People in their thousands in bare feet started filing past the shaheed minars after placing flowers at the altars across the country as clock struck the zero hour past Thursday with the nation paying tributes to the martyrs of the Language Movement of 1952.
They recalled the known, unknown and unsung language heroes who laid down their lives for their mother tongue.
They stood barefoot in queues at the Central Shaheed Minar from the first hours of Friday to pay respect to the heroes who had laid down their lives campaigning for Bangla as one of the state languages of the then Pakistan, 64 years ago.
Ekushey February, also Bhasha Shaheed Dibas or Language Martyrs’ Day, has come to be observed as the International Mother Language Day since February 2000 to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism after a UNESCO announcement in November 1999.
President Abdul Hamid was the first to place a wreath at the altar on behalf of the nation a minute after Thursday midnight followed by prime minister Sheikh Hasina as the 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 ruling Awami League president, 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, diplomats, Dhaka University vice-chancellor Md Akhtaruzzaman along with the university teachers, Dhaka South city mayor Saeed Khokon, Bangladesh Police, among others, also paid tributes to the language martyrs in the first hour of the day.
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 after the Central Shaheed Minar was opened to public to pay respect following the departure of the dignitaries. 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 demanding uses of Bangla at all sphere of life. People continued to crowd at the Shaheed Minar till Friday noon.
Artistes sang patriotic songs and recited poems on the Central Shaheed Minar premises, decorated with Bangla letters against the backdrop of a rising sun.
President Abdul Hamid and prime minister Sheikh Hasina issued separate messages paying rich tributes to the language martyrs on the occasion of International Mother Language Day.
President Md Abdul Hamid, in his message, called for strengthening the bond of friendship among people speaking different languages.
In her message, the prime minister said that Ekushey was the symbol of grief, strength and glory in the life of every Bengali, as on this day in 1952 many valiant sons of the soil, including Salam, Barkat, Rafiq, Jabbar, Shafique and others sacrificed their lives for protecting the dignity of the mother tongue.
On February 21, 1952, which fell on Phalgun 8, 1359 on the Bangla calendar, the rulers of the then Pakistan banned rallies and processions to stop protests against the announcement that Urdu would be the only state language 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-long war in 1971.
The day is a public holiday. The national flag is hoisted at half-mast atop government, autonomous and private buildings. Black flags are hoisted to pay tribute to the martyrs, including Salam, Jabbar, Rafiq and Barkat, who were killed in police firing into a students’ procession brought out defying a ban.
Like the previous years, Dhaka University is supervising Amar Ekushey observance. Fine arts students decorated the walls around the monument with floral designs.
Roads have been decorated with the national flag and festoons and Bangla letters made out of cardboard cut-outs.
The Dhaka Metropolitan Police as well as elite force Rapid Action Battalion have taken special security measures for the smooth observance of the day.
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. Newspapers published supplements highlighting the significance of the day.
Amar Ekushey is being observed officially in all districts 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.
A number of organisations across the country are holding different programmes such as discussion, free medical camps and blood donation programmes marking the day.
Ruling Awami League is scheduled to hoist national and party flag half-mast and hoist black flag at party’s central office and Bangabandhu Bhaban at 6:30am, wear black badges and place wreath at the grave of language movement martyrs with procession at 7:00am from south gate of New Market and will later place wreaths at Central Shaheed Minar.
To mark the day, the Awami League will hold a discussion at Bangabandhu International Conference Centre in the capital at 3:00pm on Saturday while party president and prime minister Sheikh Hasina is expected to chair.
Opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party held a discussion at Supreme Court Bar Association auditorium on Thursday. Party leaders and activists are scheduled to gather in front of Balaka Cinema hall at 6:00am today to offer fateha at the graveside of language movement martyrs at Azimpur graveyard and pay tribute to the martyrs at the central Shaheed Minar, said a release.
BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir on Thursday gave a message on the occasion of Great Shaheed Dibash and International Mother Language Day.
Besides, BNP’s different units across the country will also observe the day with due respect amid various programmes, including discussion.
Jatiya Party, Communist Party of Bangladesh, Workers Party of Bangladesh, Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal factions, Socialist Party of Bangladesh factions, Ganasamhati Andolan and other left-leaning political parties and different socio-cultural organisations have taken various programmes marking the day.
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