|Under the Krishnachura: Fifty Years of Bangladeshi Writing
edited by Niaz Zaman
ISBN 984 05 1663 9 2003 484pp 215x136mm HB Tk.550.00 US$27.00
Shortly after the creation of Pakistan, the question of what would be the state language became a burning issue. Bangla-speakers formed the single largest ethnic and linguistic majority. Nevertheless, the founder of Pakistan, M.A. Jinnah, declared that “Urdu and Urdu alone shall be the state language of Pakistan.” The Bengali struggle for the rightful recognition of Bangla gained momentum. On 21st February 1952, police fired on a procession in Dhaka demanding recognition of Bangla as one of the state languages of Pakistan. In the firing Rafiq, Barkat, Jabbar, and Salam were killed along with others, leading to a spontaneous outpouring of grief and anger. Though subsequently Bangla was recognised as one of the state languages of Pakistan, the events of 21st February, or simply Ekushey, inspired a nationalistic upsurge that ultimately culminated in the creation of Bangladesh in 1971. Poets and writers, inspired by the language martyrs, wrote about the young blood shed under the krishnachura trees of Ramna. The krishnachura trees, under which the crowds had gathered, had not started to give forth their flaming flowers, but the image of red krishnachura flowers strewn on the ground has become a vivid symbol of the February deaths. The significance of the day was recognised when, in 1999, UNESCO declared 21st February as Mother Language Day. This English translation of poems, short stories, and short plays honours the first Ekushey, as well as those who fought in other ways for the Bangla language and for the nation which was born out of that tragedy. It is a modest attempt to honour writers in Bangla by making their writings available to a larger, worldwide readership. This anthology, commemorating 21st February 1952, also includes other themes to give readers a sense of the range of subjects attempted by Bangladeshi writers over half a century.
Niaz Zaman is Professor of English, University of Dhaka. She was Consulting Editor, Arts and Humanities, for the National Encyclopedia Project of the Asiatic Society of Bangladesh. Her venture into translation began in 1983, with her translation of Bangla folk tales, subsequently revised and published as Princess Kalabati and Other Tales. She has edited Selected Short Stories from Bangladesh, The Escape and Other Stories, and 1971 and After. Her other publications include A Divided Legacy, a study of novels on the Partition of India, which won literary awards from the National Archives and the Asiatic Society of Bangladesh. Her articles and stories have also been published in books and journals at home and abroad. Her short story “The Dance,” which is the title story of her anthology The Dance and Other Stories, won an Asiaweek short story award. She was also Editor of the Bangladesh Journal of American Studies.