People started flocking to the Central Shaheed Minar in Dhaka and other memorials across the country on Sunday evening to pay their respects to the martyrs.
Barefoot, they carried flowers in their hands and the immortal lineage – ”Amar Bhaier Rokte Rangano Ekushey February, Ami Ki Bhulite Pari’ (Can I forget February twenty-first/ Embodied by my brother’s blood?) on their lips.
The observance of the day, Shaheed Dibosh or Martyrs Day, officially began at 12:01 a.m. Monday with President Md Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina – taking precautions due to the coronavirus pandemic – sending representatives to lay wreaths on their behalf at the Chahid Minar.
Salam, Rafique, Shafique, Jabbar and Barkat embraced martyrdom in police gunfire as they took to the streets to step up the campaign to establish Bengali as the state language of then-Pakistan, sowing the seeds subsequent movements for independence.
Eventually, Bangladesh wrested its independence from Pakistan in 1971.
February 21 is therefore not only a day when lives are sacrificed for the right to speak one’s own language, but also a remembrance of Bengali nationality, individuality and cultural identity.
In 1999, UNESCO declared February 21 International Mother Language Day.
The day is a national holiday. The national flag will fly at half mast in honor of the martyrs.
In light of the coronavirus pandemic, authorities have made it mandatory to present a coronavirus vaccination certificate, in addition to wearing a face mask, to pay respect to the martyrs of the Shaheed Minar.
Individuals can pay tribute to martyrs in groups of two at a time while the number of representatives from any organization has been limited to five.
The Dhaka Metropolitan Police set up a six-level security system centered on the monument and asked people not to take any bags from the Shaheed Minar.
After the President, Prime Minister, political parties and dignitaries, people were allowed to lay flowers at the Shaheed Minar.
Leaders of the Jatiya party, the main opposition in parliament, paid tribute to the martyrs in the early morning. The BNP announced that it would lay a wreath on Monday morning. The two parties will hold discussions.
Social and cultural organizations and educational institutions will organize other programs, including meetings, seminars, symposiums and cultural competitions in accordance with health protocols.
The Permanent Mission of Bangladesh to the UN and other overseas missions will also organize programs to observe International Mother Language Day with due solemnity and fervor.
Hamid and Hasina all hailed International Mother Language Day and paid tribute to martyrs and heroes, including nation father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who took part in the 1952 movement.
Hamid extended his “warm congratulations and sincere congratulations” to people and ethnic groups of different languages in the world as well as people who speak Bengali.
“It is a unique celebration in the protection of the mother tongue as well as its own culture and heritage,” he said in a message.
Hasina in her message said that the importance of the language movement is immense in the history of the liberation struggle of Bangladesh.
The foundations of a non-communal, democratic and language-based state system were laid through this movement, she said.