Bangladeshis are remembering the Language Movement martyrs who sacrificed their lives to establish rights of the mother tongue in 1952.
President Md Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina have led the nation in paying tribute to the martyrs of the movement that acted as a trigger for Bengalis to carve an independent nation out of Pakistan 29 years later.
Hamid and Hasina placed wreaths on the Central Shaheed Minar in Dhaka to pay respects to the martyrs on the first hour of Thursday.
Hasina placed another wreath along with other leaders of the ruling Awami League after Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury paid respect to the heroes.
The Shaheed Minar was opened for all after the VIPs paid homage amidst tight security.
Deputy Speaker Fazle Rabbi Miah, Deputy Leader of the Official Opposition in Parliament GM Quader, Dhaka South Mayor Mohammad Sayeed Khokon were among the VIPs who paid their homage to the language martyrs.
The immortal line — “‘Amar Bhaier Rokte Rangano Ekushey February, Ami Ki Bhulite Pari’ (Can I forget the 21st of February, incarnadined by the love of my brother?) — was on everyone’s lips.
The BNP was absent like last year as its Chairperson Khaleda Zia is in jail. The leaders of the party last year paid respect to the martyrs the next morning.
Several youths were killed in police firing on Feb 21, 1952 to quell protests against the then Pakistan government decision to impose Urdu as the state language on the people of erstwhile East Pakistan, who wanted Bangla to be recognised as the mother tongue.
The Language Movement began the intense alienation of the Bengalees and finally led to the Liberation War in 1971.
The UNESCO in November 1999 had declared February 21 as the International Mother Language Day.
The day is a national holiday. The national flag will fly at half-mast in honour of the martyrs.
The Shaheed Minars throughout Bangladesh are also being covered with flowers.
President Hamid in a message remembered the Language Movement martyrs and hoped that the day will become a tool to protect every language and culture.
Hasina in her message urged all to work for the development of the country in the spirit of Ekushey.