Bengali ‘Swagatama’ not added to USA airports in 21 years

BanglaPress Desk
February 21, 2021
Photo taken from New York’s John F. Kennedy (JFK) Airport by Chhabed Sathee

Chhabed Sathee : In 21 years since Bangladesh’s Martyrs’ Day (February 21) was recognized as International Mother Language Day, ‘Welcome’ written in Bengali has not been added to 149 international airports in the United States. The Welcome Center at these airports displays translations of the English word ‘welcome’ in about 100 languages ​​of the world, but does not just add the internationally recognized Bengali ‘ Swagatama’ ( Welcome). The issue is as much a disgrace to Americans as it is a disgrace to all Bengali speakers in the world.
John F. Kennedy (JFK) of New York, the most popular and well-known international airport in the United States, and Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson, the largest international airport in the state of Georgia, have been visited.
Not only John F. Kennedy (JFK) in New York or Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, but also 149 international airports in the United States have been severely undermined in the last 21 years for not writing ‘Swagatama’ (Welcome) in Bengali at the Welcome Center of these airports. A translation of the English word ‘welcome’ has been displayed in 100 languages ​​of the world. In some languages ​​the translation of the word ‘welcome’ has been used more than once. The total number of airports in the United States is more than 19,700. Of these, 5,170 are open to the general public. There are also 503 airports for commercial flights only.
John F. Kennedy of New York (JFK), LaGuardia, Newark Liberty of New Jersey, Logan of Boston, Chicago O’Hare of Illinois, Tacoma of Seattle, Washington, Miami, Florida, Fort Lotterdale, Minneapolis St. Paul, Philadelphia, Dulles, Washington DC, Nashville, Tennessee, Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport Kansas, Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, This representative was not found anywhere in the Welcome Center after visiting the airport. ‘Swagatama’ (Welcome) to Bengali writing.
Peggy, a supervisor at Newark Liberty Airport’s Welcome Center, said the new welcome board, written in different languages, had been hung at various airports over the past seven years.
Asked why the new board does not have Welcome in English, Peggy said, “Not only Bengali, but many languages ​​have been left out.” This is because there is not such a big place. He does not know why there is no ‘Welcome’ written in the international mother tongue Bengali. When asked if the Bengali language has been recognized as an international mother tongue, Peggy said he did not know about it. Peggy suggested talking to the airport manager about this.
The position of Amar Ekushey is unique in the thousand year history of Bengalis. Amar Ekushey is now being celebrated all over the world as International Mother Language Day. Encouraged by the spirit of the great Ekushey, the Bengali nation has moved forward under the uncompromising and fearless leadership of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Through this consciousness, the language movement, the freedom movement, the great liberation war and independence have been achieved.
Bangladesh’s Martyrs’ Day (February 21) is also known as International Mother Language Day. It has been marked as a day of tragic and glorious memories of the language movement of the Bengali people. On this day in 1952 (8 Falgun, 1358), some young people were martyred in police firing on students protesting for making Bengali one of the state languages ​​of East Pakistan. One of them is Rafiq, Jabbar, Shafiul, Salam, Barkat and many others. That is why this day has been marked as Martyr’s Day. In accordance with the decision taken by the United Nations in 2010, the International Mother Language Day is observed on the 21st of February every year.
In 1998, Rafiqul Islam and Abdus Salam, two Bengalis living in Vancouver, Canada, petitioned UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to declare February 21 as International Mother Language Day. Ekushey February was declared as the International Mother Language Day at the Paris session of UNESCO held on 16 November 1999. The day has been observed with due dignity in the member states of the United Nations since February 21, 2000. At the 65th session of the UN General Assembly on Thursday, October 21, 2010, the United Nations decided to observe the International Mother Language Day on February 21 every year. A resolution in this regard was passed unanimously. Bangladesh raised the proposal to observe the International Mother Language Day in the 65th session of the General Assembly. In May of the same year, the resolution was unanimously passed by the 113-member UN Information Committee.
On 17 November 1999, when the 30th General Conference of UNESCO unanimously approved the proposal of the Government of Bangladesh. Like our language martyrs, citizens of different countries of the world renew their commitment on this day to protect their mother tongues. This is a historic achievement for the whole country and the Bengali nation. This achievement is a matter of great pride for the Bengali nation. The Bengali nation has achieved this by using many courtesies and diplomatic techniques. Mother tongue Bengali is one of the largest languages ​​in the world and about 250 million people speak Bengali. But the status of that international language has been tarnished in the United States.
In 1999, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recognized Ekushey February as International Mother Language Day to raise awareness of language diversity and multilingualism. The day is celebrated as an annual holiday in many countries around the world.
In the 2012, 2016 and 2020 US presidential elections, Bengali was seen on ballot papers in several states along with other languages. A Bangladeshi member of the New York Board of Elections said the ballot papers handed out to voters on election day showed the names of candidates, including the president and vice president, in several languages, including English. Among them was Bengali language.
On polling day, guidelines were written in Bengali in some centers and in Bengali as in other languages ​​outside all the centers. Bangladeshi polling officers were also present in many centers in Queens, Brooklyn, Bronx, Patterson, New Jersey, Atlantic City, Los Angeles, California, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the last presidential election.
Ekushey February is a very important day for Bangladesh and the citizens of Bangladeshi descent. Democrat Grace Meng, a member of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, introduced a new bill a few years ago to highlight the significance of the day.
Democrat Grace Meng, a member of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, introduced a bill in the U.S. Congress in February 2016 to mark International Mother Language Day nationally. He said he is working to pass the bill and the bill is likely to be passed soon. Grace Meng mentioned that the spread of Bengali language is now all over the world. According to UNESCO, International Mother Language Day has been celebrated in different countries for several years. With that in mind, he introduced the bill in Congress to mark International Mother Language Day as the national day of the United States.
Democrat Grace Meng, a member of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, introduced a similar bill in the lower house of the U.S. Congress in 2016. The bill needed the approval of the House Foreign Affairs Committee before it could be put to a vote. Meng is representing New York in Congress. There are many Bangladeshis and people of Bangladeshi descent in his constituency. He has twice before raised a bill in Congress on International Mother Language Day, but it has not been passed. Congressman Joseph Crowley has raised a similar bill in Congress.
The government is taking steps to make Bengali one of the official languages ​​of the United Nations. However, the matter is quite expensive. Therefore, it is mentioned that steps have to be taken in this regard.
On the other hand, the Bangladesh Ambassador to the United States, the Bangladesh Permanent Mission to the United Nations and the Bangladesh Consulate General have not taken any steps in 21 years to add Bengali ‘Swagatama’ (Welcome) to international airports in the United States. Not only that, the United States has more than two hundred social and cultural organizations and branches of various political parties in the country, but no one has taken any initiative.
According to a source, there is no time for the Bangladesh Ambassador to the United States, the Bangladesh Permanent Mission to the United Nations and the Bangladesh Consulate General to think about whether Bengali ‘Swagatama’ (welcome) has been added to international airports in the United States. And those who are leading various social, cultural and political parties have not thought of this at all.