February 21 is observed as the International Mother Language Day worldwide to pay tributes to the martyrs of the 1952 historic Language Movement. On February 21, 1952, scores of agitated Bangladeshi youth took to streets in protest against the then Pakistani government's denial of Bangla (Bengali) as the national language and fought for the recognition of their self-entity, culture and heritage. Though February 21 has a special significance for Bengalis, it also promotes the idea of mother tongue-based multilingual education all over the world. In 1999, UNESCO first declared February 21 as the International Mother Language Day.
Like every year, in 2019 too, there was a unique theme to commemorate the Mother Language Day. In the view that 2019 is the International Year of Indigenous Languages, the nation celebrated the day to raise awareness on indigenous languages as a factor in development, peace and reconciliation. According to Census 2001, India alone has about 22 officially recognised languages, 1635 rationalised mother tongues and 234 identifiable mother tongues.
To mark the International Mother Language day, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee also took to Twitter and wished netizens Happy International Mother Language Day. She appealed to people to respect all languages but take pride in their mother tongue. "Best wishes to all on International Mother Language Day. Respect all languages but take pride in your mother tongue," Banerjee wrote.
Advocating the concept of learning more languages, President Ram Nath Kovind also said that multilingual education reinforces national harmony and adds value to the country. Stressing on the importance of preserving mother-tongue languages, UNESCO said, "Linguistic diversity is increasingly threatened as more and more languages disappear. Globally 40 per cent of the population does not have access to an education in a language they speak or understand".
On the other hand, Bangladesh's capital city Dhaka on Thursday remembered with deep reverence the language martyrs namely Shaheed Salam, Barkat, Rafiq, Jabbar, Shafiur and thousand others who laid down their lives for the cause of their mother tongue back in 1952.
on February 21, 1952, Salam, Barkat, Rafiq, Jabbar and a few other brave hearts lost their lives in police firings after students came out in a procession from the Dhaka University campus breaching section 144 to press home their demand for the recognition of Bangla as a state language of then Pakistan. Since then, February 21 has been celebrated as Bhasha Dibas or Shahid Dibas in West Bengal and Bangladesh.
With the clock striking 12:00 am today, President Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina paid homage by placing wreaths at the Central Shaheed Minar. They stood in solemn silence for some time as a mark of profound respect to the memories of the language heroes. Walking barefoot to the Central Shaheed Minar with wreaths and flowers singing 'Amar bhaiyer rakte rangano Ekushey February', people paid tributes throughout the day to the heroes of the Language Movement.
Different political parties, their front organisations as well as sociocultural organisations have taken various programmes to pay their homage to the language martyrs all day long.