The nation payed rich tribute to the martyrs of the historic 1952 Language Movement with the clock striking 12:01am on Wednesday marking "Amar Ekushey," the Language Martyrs Day and International Mother Language Day.
The great Language Movement, a significant event in the nation's history, was aimed at establishing the right of the mother tongue as well as protecting self-entity, and culture and heritage.
Walking barefoot to the Central Shaheed Minar with wreaths and flowers singing "Amar bhaiyer rokte rangano Ekushey February," people payed their tributes to the Language Movement heroes who laid down their lives for achieving the recognition of Bangla as the state language of erstwhile Pakistan.
President Md Abdul Hamid first payed tribute to the language martyrs by placing wreaths at the altar of the central Shaheed Minar after zero hour, followed by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, reports UNB.
The prime minister along with her Cabinet members, advisers, lawmakers, and Awami League leaders placed another wreath on behalf of her party.
Leader of the Opposition in parliament Raushon Ershad along with her party's MPs also payed homage to the Language Movement martyrs by placing wreaths at the Shaheed Minar in the wee hours.
Political leaders, Dhaka University teachers, diplomats and representatives of various organisations and general public followed them in paying tributes until the late morning on Wednesday.
Later on, the Shaheed Minar remained open to thousands of people from all walks of life.
As BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia is in jail, the party leaders did not go to the Shaheed Minar at night.
They along with party leaders and activists will gather in front of Balaka Cinema Hall at around 6:30am and then go to Azimpur Graveyard.
Later, they will go to the Shaheed Minar to pay homage to the Language Movement heroes.
Meanwhile, law enforcement agencies have taken all-out security measures in and round the Shaheed Minar to ensure smooth observance of Amar Ekushey.
The day is a public holiday. In respect to the Language Movement martyrs, the national flag will be hoisted half-mast at all educational institutions and government, semi-government and autonomous offices, reports BSS.
In observance of the day in a befitting manner, the Shaheed Minar premises have also been redecorated with paintings, graffiti, buntings and selected verses on the mother language.
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Students paint the street in front of the Central Shaheed Minar in Dhaka University on Tuesday, February 20, 2018 | Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune
On February 21, 1952, students and the common people in Dhaka took to the streets in protest against the then Pakistani government's denial of Bangla as the national language and imposition of Urdu as the only official language of Pakistan.
Salam, Barkat, Rafiq, Jabbar, and a few other brave sons of the soil were killed in police firing on this day in 1952 when students came out in a procession from the Dhaka University campus breaching Section 144 to press home their demand for the recognition of Bangla as a state language.
A source of ceaseless inspiration, "Amar Ekushey" (Immortal Shaheed Day) inspired and encouraged the nation to a great extent to achieve the right to self-determination and struggle for freedom and the Liberation War.
In the aftermath of the Language Movement, the nation eventually obtained recognition of Bangla as its mother tongue and attained its long cherished independence under the charismatic leadership of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1971.
President Hamid and Prime Minister Hasina have issued separate messages on the occasion.
In his message, Hamid said: "I extend my warm congratulations and sincere felicitations to all multilingual people of the world along with Bangla-speaking people."
He recalled with deep reverence the language martyrs and so many unknown and unsung language heroes who laid down their lives for the cause of mother tongue.
"As a Bangali nation, it was our great achievement. Today many languages and cultures around the globe are becoming extinct due to lack of proper practice, preservation, and patronization," Hamid said.
The prime minister, in her message, said Ekushey is the symbol of grief, strength, and glory in the life of every Bangali.
"I pay my deep homage to the memories of the martyrs. I also pay my deep respect to the greatest Bangali of all time, Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman who had led the language movement and all other language veterans," she said.
Hasina said International Mother Language Day was now a source of inspiration to all people of the world in establishing truth and justice.
Different political parties, including Awami League, BNP and Jatiya Party, their affiliated organisations, and socio-cultural organisations have planned various programmes to pay homage to the language martyrs all day long.
Quran Khwani, Milad Mahfil and special prayers will be offered at the graveyards of the Language Movement martyrs.
Like previous years, Dhaka University authorities organised the programmes at the Shaheed Minar in coordination with other relevant agencies.
In line with the national programmes, the day will also be observed by all educational institutions, city corporations, municipalities, the district and upazila administrations and Bangladesh missions abroad.
Various organizations and institutes, including Bangla Academy, Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy, Nazrul Institute, Jatiya Grantha Kendra, Islamic Foundation, National Museum, International Mother Language Institute and Shishu Academy will observe the day across the country through different programmes.
National dailies will publish special supplements marking the day and Bangladesh Betar and Bangladesh Television and private radio stations and television channels will air special programs on the occasion.