Bangladesh Students Association Celebrates Independence Day in an Evening of Culture
Edit: The paragraph discussing the independence of Bangladesh from Pakistan was a misrepresentation of their situation and has been updated accordingly.
The Bangladesh Students Association (BSA) at Penn State celebrated Bangladesh Independence Day in an evening of dancing, music and traditional food. Bangladesh Night, a celebration of Bengali culture took place in Heritage Hall on Sunday March 19 to commemorate the 47th anniversary of Bangladesh’s independence from Pakistan.
The night began with BSA presenting an introduction to Bengali history and the story of Bengali independence from Pakistan through a number of student performances and videos.
Members explained to the audience how following the end of British rule in India and Pakistan in the 1940’s the region known as Bangladesh today became part of Eastern Pakistan. Although a large majority of this area identified with Bengali culture and language the government of Pakistan refused to recognize these differences, making Urdu the only official language of Pakistan in 1948.
As a result, Bengali’s attempted to rebel against Pakistani authority by creating the Bengali Language Movement and a political party known as the Awani League. On February 21, 1952 a number of Bengali’s were shot by Pakistani police during a protest. This shooting was broadcast around the world and led to UNESCO deciding to celebrate International Mother Tongue Language Day on February 21 to commemorate Bengali’s who lost their lives fighting for their language.
In 1970, the East Pakistan-based political party Awami League won a majority of the seats in Pakistan’s parliamentary elections. However, they were not allowed to form a government by West Pakistan’s military dictator. This led Awami League leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to call for autonomy and eventually independence for East Pakistan. West Pakistan retaliated with a brutal military crackdown on March 25th, 1971, which led to one of the worst genocides of the 20th century. However, the will of Bengali people would not be broken easily as independence was declared on March 26th. Following a devastating nine-month long war, a new sovereign nation emerged on the world map on December 16th, 1971, as East Pakistan gave way to Bangladesh. More than 3 millions people were killed and 3-4 hundred thousands women were tortured by Pakistan Army during this nine month war.
Following the story of Bangladesh history, a number of student led performances celebrated the unique culture of the region. Students performed a dance to honor the monsoon and the different seasons in Bangladesh. In addition, students also celebrated modern day Bengali culture by singing and dancing to modern Bengali pop songs.
Meanwhile authentic Bengali food was served, including homemade dishes such as chana daal , polau ( seasoned rice) and roast chicken and vegetables.
The second half of the show commenced after dinner was served and performances focused on different aspects of Bengali culture.
This included a fashion show in which students wore traditional clothing worn at various festival throughout the year such as Bengali New Year and at the beginning of the harvest. Students also paid tribute to modern Bengali culture by singing and dancing to scenes from Bengali cinema and celebrating the growing urban way of life in a tribute to Dhaka, the largest city in the country.
President of BSA Penn State Chowdhury Ashraf said that the night aimed to provide a “glimpse of [ Bangladesh] history… Bangladesh has a rich culture and history and a small part of it is here at Penn State”.
Bangladesh Night celebrated the birth of a country and its unique culture which lives on through Bengali students at Penn State.
Photo Credit: Saima Shahid