One of the most memorable days for the nation, Ekushey February is being observing today by millions of people in the country and outside of the country. Ekushey is synonymous with the spirit of self-identity, a fruition of the innate longing of the Bengali people to be identified with what they considered most befitting, their mother language – Bangla. It is also the International Mother Language Day.
Today is a national holiday. The national flag is half hoisted to show tribute to the martyrs of the language movement. Also black flags are hoisted to express mourning. Special pages and programs are published and broadcasted in the print and electronic media to observe the day with proper respect.
On Feb 21, 1952, students at Dhaka University took to the street in protest against the then government’s denial of Bangla as the national language and imposition of Urdu as the sole official language of Pakistan.
Salam, Barkat, Rafiq, Jabbar and a few other brave sons of the soil were killed in a police firing on this day in 1952 when students moved out in a procession from the Dhaka University campus, breaching Section 144, demanding recognition of Bengali as a state language of the then Pakistan.
The Pakistan government was ultimately compelled to incorporate an article in the Constitution on Feb 29 in 1956 that declared “the state language of Pakistan shall be Urdu and Bengali”. The protest sparked on Feb 21, 1952 culminated into the long-drawn struggle that eventually led to the birth of independent Bangladesh in 1971.
On Nov 17 in 1999, the UNESCO declared Feb 21 as the International Mother Language Day. Since then countries across the globe observe the day to promote linguistic diversity and multilingual education, and raise awareness about cultural traditions based on understanding, tolerance and dialogue.