The nation is paying glowing tribute to the martyrs of the historic Language Movement of 1952, marking the Amar Ekushey and International Mother Language Day on Wednesday.
President Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina led the nation in paying homage to the martyred language heroes by placing wreaths at the Central Shaheed Minar.
The President placed his wreath at one minute past midnight. He was followed by the prime minister.
They stood in solemn silence as a mark of deep respect to the best sons of the soil who laid down their lives to establish Bangla as state language of then Pakistan.
Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury followed the premier in paying homage to the language martyrs.
Later, the prime minister along with cabinet members and senior leaders of the ruling Awami League placed another wreath at the martyrs’ monument.
Opposition leader Raushan Ershad, the chiefs of three services, inspector general of police, attorney general, Dhaka University vice-chancellor, members of the diplomatic corps, various political, cultural and professional bodies also paid tribute to the martyrs.
Allies of the ruling Awami League, including Workers Party, Bangladesh Samajtantrik Dal and Samyabadi Dal and Communist Party of Bangladesh also placed wreaths.
Street paintings, festoons, banners, buntings and placards with popular inscriptions on the language movement featured the areas adding to the solemnity of the day.
The day is a public holiday.
National flag has been hoisted at half mast and black flags are flying atop government, autonomous and private offices.
People wearing black badges with flowers in their hands started thronging the monument on the Dhaka University campus, singing Ekushey anthem ‘Amar Bhaier Rokte Rangano Ekushey February….’.
President Md Abdul Hamid, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Leader of the Opposition in Parliament Raushan Ershad gave separate messages on the occasion of the day.
Elaborate programmes have been chalked out at all levels to pay homage to the best sons of the soil who made supreme sacrifices for their mother tongue.
The programmes include wearing black badges and placing wreaths and offering prayers at the graves of the martyrs.
Security has been beefed up in and around the Central Shaheed Minar in the capital with deployment of police and Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) personnel.
Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) Commissioner Asaduzzaman Miah told newsmen that a four-tier security measure has been taken around the venue.
As part of the security measures, checkpoints and monitoring cells have been set up at different strategic points in the capital, police sources said.
Huge contingents of police and Rab members are patrolling different areas. A bomb-defusing squad and a dog squad will remain deployed until tonight to ensure foolproof security.
DMP has imposed restrictions on movement of vehicles on the roads leading to the Central Shaheed Minar to pave the way for easy movement of the general people.
State-run Bangladesh Television and Bangladesh Betar and private TV stations and FM radios are airing special programmes while newspapers published special supplements highlighting the significance of the day.
BTV telecast live the day’s main programme from the Central Shaheed Minar.
In 1952, the autocratic Pakistan government imposed Urdu, the language of less than 20 percent people of then Pakistan, as the only official language of East Pakistan.
But students and people of the East Pakistan rose in revolt against the government’s decision to impose Urdu as the state language.
On February 21, police opened fire and killed a number of protesting students, including Abdus Salam, Rafiq Uddin Ahmed, Abul Barkat and Abdul Jabbar, triggering more vigorous movement.
In the face of strong opposition in 1956, the Pakistan government was compelled to make Bangla alongside Urdu as the state language of Pakistan.
The Language Movement was a watershed in history as it fortified Bangali nationalism and its spirit which ultimately led to the country’s independence in 1971.
The day is being observed as the International Mother Language Day in 193 countries across the globe after UNESCO recognised Ekushey February on November 17 in 1999.
In his message issued on the occasion of the Amar Ekushey, President Abdul Hamid recalled with deep reverence the language martyrs and language heroes who laid down their lives for the cause of mother language.
"As a Bangali nation, it was our great achievement. Today many languages and culture around the globe are becoming extinct due to lack of proper practice, preservation and patronization," Hamid said.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, in her message, said the greatest Ekushey is the symbol of grief, strength and glory in the life of every Bangali.
She said the International Mother Language Day is now a source of inspiration to all people of the world in establishing the truth and justice.
"Let's work together with the spirit of the immortal Ekushey keeping aside all the differences for the development of the country upholding the democratic value and build a non-communal, hunger poverty-free and happy-prosperous Sonar Bangladesh as dreamt by the Father of the Nation," the she added.