Nation salutes language heroes

Streams of barefooted people from all walks of life began filing past the shaheed minars after placing flowers at the altars across the country at one minute past Monday midnight with the nation paying tributes to the 1952 Language Movement heroes.

People from all walks of life and ages began to gather at the Central Shaheed Minar in the capital and other memorials, mostly at educational institutions and important locations, built to commemorate the heroism and sacrifice of language movement martyrs.

They stood in queues at the Central Shaheed Minar and memorials built across the country from the first hours of Tuesday to pay respect to the language heroes who made supreme sacrifice out of love for mother tongue 65 years ago.

The president, Abdul Hamid, was the first to place a wreath at the altar on behalf of the nation a minute after Monday midnight followed by the prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, as head of the government. The president and the prime minister stood in solemn silence for a while as a mark of respect to the language movement martyrs. Hasina as the president of the Awami League, along with her party leaders, and cabinet colleagues placed another wreath at the monument on behalf of the party. Jatiya Sangsad speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury, deputy speaker Fazle Rabbi Miah, leader of the opposition in parliament Raushan Ershad, diplomats, Dhaka University vice-chancellor AAMS Arefin Siddique along with the university teachers, among others, also paid tributes to the language martyrs in the first hour of the day. Bangladesh Nationalist Party chairperson Khaleda Zia, flanked by senior party leaders placed wreaths at the Central Shaheed Minar at about 1:30am. Earlier, police did not allow her to go out of her Gulshan office until 1:00am, alleged BNP chairperson’s press wing member Shamsuddin Didar.

State dignitaries and people from all walks of life placed wreaths at the altar of the monument while Amar Bhaiyer Rakte Rangano Ekushey February was sung in a chorus at the Central Shaheed Minar. No sooner the memorial s was opened to public to pay respect after the dignitaries left, the altar of the monument was soon covered with wreaths. Breaking the silence of night, mourners mostly dressed in black and white carried placards and banners commemorating the language martyrs, some demanded uses of Bangla at all sphere of life. Artistes recited poems on the Central Shaheed Minar premises, decorated with Bangla letters against the backdrop of a rising sun. Fine arts students decorated the walls around the monument with floral designs. Roads, dividers and islands have been decorated with the national flag and festoons and cardboard cut-outs with Bangla letters. The Dhaka Metropolitan Police have taken four tier all-out security measures for a smooth observance of Amar Ekushey. On February 21, 1952, which fell on Phalgun 8, 1359 on the Bangla calendar, the rulers of the then Pakistan banned any rally or procession to stop protests against the announcement that Urdu would be the only state language of the country even though a majority of the combined population spoke Bangla. It was the first uprising of Bengalis against the colonial attitude of Pakistani rulers that became the prime inspiration for their struggle for self-determination throughout the 1950s and the 1960s leading to the emergence of the independent Bangladesh through a nine-month War for Independence in 1971. 

Ekushey February, known as Shaheed Dibas or Martyrs’ Day, has come to be observed as International Mother Language Day since February 2000 to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism after a proclamation by UNESCO general conference in November 1999. The United Nations, in the light of Sustainable Development Goals, has set the theme of the International Mother Language Day 2017 as ‘Towards Sustainable Futures through Multilingual Education.’ The day is a public holiday. The national flag is hoisted at half-mast atop government, autonomous and private buildings and black flags are hoisted to pay tributes to the martyrs, including Salam, Jabbar, Rafiq and Barkat who were killed in police firing into a students’ procession brought out defying ban demanding Bangla as a state language in February 1952. Like the previous years, Dhaka University is supervising the Amar Ekushey observance programmes. The president, the prime minister, the leader of the opposition in parliament, and the BNP chairperson, earlier issued messages paying rich tributes to the language martyrs. Political parties and socio economic organisations have taken elaborate programmes marking the day. BNP organised a discussion at the Institute of Engineers Bangladesh in Dhaka Monday and ruling Awami League would hold a discussion at Krishibid Institution in Dhaka. The state-run Bangladesh Television aired live the observance at the Central Shaheed Minar. Bangladesh Betar and private television and radio channels are airing special programmes on the occasion. Newspapers published supplements highlighting the significance of the day. Amar Ekushey is being observed officially in all district and upazila towns while various organisations also placed flowers and wreaths at local shaheed minars. Bangladeshis living abroad are also observing the day, reports reaching Dhaka said.