocolates, and other gifts. Lovers also go to dinners and participate in different entertainments. A red-coloured heart, dove and winged Cupid are the symbols used for the love expressed on the Valentine's day. In English, the word "valentine" came to have two meanings: a person singled out as one's sweetheart on the Valentine's Day, and a greeting card exchanged on this day.

Origin of the Valentine's Day

There are several legends regarding the origin of this day.

According to one legend, Valentinus (in English, Valentine) was a priest in the third century Rome. Emperor Claudius II (214 - 270 AD), thinking that unmarried young men would make better soldiers, forbade married men with wives and children to serve in his army. Valentinus saw injustice in this decree and defied the emperor by secretly performing marriages of young soldiers. When the emperor came to know of this, he ordered him to be killed. The Church then declared him a saint. Later the Valentine's Day came to be observed on February 14, the day of his death.

Another legend has it that, in ancient times, for 800 years, Romans observed the celebration of Lupercalia on February 15. This feast day honoured Lupercus, the god of agriculture and shepherds. On this day young women would leave their names in an earthen pot and young men would draw the names and pair with the girls accordingly and be their sexual companions for the year. Pope Gelasius I was not happy about the pagan sexual emphasis of the festival. He wanted to "christianize" the feast day by transferring it to February 14, the day St. Valentine (in Latin, St. Valentinus) died. The day continued to be an occasion to seek the affections of young women and a tradition of exchanging handwritten messages of admiration grew out.

Whatever the background of this day, young people enthusiastically observe it with vigour and enthusiasm and express their love for their valentines.

Tell us how you observed the Valentine's Day this year. Bookmark and Share

Friday, February 13, 2009

Teen Smoking: A World-Wide Problem


Smoking is a world-wide phenomenon. Thanks to the billion-dollar advertisements in the print media, radio and television. Smoking became an enduring phenomenon because of the "cool look" deliberately portrayed in cigarette advertisements and depiction of heroes and heroines smoking in the movies as well as addictive qualities of tobacco products.

The Canadian Lung Association mentions that between 82,000 and 99,000 young people around the world start smoking each day. Why do they start smoking? In reply, they say: "My friends smoke." "I just wanted to try it." "I thought it was cool." "My parents smoke."

Tobacco Companies Target Teens and Children

It has been proven that tobacco companies play a vital role in attracting teens to smoking. They know from their experience that if people can be hooked to smoking in young age, most of them will remain smokers until their death. This way their business and income will remain steady even if many people die of smoking-related diseases and old age.

Nicotine is a Drug and a Poison

Nicotine is one of the main ingredients in tobacco. It is a powerful addictive drug that has a powerful effect on the brain and central nervous system. Nicotine is a deadly poison, too. If a certain amount is injected in the blood-stream, a person is sure to die. As tobacco smoke contains very little amount of nicotine, it is not that deadly, but it has an adverse effect on the smoker's health.

Chemicals in the Tobacco Smoke

According to the Canadian Lung Association, the tobacco smoke contains over 4,000 chemicals, many of which cause cancer. A few of these chemicals are:

  • Carbon Monoxide (found in car exhaust)
  • Arsenic (rat poison)
  • Ammonia (found in window cleaner)
  • Acetone (found in nail polish remover)
  • Hydrogen Cyanide (gas chamber poison)
  • Napthalene (found in mothballs)
  • Sulphur Compounds (found in matches)
  • Lead
  • Volatile Alcohol
  • Formaldehyde (used as an embalming fluid)
  • Butane (lighter fluid)
During smoking, all these chemicals form a sticky tar by mixing together. This tar sticks to clothing, skin, and to the cilia (small hairs lining the sides of a person's lung). The cilia are supposed to clean out dirt and germs from lungs. Due to constant smoking, if the cilia get covered by this tar, they cannot function properly and, as a result, dirt, germs and chemicals stay in the lungs and cause diseases.

Danger of the Second-Hand Smoke

Even if a person doesn't smoke, but remains near a smoker, he or she also can get sick or die from breathing tobacco smoke.

Light Cigarettes are as Deadly as Regular Ones

Several decades ago, tobacco companies started to produce filtered cigarettes and came up with the attractive idea of "safe smoking" or "light cigarettes" giving the impression that these cigarettes have less amount of nicotine, tar and other harmful chemicals. Studies showed that anyone smoking light cigarettes takes in as much nicotine, tar and carbon monoxide as the smoker of the regular cigarettes. There is no such thing as safe smoking.

'Natural' or 'Organic' Tobacco

Someone producing his or her own tobacco in the backyard garden and smoking it does not become immune from tobacco-related diseases and problems. He or she still breathes in nicotine, tar and chemicals.

The Canadian Lung Association report and other reports clearly show the dangers of smoking and the cigarette marketing practices leading to teen smoking habits. Bookmark and Share

Monday, February 9, 2009

Ontario Uses Teens As Tobacco Sting Artists

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Bob Runciman, the Interim Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party and current leader of the opposition in the Ontario Legislature, said Ontario public health units have been hiring teens as young as 15-year olds in sting operations against tobacco retailers, reports Antonella Artuso in the daily Toronto Sun.

He said that under the provincial smoke-free legislation convenience store owners are being harassed, but nothing is being done regarding the sale of illegal cigarettes from aboriginal smoke shacks.

"Morally wrong" to hire "these young kids"

The Toronto Sun quotes Runciman: "They seem to be hell bent to try and harass and prosecute what are essentially hard-working and law-abiding people. And I think this is morally wrong to be hiring these young kids and sending them in, and in my view, induce these people to break the law."

The Ontario law prohibits the sale of cigarettes and other smokes to persons under the age of 19.
Some public health units hire 15 to 17-year olds to try to purchase smokes in retail stores. The intention is to detect the violators of the law.

Ontario Premier's Rebuttal

Premier Dalton McGuinty disagreed with Mr. Runciman and said that Ontario has a long-standing practice of hiring teenagers to test tobacco retailers.

"I would have hoped that my friend [Bob Runciman] would have said his real concern was selling cigarettes to under-aged young people," the Premier mentioned.

"These decisions [of using under-aged teens] are made by the local health unit, but I must say that I support this practice," he said.

Ethical-Moral Considerations

This blogger tried by e-mails to get the reaction of Mr. Runciman to the rebuttal of Premier Dalton McGuinty. At the time of writing this no reply was received from him.

The use or misuse of the under-aged teens for attempting to buy smokes from retailers demands discussion of this practice's ethical-moral considerations, especially from parents. Parents need to give a closer look at different angles of this practice and its long-term effects on teens involved.

From the point of view of law, using under-aged teens is wrong. If selling smokes to these people is wrong, so buying smokes by the same group of teens is also wrong. In the same light, sending such teens to attempt to purchase smokes is also unjust and wrong. On the other hand, this type of attempt of purchases is tantamount to seducing retailers to violate the law.

From the point of view of parents, such practices do not look right, too. Should parents let their under-aged children be used for such a purpose? What are the future repercussions on the children? Who can guarantee that by being used in such a way, some of the teens will not become attracted to smoking?

From the point of view of teens, this practice is not only unjust, it is morally wrong, too. We are teaching teens that it's all right to violate the law (of buying cigarettes even if one is not legally eligible of doing so). What is the guarantee that one day some of these teens will not feel guilty and have a remorse for being used as baits for sting operations?

This blogger informally asked 10 parents whether they would allow their under-aged teens to be used for sting operations. Seven of them said "no", three others said "yes". One of these three said: "I heard that the government pays very well to do this job."

Finally, all of us should ask ourselves: "Do the ends justify the means?"

What is your take on this issue? Please send in your comment. Bookmark and Share

Friday, February 6, 2009

Ethical Questions on 60-Year-Old Woman Giving Birth

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Ranjit Hayer, 60, gave birth by Caesarean section to twin boys, Manjot and Gurpreet, at Foothills Hospital of Calgary, Canada, on February 3. She is thought to be the eldest woman in Canada to be pregnant and giving birth. According to family members, the twins are doing fine in spite of being born seven weeks before the due date, reports the daily National Post.

Other Advanced-Age Mothers

In January, 2005, 66-year-old Adriana Iliescu, a retired unmarried university lecturer and children's story writer, gave birth to a girl in Romania. In 2006, a Turkish woman of 64 years gave birth to a son in Istanbul. In the same year, a Spanish woman of 67 years, after in vitro fertilization, delivered twins in Barcelona.

In 2008, Omkari Panwar, 70, gave birth to twins in Muzaffarnagar, near New Delhi of India, after in vitro fertilization treatments. The father was 77-year-old Charan Singh Panwar, a farmer.

Medico-ethical Questions

Doctors and bioethics experts are raising questions on the medical and ethical implications of giving births at an advanced age. The National Post reports that old-age motherhood frequently involves in premature births and multiple children sets, which can lead to health problems such as underdeveloped eyes and kidneys, low birth weights and a number of "downstream" health implications.

After Adriana Iliescu, 66, gave birth to a girl in 2005, Dr. Arthur Kaplan, Director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, USA, raised a question three years ago: "How old is too old to have a baby?" He said: "Any woman over the age of 40 constitutes a high-risk pregnancy -- the medical risks rise rapidly for mothers older than 40 and for their babies. These risks became terribly real in the case of Iliescu's pregnancy. The child she delivered was born premature -- a low birth-weight baby. This poses serious problems for the baby...."

Age Limit Suggested

Dr. Kaplan says: "My proposal is that anyone over 65 who is single should not be allowed to use reproductive technology to have a child. If you have a partner, then your total ages should not be more than 130. And if you are a female at or near 55 years of age and hoping to become pregnant, then you should only be allowed to use reproductive technology if you can pass a rigorous physical examination. At age 66, forget it." Bookmark and Share

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Oh My, There Goes Another Shoe at the Cambridge University!

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The show throwing is in the news again! The first time it was on December 14 in Iraq against US President George W. Bush. This time it was in the venerable educational institution, Cambridge University of Britain. When Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao was speaking on February 2 on global economy, a protester, sitting at the back of the crowded auditorium, stood up and shouted: "How can this university prostitute itself with this dictator here? How can you listen to the lies he's telling without saying anything?" Then he threw a shoe at the Premier but it dropped a few feet away from him. The university security guards restrained the protester, who later was taken away to a local police station for questioning, reported the Associate Press.

The Chinese government expressed its dissatisfaction to the British government. Britain expressed its regret and assured the Chinese that the show thrower would be dealt with according to the law. The Chinese media, mostly controlled by the government, played down the shoeing incident.

Shoe throwing may not be a big news in the West, it is an important news in the third world countries, especially Asia, because in their cultural contexts pointing a shoe to someone, beating someone with a shoe, or throwing a shoe at someone is an extreme form of insult. Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Bangladesh Heritage Month: A Proposal

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Map Courtesy: www.worldatlas.com

We have seen why and how the people of African origin observe the "Black History Month" in the USA, Canada and Britain. In this light, I like to propose that people of Bangladesh officially observe the Bangladesh Heritage Month.

What is Heritage?

Heritage means something handed down or inherited from one generation to the other, something that makes us what we are. Heritage gives us an identity as an individual, as a group, and as a nation. Heritage is a legacy, a tradition.

Heritage encompasses a wide variety of subjects: people (the majority Bengalees as well as other dozens of religious and ethnic minority groups in Bangladesh), land (special geological formations, rivers, and hills), history, cultures, languages, oral expressions and traditions, religions, professions, socio-religious customs-rites-festivities, landscapes, infrastructures (archaeological sites, historic buildings, and important places of worship), other landmarks (architecturally impressive or unusually tall buildings, large bridges, preserved forests, and huge ancient trees), music, fables, lores and legends, tools and implements, costumes, foods, arts and crafts, dance, drama, film, ancient manuscripts, and books and publications.

February is the Appropriate Month

February is the most suitable month for observing the Bangladesh Heritage Month because in this month people of Bangladesh actively engage in cultural and historical events in honour of the language martyrs who gave their lives on February 21, 1952, in support of Bangla (Bengali), which was excluded from being one of the national languages of the then Pakistan (composed of East Pakistan -- which in 1971 became Bangladesh -- and West Pakistan).

Ways to Observe the Heritage Month

  • The Bangladesh Government first needs to officially declare February the Bangladesh Heritage Month.
  • Educational institutions can take up special programmes (lectures and discussions for awareness building regarding Bangladesh heritage, essay competitions, and cultural programmes).
  • Radio, TV and newspapers deal with different aspects of Bangladesh heritage.
  • Lectures, seminars, meetings and cultural programmes in different organizations and clubs.
  • Visiting historic places and archaeological sites.
  • Government and private patronage of the history and culture of the religious and ethnic minority groups.
  • Presently, History and Social Studies books mainly deal with the majority Bengalee population. From now on, these books should give equal importance on the religious and ethnic minorities because of their contributions to the country as well as their unique religious variety and cultural richness.
  • Encourage more foreign tourists to visit Bangladesh in February when the weather is sunny, mild and soothing.
  • Publicize the Bangladesh heritage in the outside world through books, films, dramas, and cultural troupes.


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Sunday, February 1, 2009

February: The Black History Month

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Top: Africans, after their capture from villages, are being led to a European-run coastal slave camp for export to the Americas. They would be tied together as a prevention against their escape. Bottom, left: African slaves like this young one would be encased with a muzzle as a punishment for their insubordination or stealing of food from others. Bottom right: A notice in a newspaper announcing the sale of the newly-arrived black slaves.
Photos Courtesy: www.afroamhistory.about.com
Layout: Joachim Romeo D'Costa

In the USA and Canada, the month of February is observed as the Black History Month. In Britain, it is observed in October. In this month, the people of African origin, living outside Africa, look at their past history and present situation and try to formulate the vision for their future. They also have a closer look at their achievements and contributions as well as struggles and challenges in different fields. The governments and other people in these countries also lend their support and cooperation in observance of this month.

Background of the Black History Month

African-American historian, author and social analyst Dr. Carter G. Woodson (1875-1950) had started the "Negro History Week" in 1926. It was being observed in the second week of February in remembrance of the birthdays of President Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) and escaped former slave and slavery abolitionist Frederick Douglass (1818-1895), who contributed immensely toward the causes of the blacks. In the 1970's, Black community leaders and several Black organizations got together to start the Black History Month.

From Slaving to Leadership

The Africans in diaspora have a long history of inhuman degradation, human-rightlessness, deaths, incarceration, starvation and struggle. Gradually, the blacks began to make contributions in different fields, but their full rights as human beings were never restored. For this purpose, the civil rights movement of the blacks, especially in the southern states of the US, became a watershed event in the history of the African-Americans. Baptist pastor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) gave a Mahatma Gandhi-inspired non-violent leadership among the blacks for gaining equal rights with the whites. As a result of this movement, the blacks ultimately gained equal status in the law.

Another historic event of the blacks took place on November 4, 2008, when the Americans elected Senator Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States. The dream of having equal status of the blacks in the US was somewhat fulfilled with the presidency of Barack Obama, but still there are quite a few miles to go before complete realization of his dream in reality for the greater number of common African-Americans.
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(L-R) Newly-elected US President Barack Obama
and Black Civil Rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Photos Courtesy: (Left) From a website. (Right) LIFE magazine
Layout: Joachim D'Costa
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