People in bare feet started streaming along the roads leading to the Central Shaheed Minar in Dhaka and monuments across the country a minute after midnight past Monday as the nation is paying homage to the martyrs of the language movement of 1952.
As the clock struck one minute past midnight, people in their thousands with flowers in hands and singing Amar Bhaiyer Raktey Rangano Ekushey February started filing into the Central Shaheed Minar premises after the president, prime minister, leader of the opposition, political leaders, diplomats and representatives of international organisations had placed wreaths at the monument in honour of Salam, Barkat, Rafiq, Jabbar and others who had laid down their lives this day in 1952 for recognition of Bangla as a state language of the then Pakistan.
President Zillur Rahman, also a language movement activist, was the first to place a wreath at Shahid Minar on behalf of the nation at one minute past midnight followed by prime minister Sheikh Hasina as the head of the government.
Hasina also placed a wreath along with her party leaders on behalf of Awami League followed by deputy speaker M Shawkat Ali on behalf of the Jatiya Sangsad.
The leader of the opposition, Khaleda Zia, placed wreath at 12:22am. She also placed flowers on behalf of Bangladesh Nationalist Party.
After the state dignitaries and the two major parties, Dhaka University, diplomats, Sector Commanders Forum and chiefs of the three services placed wreaths before the Central Shahid Minar was opened for people from of all walks of life to pay their tributes.
Ekushey February, formally known as Shaheed Dibas or Martyrs’ Day, has come to be observed as International Mother Language Day every year since February 2000 to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism after a proclamation by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s general conference in November 1999.
On February 21, 1952, which fell on Phalgun 8, 1359 in the Bangla calendar, the rulers of what was then a united Pakistan ordered Section 144
banning demonstrations against the announcement that Urdu would be
the only state language even though a majority of its combined population spoke Bangla.
The Pakistani rulers ordered law enforcers to fire into the protesters, mainly Dhaka University students, who brought out a procession defying the ban seeking Bangla to be a state language.
President Zillur Rahman, prime minister Sheikh Hasina, leader of the opposition Khaleda Zia, also the BNP chairperson, and major political parties issued messages on the occasion of Ekushey February.
Paying tributes to the martyrs, the president in his message said, ‘The great language movement is a very significant day in the national history. The spirit of Bengali nationalism emanated from the bloodstained February 21 and gained tremendous momentum gradually as the long-cherished independence was eventually achieved in 1971.’
‘We feel proud that the February 21 is being observed all over the world as International Mother Language Day in a befitting manner.’
He said International Mother Language Day has made a bridge of unity and amity among the people of the world and inspired the preservation and promotion of languages and cultures of various nations.
Zillur said that February 21 is not only a symbol of dignity of the Bengali people’s own language but also an inspiration for the protection of the languages and heritage of all the ethnic groups of the world.
He hoped that the observance of International Mother Language Day would revive the world’s all near-extinct languages and advance the human civilisation as well.
Prime minister Sheikh Hsaina in her message said, ‘Amar Ekushey is the symbol of our democratic values, Bengali nationalism, spirit of the independence war and secularism.’
She said that the day had achieved a new height when UNESCO gave recognition to February 21 as International Mother Language Day on November 17, 1999 at the initiative of the Awami League government with the help of some expatriate Bangladeshis in Canada.
Hasina said she had already placed the demand in the United Nations General Assembly to make Bangla, spoken by 250 million people, one of the official languages of the world body.
Khaleda Zia in her message said the spirit of Ekushey would inspire the nation to resist injustice and realise rights of the people.
She said the supreme sacrifice of the valiant sons of the soil was the first step for ‘the struggle of our national liberty which culminated in the independence war of Bangladesh.’
Mourners of all ages and from all walks of life started pouring into the Dhaka University campus well before midnight waiting in queues for placing wreaths and pay homage to the martyrs.
The altar of the Central Shaheed Minar decorated with Bengali letters and different traditional motives widely known as Alpana, went under flowers and wreaths in hours as the mourners filed past the monument.
Security was heightened at and around the Central Shaheed Minar for the Ekushey observance. About 10,000 police, Armed Police Battalion and Rapid Action Battalion personnel were deployed.
Television channels are airing the events live from the Central Shaheed Minar.
Lawmen closed all entrances to the campus before midnight past Monday with barbed-wire fences. They set up check points on the roads to restrict people’s movement.
The day is a public holiday. The national flag has been hoisted at half mast atop government, autonomous and private buildings and educational institutions. Newspapers have marked the occasion by bringing out supplements. The electronic media started airing special programmes.
Dhaka University authorities are supervising the Amar Ekushey observance as it did in the past.
Government, non-government, socio-cultural and political organisations have chalked up various programmes to mark the day.
The Awami League’s programmes for the day include placing flowers at the Central Shaheed Minar, hoisting the national and party flags at half mast at its offices and at Bangabandhu Bhaban, and hoisting black flag at 6:30am.
The party will also hold a discussion at the Bangabandhu International Conference Centre on Wednesday.
The Bangladesh Nationalist Party, which held a discussion at Kazi Bashir Auditorium in Dhaka on Monday, will place flowers at the Central Shaheed Minar at 6:00am today.
The party will also hoist the national and party flags at half mast at its offices across the country.
Jatiya Party, Communist Party of Bangladesh, Bangladesher Samajtantrik Dal, Workers Party of Bangladesh, Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal, Bangladesh Jatiya Party and National People’s Party will place wreaths at the Central Shaheed Minar in the first hours of the observance.
Dhaka University’s music department will arrange a programme featuring patriotic songs at TSC Auditorium at 6:30pm.
Sammilita Sangskritik Jote began its three-day programmes at Rabindra Sarobar at Dhanmondi on Sunday night.
Nazrul Academy will hold a discussion and cultural programme at its office at 5:00pm today. Pioneer Health Services will arrange a day-long free blood grouping at its office.
Courtesy of The Daily Star