Monday, February 21, 2011

International Mother Language Day - 21 February

International Mother Language Day is a great pride of Bangladesh. So, the 21st February is so memorable day for Bangladeshis. This is recognition of the sacrifices of the martyrs for establishing the rightful place of Bangla. Every year Bangladeshis remember this day with solemnity and pay them profound tribute. This is an observance held annually on 21 February worldwide to promote awareness of linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism. Its observance was also formally recognized by the United Nations General Assembly in its
resolution establishing 2008 as the International Year of Languages. International Mother Language Day originated as the international recognition of Language Movement Day, which has been commemorated in Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan) since 1952, when a number of University of Dhaka students were killed by the Pakistani police and army in Dhaka during Bengali Language Movement protests.

Mother tongue is divine gift. From the holy Quran we come to know that the most merciful Almighty has bestowed a mother tongue upon each and every caste, creed and color. Mother tongue is, so important that the people of a country express their ideas, thoughts, feelings, emotions etc. clearly through mother tongue. But it is an irony of fate that the then rulers of Pakistan tried to impose Urdu as mother tongue upon us instead of Bangla.

On 21 March 1948, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the Governor General of Pakistan, declared that Urdu would be the only official language for both West and East Pakistan. The brave and patriotic people of the East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), whose main language is Bangla, started to protest against this. So the people of Bangladesh country raised their voice against this unlawful decision. 21 February 1952, (8th Falgun 1359 in the Bangla calendar), students in the present day capital city of Dhaka called for a provincial strike. The government invoked a limited curfew to prevent this and the protests were tamed down so as to not break the curfew. But the people of our country raised their voice against this unlawful decision. ‘The Mother Language Sangram Parishad’ started movement for the due honor of Bangla.

At nine o'clock in the morning, students began gathering on the University of Dhaka premises in defiance of Section 144. The Dhaka university vice-chancellor and other officials were present as armed police surrounded the campus. By a quarter past eleven, students gathered at the university gate and attempted to break the police line. But suddenly, the Pakistani police fired tear gas shells on the students despite these peaceful protests and a number of students were killed. Abdus Salam, Abdul Jabbar, Abul Barkat, Rafiq Uddin and many other persons were killed.

Now every year the Language Movement has a major cultural impact on Bengali society. It has inspired the development and celebration of the Bengali language, literature and culture. 21 February, celebrated as Language Movement Day or Shohid Dibosh or Martyrs' Day, it is a major national holiday in Bangladesh. A month-long event called the Ekushey Book Fair is held every year to commemorate the movement. “Ekushey Padak”, one of the highest civilian awards in Bangladesh, is awarded annually in memory of the sacrifices of the movement.

Rafiq wrote a letter to Mr. Kofi Anan to take a step for saving all the languages of the world from the possibility of extinction and to declare an International Mother Language Day in 9 January, 1998. Rafiq proposed the date as 21st February on the pretext of 1952 killing in Dhaka on the occasion of Language Movement. Rafiq established "A Group of Mother Language of The World" with Abdus Salam, 2 English, 1 Hindi, 1 German and 1 Cantonese speaking people. They again wrote to Mr. Kofi Anan, with a copy forwarded to Mr. David Fowler, the Canadian Ambassador to the UNO. Rafiq-Salam continued communication with Canadian Government. Mr Hasan Ferdous advised Rafiq-Salam to contact the Director of Language Division of UNESCO Mr.Joseph Pod. Mr Joseph advised to contact Anna Maria of UNESCO. Anna Maria (all through played a very strong positively active role. We are grateful to this lady advised them to formally place the request by 5 member countries, Canada, India, Hungary, Finland and Bangladesh.

Our former Education Minister Mr. Sadek, Education Secretary Mr.Kazi Rakibuddin (also he was the Director General for National Commission for UNESCO), Senior Advisor to the Secretary-General of UNESCO Mr. Tozammel Haque (Toni Haque) of USA, Moshiur Rahman (the Director of the PM's Secretariat), Professor Kofiluddin Ahmad, the Bangladeshi Ambassador to France Mr. Syed Moazzem Ali, Mr. Iktiar Chowdhury and many other people worked tirelessly to convince 29 countries to support the proposal. But on 9 September, 1999 (last day of submitting the proposal to UNESCO), the proposal did not arrive yet. The restless Rafiq-Salam passed sleepless nights and they did not move from the telephones and the e-mails. In Dhaka, our former Prime Minister needed to sign the document and she was in the Parliament on that day. By the time she would be done with the Parliament, the dateline for the proposal would pass. It won't reach UNESCO. The whole dream and effort would go to the drain.

Prime Minister instructed to fax the proposal to UNESCO Paris, pending her signature. The fax reached hours before the dateline. An UNESCO meeting was on 16 November in 1999. But the proposal was not raised due to lack of time. But finally on November 17, the proposal was raised and it supported by 188 countries including Pakistan, not opposed by a single country and at last passed a decision.

Since Bangladesh’s liberation in 1971, 21 February was being observed as the ‘National Mourning Day’. On November 17, 1999 UNESCO recognized our unique sacrifice for mother language and declared 21 February is the International Language Day. From then onwards, this day is being observed in all the member countries of UNO. Now it is great pleasure for us that, The UNESCO has recognition of the sacrifices of the martyrs for establishing the rightful place of Bangla. It is a great tribute and glowing homage paid by the international community to the language martyrs of Bangladesh. The sacrifices of all the martyrs for championing the cause of their mother tongue have received now a glorious recognition by the people of the world.

You can know details here about the Shaheed Minar (The National Language Martyr Monument).


  1. This is very informational and it has a huge details about International mother language day. Thank You..

  2. It is a great day for all Bangladeshi. We can stand up right all over the world for the sacrifice for Bangladeshi martyrs. so we have to respect them.