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Participants in a rally held to mark the International Mother Language Day dance to the drumbeat outside the Lahore Press Club. — White Star
Participants in a rally held to mark the International Mother Language Day dance to the drumbeat outside the Lahore Press Club. — White Star

LAHORE: Thousands of people, including schoolchildren, took part in a mammoth rally taken out from the Lahore Press Club on Wednesday to demand promotion of their mother tongue Punjabi and its teaching in schools.

The rally was taken out to mark the International Mother Language Day observed throughout the world. It was organised by the Pakistan Punjabi Adabi Board in association with other cultural bodies.

The participants included cultural activists, intellectuals, workers, writers and schoolchildren, who appeared to be enjoying their presence in the rally taken out to demand education in their mother tongue. Many had come to Lahore for the rally from Kasur, Raiwind and other cities.

Carrying banners and placards and dancing to the drum beats, the participants dispersed peacefully after listening to the speeches of the organisers and community leaders at Charing Cross.

Wearing mustard coloured headbands, they sang Punjabi songs and remained at the crossing for nearly three hours.

Speaking on the occasion, Pakistan Punjabi Adabi Board President Mushtaq Sufi, Ahmad Raza of Punjabi Parchar and labour leader Ahsan demanded introduction of local languages (Punjabi) in Punjab schools as compulsory subject right from the primary level.

They said Punjabi was mere an optional subject at intermediate and BA levels, indicating that the subject was being taught without its basic teaching in schools. Under the Unesco charter it was compulsory for every country to use local languages as medium of instruction. This should also be done in Punjab.

They said Punjab actually lagged behind other provinces in teaching local languages and making them medium of instruction. Sindh had introduced Sindhi as medium of instruction in 1973. Both Balochistan and KP were also teaching their three or four languages.

As the Constitution of Pakistan also provided for promotion of local languages, Punjab should forthwith make Punjabi as a medium of instruction and also make it a compulsory subject in schools, both public and private.

They said promoting Punjabi was the basic right of especially the poor farmers, workers and labourers as they were unable to learn other languages. They should be given this right, they said.

Published in Dawn, February 22nd, 2018