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Bangla Academy, minus bookworms, in February

  • Published at 01:10 pm February 1st, 2021
Bangla Academy ground
Bangla Academy ground is usually bustling with crowd at this time of the year, which sits empty as book fair is postponed to next month Dhaka Tribune

Amar Ekushey Boi Mela on March 18

Bangalis commemorate February as a month  of sacrifice since the brave language martyrs laid down their lives for the language on February 21, 1952.

In the month commemorating the language movement every year, Bangla Academy organizes a month-long book fair – Amar Ekushey Grantha Mela.

But due to the Covid-19 pandemic, in February this year the premises of Bangla Academy are without book lovers since the Boi Mela has been postponed to next month.

In 2020, the Academy earmarked 800,000 square ft for book stalls. A total of 873 units was allocated to 560 organizations at the Bangla Academy ground and Suhrawardy Udyan.

Bangla Academy premises | Dhaka TribuneThe mega affair, where book lovers come to buy their favorite books, will commence on March 18 this year.

There has been a debate on organizing the fair virtually in order to prevent the transmission of coronavirus. Subsequently, the authorities announced that the government had permitted them to hold the fair with the physical presence of the crowds. 

The duration of the fair will be fixed after meetings with the publishers, Bangla Academy’s Secretary AHM Lokman said earlier.

How Ekushey Boi Mela came to be?

The first Ekushey Book Fair was held in 1965, when Bangladesh was still East Pakistan.

The fair was organized on the ground floor of Dhaka University Library and was initiated by Jatiya Grontho Kendra’s former director Sarder Jayenuddin, when he was working on a Unesco project.

The fair was at the time named Shishu Granthamela, or Children’s Book Fair. In 1970, he introduced the book fair in Narayanganj. 

After the Liberation War, on the occasion of Unesco’s International Book Year 1972, Jayenuddin organized another book fair at Bangla Academy premises, but no book fair was held to observe Ekushey February.

Dhaka TribuneHowever, some publishers, including Muktodhara and Standard Publishers, started to sell books just outside the Bangla Academy.

In February 1974, the academy organized a national literature conference where more book publishers participated, selling books at Bot-tola. This practice continued until 1978.

In 1979, the book publishers, especially Muktodhara’s Chittaranjan Saha, Standard Publishers’ Ruhul Amin Nizami and Khan Brothers’ Feroz Khan formally requested the then Bangla Academy director general Dr Ashraf Siddiqui to organize a book fair on the occasion of February 21.

That year, Ekushey Book Fair was held from February 7 to February 28, organized by Jatiya Grantha Kendra in collaboration with Bangla Academy and publishers.

Vacant lot at Bangla Academy premises | Dhaka TribuneIn 1980, when Jatiya Grantha Kendra failed to organize the fair, the Bangla Academy took over with the assistance of publishers.

In 1983, the fair was named Amar Ekushey Grantha Mela (Amar Ekushey Book Fair), but had to be postponed when police ran over two students and killed them during a procession of students protesting against the autocratic regime of General HM Ershad.

From 1984, the book fair was officially instituted and has become an annual event.

It should be noted that International Mother Language Day was recognized by the United Nations in 1999 as an annual observance. The UN started celebrating the day from 2000, on February 21 every year, to promote awareness of linguistic and cultural diversity.

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