Eastern Times Correspondent, Dhaka, 21 February: Bangladeshis are paying tribute to the heroes of the 1952 Language Movement who made the supreme sacrifice to establish the rights of Bangla as the mother tongue of the nation.
The immortal line — “‘Amar Bhaier Rokte Rangano Ekushey February, Ami Ki Bhulite Pari” (Can I forget the 21st of February, incarnadined by the love of my brother?) — was on everyone’s lips as people from all walks of life walked barefoot to the Shaheed Minar to pay their homage.
Several youths were killed in police firing on Feb 21, 1952, to quell protests against the then Pakistan government decision to impose Urdu as the state language on the people of the erstwhile East Pakistan, who wanted Bangla to be recognised as the mother tongue.
The Language Movement began the intense alienation of the Bengalees and finally led to the Liberation War in 1971.
Feb 21, therefore, is not only a day of sacrificing lives for the right to speak your own language, but also a memorabilia of Bengali nationhood, individuality and cultural identity.
The UNESCO in 1999 declared Feb 21 the International Mother Language Day. Bangladesh observes the day as the Language Martyrs’ Day.
The day has come this year in a different context as the entire world is fighting the coronavirus pandemic with vaccines and restrictions on gatherings.
It is a national holiday. The national flag flies at half-mast in honour of the martyrs. Social and cultural organisations hold programmes in observance of the day.
The government has themed the observance this year on inclusion and nurturing of multiple languages in education and society.
The authorities ordered all to limit the programmes to avoid infection.
President Md Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina open the observance of the day by placing wreaths on the monument at 12:01 am on Feb 21 every year. This time their military secretaries placed the wreaths on their behalf due to the outbreak.
On behalf of President Hamid, Military Secretary Maj Gen S M Salahuddin Islam placed the wreath while Military Secretary Maj Gen Nakib Ahmed Chowdhury paid the tribute on behalf of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
Leaders and activists of different social and cultural organisations streamed to the Shaheed Minar at midnight. The authorities opened it for all after important personalities paid their homage.
As the day rolled on, the queue of people at Shaheed Minar to pay their respect to the language martyred grew longer.
A maximum of five people will be allowed to place wreaths on behalf of their organisations, while no more than two individuals can place flowers.
People from all walks of life were seen queuing up with flowers and tiny national flags to pay their respects on Sunday.
Besides Dhaka, people across the country began paying tribute to the language heroes began at the first hour of the day. Other programmes including meetings, seminars, symposium, cultural competition have been arranged following the health protocols.
Caption : Military secretaries to president Abdul Hamid and prime minister Sheikh Hasina pay homage to Language Movement martyrs by placing wreaths at the Central Shaheed Minar in Dhaka on early Sunday, marking Bhasha Shaheed Dibas and International Mother Language Day.