Amar Ekushey Book Fair won’t be held in February, Bangla Academy says

Its Director General Habibullah Shirajee told about the cultural affairs ministry’s decision on Sunday night that the fair cannot be held in the month of the Language Movement despite the publishers’ push.

A new schedule will be fixed when the situation improves, he added.

Gyan O Srijanshil Prokashok Samiti or the Academic and Creative Publishers Association of Bangladesh, one of the organisers of the fair, had asked during a meeting on Jan 5 that the fair be organised within March, if not from the beginning of February.

Asked about their demand, Shirajee said, “We have postponed the book fair for now. Decisions will be made in light of the situation after talks with the publishers.”

The academy last month appealed to the cultural affairs ministry to suspend the book fair this time considering the pandemic situation.

But the publishers’ association rejected the proposal, saying that they wanted to arrange the fair in the same way as every year under the open sky.

Earlier, the cultural affairs ministry and the health ministry exchanged letters on the issue. The health ministry recommended organising the fair virtually, an official said. But the publishers dismissed the idea out of hand.

“We haven’t decided whether the book fair will be held on a virtual platform. We will disclose our plans soon on how the discussions and other events can be conducted,” said Shirajee.

State Minister for Cultural Affairs KM Khalid did not respond to request for comments.

“We know nothing about it,” said Farid Ahmed, the president of the publishers’ association, when reacting to the latest development.

“We wanted the fair to begin in mid-February and end in March. We sent our proposal to the cultural affairs ministry as well. We don’t know if the ministry has decided not to hold the fair as per the previous schedule,” Farid added.

The fair has its roots back to the days when Chittaranjan Saha, the owner of Muktodhara Prokashoni, began selling books by setting up a shop on a piece of cloth at the gate of the academy during the Feb 21 Language Martyrs Day event in 1972. Many others joined him in 1977.

Ashraf Siddiqui, the then DG of the academy, involved it with the fair the following year. After another year, Bangladesh Book Sellers and Publishers Association joined the fair.

In 1983, during the term of DG Quazi Muhammad Manjoor-E-Mawla, the academy took the initiative to organise the Amar Ekushey Grantha Mela, but did not go ahead with the plan. Finally, the Amar Ekushey Boi Mela began at the academy premises in 1984.

Now, the month-long fair has become an integral part of Bengali culture.

This year, the fair was delayed by a day due to the city corporation elections in Dhaka.

The fair ended without any hindrance as Bangladesh did not report any confirmed coronavirus cases at the time after the pandemic began in China in late 2019.






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