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Ekushey February

This date was chosen by UNESCO in recognition of the Bengali language movement, where on 21 February 1952, students protested for their language to become an official national language.

Several protesters taking part in the demonstration were killed by police. The celebration of International Mother Language Day reminds us of the importance of linguistic diversity and the human right to use one’s mother tongue, no matter how few speakers it might have, to be preserved and passed on to future generations.

Language is the bearer and conveyor of the culture, custom and creed of a community. Language helps us to express our thoughts, ideas, experiences, emotions.  Own Language or mother tongue symbolizes the identity, individuality and independence of a person so it is dear to all. But very few nations have fought, bled and sacrificed their lives to uphold the dignity and honor of their mother tongue.

International Mother Language Day History

Pakistan had two different wings named western and eastern. Both the wings were very different in their culture and languages. Bengalis from east Pakistan were the majority of the population. However, most of the leaders from west Pakistan wanted to make Urdu as the only national language of Pakistan, and the Bengalis wanted the equal status of their mother language; Bengali language.

In 1952, the government declared Urdu to be the only national language. This meant the Bengalis would not be able to use their own language for official purposes, documents, jobs and so on. Eventually, there was a spontaneous movement of students, teachers, poets, politicians united to protest against the government, against west Pakistan.

On 21st February, the government declared a ban on any protest in east Pakistan. The Bengali students started a peaceful procession in support of their mother tongue, Bengali language near Dhaka medical college campus, Pakistani police fired upon the peaceful protesters and killed a large number of students including Salam, Barkat, Rafique, Jabbar, Shafiur.

The protest went on and became a nationwide movement. At last, the government of Pakistan surrendered and gave equal status to the Bengali language as the national language of the country. This language movement caused Bengalis to unite and this led to the liberation war (History of The Independence day) of Bangladesh in 1971.

21st February was declared to be the International Mother Language Day by UNESCO in 1999. It has been observed throughout the world since February 21st, 2000.

International Mother Language Day is a national holiday in Bangladesh. The resolution was suggested by Rafiqul Islam, a Bengali living in Vancouver, Canada. He wrote a letter to Kofi Annan on 9 January 1998 asking him to take a step for saving the world’s languages from extinction by declaring an International Mother Language Day. Rafiq proposed the date as 21 February to commemorate the 1952 killings in Dhaka during the Language Movement.”21st February – The International Mother Language Day”.

The International Mother Language Day should be considered as a wonderful opportunity to maintain this noble goal of a culture of peace that can only emerge in a space where everyone has the freedom to use their native language, freely and fully, in all the different circumstances of life. It is within the framework of its mandate for peace that UNESCO works to preserve the differences in cultures and languages that promote tolerance and respect for others.

The UN itself states that “Languages are the most powerful instruments of preserving and developing our tangible and intangible heritage. All moves to promote the dissemination of mother tongues will serve to encourage linguistic diversity and multilingual education.

In recognition of the Bengali language movement of Ekushey February, the united nations declared it as the international mother language day. Every year, Bengalis commemorate this event with a pledge of love for their language. To commemorate the sacrifice of the language activists, a monument called shaheed minar has been established. For the whole February month, a book fair is organized near the monument and the day is a national holiday.

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