What happened on February 21 in 1952 galvanised an entire nation to demand Bangla as one of the state languages and that movement eventually gave birth to Bangladesh from the ashes of East Pakistan.
Every year, thousands gather at the Central Shaheed Minar to pay their respect to the language martyrs and lay wreaths as a sombre commemoration of all the lives that were lost on that day. The area not only gets a yearly renovation but the walls surrounding are painted with quotes from people that have directly or indirectly inspired rebellion from oppression.
[caption id="attachment_48034" align="aligncenter" width="800"]
At a time when the country was in flux, Abul Fazal became the voice of calm rebellion Dhaka Tribune
At a time when the country was in flux, Abul Fazal became the voice of calm rebellion and his quote that says: “The meaning of 21st is to never bow your head down” is drawn up on the walls near the Shaheed Minar to remind people the kind of courage it took during those days to stand up against autocratic rule.
There are of course others who guided the country with their leadership such as Bangabandu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Dhirendranath Dutta whose words adorn the wall with their political speeches about how Bangla should be our state language.
[caption id="attachment_48035" align="aligncenter" width="800"]
Highlighting the importance of the common language, Abul Mansur Ahmed writes that "If the language of the public is not the same as that of the state, then a proper democratic nation cannot rise" Dhaka Tribune
These words have a special meaning for Bangladeshis as they were used to inspire a sense of national unity and pride in the language. They were recited to inspire people during the long road to freedom – a movement that Pakistan had deemed as a peasant uprising unworthy of acknowledgment.
Speaking to Tanvir Hassan, a Dhaka University student of international relations, about what these words mean to him, he said: “These writings stir a deep sense of connection to that time when you think about what people had to struggle against and go through to give us the freedoms we enjoy today. I get goosebumps thinking about it.”
Kamal Uddin, a professor at the Department of Fine Arts, Dhaka University who has been writing these quotes on the wall for 17 years, said: “We do this not only to pay tribute to those who spoke up against oppression but to introduce the youth to these people, so that they never forget.”