Bangladesh: Tributes paid to language martyrs on ‘Amar Ekushey’ and the International Mother Language Day

Exactly at one minute past midnight on Tuesday, President M Abdul Hamid, followed by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina paid their homage to the martyrs of the language movement by placing wreaths at the Central Shaheed Minar in Dhaka.

While they placed the wreath, the song ‘Amar  Bhayer Rokto Rangano Ekushey February…Ami Ki Bhulitey Pari’ (21 February was smeared with the blood of our brothers….can we ever forget their sacrifice) played in the background remembering the supreme sacrifice of the martyrs of 21 February 1952 who were killed by the bullets of Pakistani forces for demanding the rightful place for Bangla in the then East Pakistan.

The day is also observed as ‘International Mother Language Day’ declared by UNESCO in 1999. The UN Resident Coordinator in Bangladesh Gwyn Lewis wished the people of the country on the occasion of the International Mother Language Day. He said that the idea to celebrate International Mother Language Day came from Bangladesh and it was the result of the country's fight for the recognition of Bangla. Everyone has their own language and we should not forget to celebrate this legacy, said Gwyn Lewis.

The Shaheed Minar in Dhaka and other places across the country witnessed a steady flow of people, young and old, rich and poor, from all communities and regions paying their deep respect to the language martyrs which became the foundation on which the independent nation of Bangladesh took birth in 1971. In Dhaka, groups representing social and cultural organisations, schools, political parties and individuals stood in long, solemn que, dressed mostly in black and white, wreath in hand to place at the foot of the Central Shaheed Minar near Dhaka University from midnight to evening on Tuesday.

Looking at the massive crowd at the Central Shaheed Minar,  it’s clear that 21 February brings forth the spontaneous reverence of people of Bangladesh for the martyrs who fought for the Bangla language. The struggle began with the historic resolution placed by freedom fighter Dhirendra Nath Dutta in the Pakistan parliament on 25 February 1948 to make Bangla one of the state languages of Pakistan.

Dhirendra Nath Dutta had to ultimately pay the price for his fearless demand more than 23 years later when he was brutally murdered by the rampaging Pakistani armed forces in 1971.

The struggle for the honour of mother tongue was carried forward by leaders like Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and hundreds of youth who lost their lives over the period of more than two decades seeking to make Bangla the official language of East Pakistan. The Amar Ekushey remembers the sacrifice of the martyrs whose role was foundational in the emergence of an independent Bangladesh on 16 December 1971.


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