Bangladesh marked its Language Martyrs’ Day on February 21 and the International Mother Language Day with somber ceremonies to honor the sacrifices of people killed in the country’s 1952 Language Movement.
The movement was launched after the government of the then-West Pakistan (present day Pakistan), which jointly held constitutional powers over Bangladesh (the then East Pakistan), refused to recognize Bengali as an official language alongside Urdu.
Its decision to make Urdu the sole official language for East Pakistan, where the majority spoke Bengali, sparked massive protests that became known as the Language Movement and paved the way for the country’s eventual demand for independence.
On Bangladesh’s initiative, UNESCO recognized February 21 as the International Mother Language Day.
President Mohamed Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajid issued messages paying tribute to those who laid down their lives for the cause.
Hamid said the “imperishable spirit” of the Language Movement gave the people “endless inspiration and immense courage to achieve our rights to self-determination.”
As huge crowds turned out at the Shaheed Minar in the capital Dhaka to mark the day, a common grievance voiced by many was that Bengali, or Bangla, language is not getting the importance it deserves in Bangladesh.
Ali Bordi Khan, a young visitor at the monument, pointed out that most verdicts of the country’s Supreme Court are still being delivered in English.
“To truly honor the historic achievements of Bangladesh and our fight for our mother tongue, it would be great if all verdicts of the Supreme Court are given in Bangla,” Khan said.
Mohammed Hasanur Rahman Bachchu, head of Bulbul Academy of Fine Arts, a reputed institute in Dhaka, said there is a need to discourage the growing trend of mixing Bangla and English in everyday speech.
“This trend of speaking in ‘Banglish’ must be avoided. People should either speak in Bangla or English,” he said.