Colorful rhymes of ‘Urban Peasant’ Hassan Zaki

Tajul Islam

After spending fifteen years in the United States, Hassan Zaki [real name Syed Zakiul Hassan] returned to Bangladesh being feeling magnetically attracted to his motherland. Since he was an eight-grader in the school, Zaki started writing rhymes. As part of his tremendous passion towards Bangla culture, he founded Sobuj Kuhok Foundation, a platform of promoting Bangla culture and literature. Hailing from Sylhet district, Hassan Zaki is known to his friends and admirers as Zaki.

Although Zaki is a businessman by profession, he prefers introducing himself as a “Urban Peasant”, who wants to spend rest of his life in exploring the beauty of Bangladesh and the very fragrant Bangla literature, culture and heritage. Zaki’s father Syed Abdul Muttalib was a civil servant while mother Nurunnahar Begum a house wife. He gets inspiration in his passion from his wife Nahida Nahid, who too is a writer.

Hassan Zaki’s newest book of rhymes – Chhorar Bari Bhoot Er Fari [Home of Rhymes – Barrack of Ghosts] is all set to be released during the Ekushey Boi Mela [Ekushey Book Fair], commemorating the glorious International Mother Language Day.

The Bangla Language Movement (Bangla: ভাষা আন্দোলন – Bhasha Andolôn) was a political movement in former East Bengal (currently Bangladesh) advocating the recognition of the Bangla language as an official language of the then-Dominion of Pakistan in order to allow its use in government affairs, the continuation of its use as a medium of education, its use in media, currency and stamps, and to maintain its writing in the Bengali script.

When the Dominion of Pakistan was formed by the partition of India in 1947, it was composed of various ethnic and linguistic groups, with the geographically non-contiguous East Bengal province (that was renamed in 1956 as East Pakistan) having mainly Bangali population. In 1948, the Government of the Dominion of Pakistan ordained Urdu as the sole national language, sparking extensive protests among the Bangla-speaking majority of East Pakistan. Facing rising sectarian tensions and mass discontent with the new law, the government outlawed public meetings and rallies. The students of the University of Dhaka and other political and socio-cultural activists defied the law and organized a protest on February 21, 1952. The movement reached its climax when police killed student demonstrators on that day. The deaths provoked widespread civil unrest. After years of conflict, the central government relented and granted official status to the Bangla language in 1956.

The Language Movement catalyzed the assertion of Bengali national identity in East Bengal and later East Pakistan, and became a forerunner to Bangali nationalist movements, including the 6-Point Movement and subsequently the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971. In Bangladesh, 21 February (Ekushey February) is observed as Language Movement Day, a national holiday. The Shaheed Minar monument was constructed near Dhaka Medical College in memory of the movement and its victims. In 1999, UNESCO declared 21 February as International Mother Language Day, in tribute to the Language Movement and the ethno-linguistic rights of people around the world.

Every year, a month-long literary festival and book fair takes place in Bangladesh, with the ambition of promoting Bangla literature and culture to Bangalis from Bangladesh and West Bengal as well as introducing this language amongst the global communities. To any Bangali, 21 February is extremely important. This is the day, Bangalis can proudly tell the world about their sacrifice of blood for getting the mother-tongue recognized. In the entire world, this is the only language movement.

Bangalis are extremely emotional by nature and of course, Bangla connects every Bangali, ignoring any political or geographical boundary. Bangalis do not obey any politics that would create any wall of difference. Bangalis turn furious when any other language makes attempt of establishing dominance over the lands of Bangalis. As we know, Bangalis are heroic nationality – they prefer sacrificing blood – but never accept being enslaved, dominated or oppressed by anyone – be it even any global super power. Moreover, every Bangali believes – Bangalis are one. Religion never can play any role in walls of difference amongst Bangalis, because, by nature, Bangalis are extremely secular. As the editor of this newspaper says – Bangali k bibhokto korey ae spordha kar [Who has the audacity of dividing Bangalis?].

Hassan Zaki has rightly chosen February for releasing his upcoming book of rhymes. The book comprises total 16 rhymes. Illustration of the book is by Mustafiz Karigor. It is being published by Kobi Prokashani. Zaki’s book will also be available in Kolkata at Abhijan Publishers, 10/A Ramanath Majumder Street.

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