The historic Language Movement, a significant event in Bangladesh’s history, was aimed at establishing the right of the mother tongue as well as protecting self-entity, culture, and heritage
With the clock striking 12am Thursday, people from all walks of life began to pour into Central Shaheed Minar all over the country to pay their homage to those who made the supreme sacrifice to establish Bangla as the state language of then East Pakistan on February 21 in 1952.
The historic Language Movement, a significant event in Bangladesh’s history, was aimed at establishing the right of the mother tongue as well as protecting self-entity, culture, and heritage.
President Md Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina led the nation in paying homage by placing wreaths at the Shaheed Minar at one minute past midnight.
They were followed by thousands of people who thronged the Shaheed Minar on Dhaka University campus at midnight with wreaths, singing “Amar Bhaiyer Rokte Rangano Ekushey February” in chorus, to pay their deepest respects to the heroes of the 1952 movement.
They included leaders of different political parties, teachers, students, diplomats, and representatives of various organizations, among others.
On February 21, 1952, students and common people in Dhaka took to the streets in protest against the then West Pakistani government's denial of Bangla as the national language and imposition of Urdu as the only official language of East Pakistan.
On the day, Rafiq Uddin Ahmed, Abdul Jabbar, Abul Barkat, Abdus Salam, and a nine-year-old boy named Ohiullah, embraced martyrdom when police opened fire on a protest procession, demanding Bangla as one of the state languages of Pakistan, in front of the Dhaka Medical College Hospital.
One Shafiur Rahman died the next day. The protests began against a conspiracy by the then Pakistan leaders to declare Urdu as the only state language.
A source of ceaseless inspiration, "Amar Ekushey" inspired and encouraged the nation to a great extent to achieve the right to self-determination and struggle for freedom through the Liberation War in 1971.
Marking the day, the Shaheed Minar premises were decorated with paintings, buntings and Bangla verses upholding the spirit and sacrifice of the Language Movement. Tight security was ensured at and around the Shaheed Minar to avert untoward incidents on Thursday.
On the eve of the day, President Hamid and Prime Minister Hasina issued separate messages, paying glowing tributes to the Language Movement martyrs.
Calling “Amar Ekushey” a source of ceaseless inspiration, the president said: “With the bloodshed of the Language Movement, we achieved recognition of Bangla as our mother tongue and consequently attained our long cherished independence under the charismatic leadership of Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1971.”
The prime minister in her message said that holding to the spirit of February 21 and the Liberation War, her government has achieved huge progress in every sector, including the macro-economy, agriculture, education, health, communication, information technology, infrastructure, power, rural development, and diplomatic success and cooperation in the last 10 years.
“Bangladesh is now a role model for development in the world,” she added.
Hamid and Hasina also extended their warm congratulations and sincere felicitations to all multilingual people of the world alongside the Bangla-speaking people.
February 21 is also observed across the world as International Mother Language Day, recognized by Unesco on November 17, 1999.
In a message, Unesco Director-General Audrey Azoulay said: “Indigenous peoples have always expressed their desire for education in their own languages, as set out in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”
“Since 2019 is the International Year of Indigenous Languages, the theme of this year’s International Mother Language Day will be indigenous languages as a factor in development, peace, and reconciliation,” she added.
The Language Martyr Day is a public holiday in Bangladesh. The national flag is hoisted at half-mast at all educational institutions, and government, semi-government, and autonomous offices.
Different political, social, cultural, and professional organizations have chalked out various programs, including seminars and cultural functions, to observe the Language Martyr Day and International Mother Language Day in a befitting manner on Thursday.
Various organizations and institutes, including Bangla Academy, Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy, Nazrul Institute, Jatiya Grantha Kendra, National Museum, International Mother Language Institute, and Shishu Academy, will observe the day through different events.
In observance of the day, Awami League has also chalked out a two-day program which includes placing of wreaths at the Shaheed Minar, hoisting the national and party flags at half-mast at Bangabandhu Bhaban and in its offices across the country, hoisting black flags in the morning, and wearing black badges and placing wreaths on the graves of the martyrs at Azimpur Graveyard.
The ruling party will also organize a discussion at the capital’s Krishibid Institution on Thursday afternoon. The program will be attended by Prime Minister Hasina who is also the president of the party.
Like previous years, Dhaka University authorities oversaw the people’s tribute to the martyrs at the Shaheed Minar in coordination with other relevant agencies.