Amartya Sen links Dhaka movement with his fight against cancer

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

DHAKA - Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen has linked his fight against cancer to the movement for protecting Bengali language and culture in then East Pakistan, saying the two coincided in 1952.

Sen was 18 then and the doctors pronounced that he had cancer, giving him only five years to live.

“I was a student in Kolkata when people here (Bangladesh) were fighting for language,” Sen said in the presence of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

He was inaugurating “Ekushey Boi Mela”, the book fair that marks the beginning of the annual observance of the ‘Language Movement’ that began here in 1952 to recognise Bangla as an official language.

He recalled that at that time it was not easy for him to understand the extent of the movement, “especially when I was a student and was fighting a deadly disease”.

But, he said, he understood later that the fight for his life and that for language happened simultaneously.

“After 58 years, I see that the people of this country won the fight as I survived the disease,” Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS) quoted him as saying.

Sen also referred to Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore, national poet Kazi Nazrul Islam and Bangladesh’s founding leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman while he was talking about justice, equality, independence and secularism.

Referring to Sheikh Mujib in his brief speech, Sen said that what happened in the country under the leadership of Mujib was hard to think in 1952 even after the Language Movement.

He termed the leadership of Mujib ‘charisma, a divine gift of mannerism found in individuals whose personalities are characterised by a powerful charm and magnetism, New Age newspaper said.

Sen said the main strength of the Bangla language and culture was its immense capacity of adaptability.

He said he had seen nowhere other than in Bangladesh, matchless secularism, adaptability and the trend of following history and heritage.

Referring to the recitation from four holy books at the beginning of the inaugural function of the book fair, he said the practice was unique for Bangladesh and could not be seen anywhere in the world.

He also said unlike Western nations, this country adopted secularism in a different form not denying any religion.

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