On February 21, 1952, in what was then East Bengal (renamed East Pakistan in 1956 and Bangladesh in 1971), many students were martyred for voicing their concerns and the protection of their mother language, Bengali, under the government of the Dominion of Pakistan. Bengali students sacrificed their lives for language protection and for the sake of future generations in their own homeland.
Five decades later, February 21 was declared International Mother Language Day by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). It was a tribute to the language movement started by Bengalis and the ethno-linguistic rights of people around the world.
In Tibet, however, a person called Tashi Wangchuk was sentenced in 2018 to five years in prison for speaking up on the protection of his mother language, which is in fact enshrined in the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China.
The Chinese government has used many strategies to Sinicize the Tibetan people’s identity. During the Cultural Revolution, thousands of sacred texts were burned and reading and learning of the Tibetan language was considered backward. This led to 10 lost years in Tibet as teaching the language was banned.
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