Bangladesh: Celebrating the Mother Language day

Ekushey February

Today is the International Mother Language Day, an annual event in UNESCO member states to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism. This is mostly the international recognition of Language Movement Day called ‘Ekushey February’, which is commemorated in Bangladesh since 1952, when a number of Bangla-speaking people were massacred by the Pakistani police and Army in Dhaka.

Shawon68 proudly says:

Ekush is Bangla for 21, and Ekushey means 21st. In Bangladesh, ‘Ekushey’ is synonymous with ‘Ekushey February’, the day when Bangladesh celebrates its Bangla Language Movement and honors those who sacrificed their lives in its name on 21st February, 1952.

Pinaki lists the fallen heroes and the contributors of the language movement.

A bit of history: In August 1947, dividing India, a new state called Pakistan, comprising two far-flung wings (1600 kms distance) in the west and east separated by India, emerged on the world map. The ideological basis of that strange phenomenon was the absurd and pernicious two nation theory of Mohammad Ali Jinnah that ignored such basic elements as language and culture and considered religion as a bond strong and sufficient enough to transform a people into a nation. The language of the people of eastern wing of Pakistan, and they were the majority, was Bangla. It had a rich tradition of literature of over a thousand years. The Bengalis also had a highly developed culture that had little in common with the culture of the people of western wing of Pakistan. When in 1952 the neo-colonial, power-hungry, arrogant rulers of Pakistan declared that ‘Urdu and Urdu alone would be the state language of Pakistan, the people of East Pakistan underwent an uprising known later as the Language Movement. (Source 1, 2 )

shaheed Minar

To commemorate this movement and the fallen ones, Shaheed Minar, a solemn and symbolic sculpture, was erected in the place of the massacre. The monument is the symbol of Bangladesh Nationalism. Each year on 21st February, starting from early morning, hundreds and thousands of people walks in bare feet to pay their respect to the martyrs singing remembrance songs with garlands in hand at the Shaheed Minar. The men and women wear only black and white cloths.

Jahangir Alam posts some pictures of how Ekushey February is celebrated in Bangladesh.

The Ekushey Book Fair which has become a part of Bengali culture and tradition is arranged in the Bangla Academy premises in Dhaka city every February since 1972 in observance of the ‘Ekushey February’. Ershad posts some photos of this year's Book fair.

About 27 percent of the world's languages are threatened to be extinct. The Foundation for Endangered Languages says 83 percent of the world's languages are restricted to single countries, making them more vulnerable to the policies of a single government.

The theme of International Mother Language Day in 2007 is the linkages between mother tongue and multilingualism.

Global Voices Online also supports and promotes the diversity of languages. It is getting prepared to establish own translated pages of its main English site contents in Bangla, Chinese (simplified and traditional), French, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish languages. This will enable people writing/speaking in one language being read and heard by speakers of other languages.


  • Susenjit Guha

    21st February is not only a day in Bangladesh when the national language movement is remembered. It is a date which kick-started the movement for liberation from erstwhile West Pakistan.

    The celebrations should be a reminder for the Bangladeshi youth, born after 1971, of the sacrifices made by a generation for the fruits they are enjoying now. It is not only the Bengali language that got a global recognition for their sacrifices, but the values of secularism embodied in her rich literature and folklore which are inter-twinned, got to be known as well. Why then did so many loose their lives in the greatest carnage and exodus of humanity for the sake of their mother tongue?

    It is the principle of secularism and inclusiveness which needs to be strengthened in Bangladesh, since the nation, for the first time in her history is at the cross-roads. Forces against the values of liberation had been at work to dismember and distort this aspect right from the beginning. The importance of religion in all aspects of society including statecraft may have pre-empted traditionally secular parties like the Awami League to join hands with fundamentalist organisations like the khelafat-e-majlish, which in recent time has been an unfortunate development.

    Are we winessing an erosion of the very basis on which Bangladesh was formed? If so, then it would be a tragic paradigm shift.

  • araz bilgin

    Dear Bangali brothers,
    We are deprived of our mother language for more than 85 years since a Persian Officer codidated against Mamalik Mahroseh Iran Kingdom and then served himself as a king and his first movement was violating other Iranian nations existance by forbiding all nonpersian nations mother language. Through these years my Nation Southrn Azerbaijan have more than 100000 martyrs. Even changing of Iranian kingdom into a Islamic Republic haven’t change the violating method of Persian governors against my nation. This very recent International day of Mother language Persian police martyred one of our youngs. Please do support us at your media against this violation. To learn more about us visit our websites: see nations and peoples 58. Southern Azerbaijan

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