Streams of mourners began filing past the shaheed minars after placing flowers at the altars across the country as clock struck the zero hour past Friday with the nation paying homage to the martyrs of the Language Movement of 1952 in a beefed up security amid a protracted blockade enforced by the opposition alliance.
In the capital Dhaka, thousands of people stood barefoot in queues at the Central Shaheed Minar from the first hours of Saturday to pay respect to the heroes who had laid down their lives campaigning for Bangla as one of the state languages of the then Pakistan 63 years ago.
The president, Abdul Hamid, was the first to place a wreath at the altar on behalf of the nation a minute after midnight followed by the prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, as head of the government.
The president and the prime minister stood in solemn silence for a while as a mark of respect to the language movement martyrs.
Jatiya Sangsad speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury, visiting United Kingdom House of Lords speaker Baroness Frances D’Souza and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, along with other Indian guests, also paid tributes to the language martyrs in the first hour of the day.
Hasina as president of the Awami League, along with her party leaders, and cabinet colleagues later placed another wreath at the monument on behalf of the party.
The leader of the opposition in parliament, Raushan Ershad, among others, also paid tributes to the language martyrs.
Almost all political parties, student organizations and socio-cultural and professional groups paid tributes to the language movement heroes.
The Bangladesh Nationalist Party is scheduled to pay homage to the language martyrs this morning, but the party sources could not confirm until late last night whether BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia would visit the Central Shaheed Minar to pay tribute. Khaleda Zia has been staying in her office since January 3. She decided to stay put at the office after being confined there by the law enforcers until January 18.
People from all walks of life placed wreaths at the altar of the monument as Amar Bhaiyer Rakte Rangano Ekushey February was sung as the Central Shaheed Minar was opened to public to pay respect after the dignitaries left. The altar of the monument was soon covered with wreaths.
Artistes sang patriotic songs and recited poems on the Central Shaheed Minar premises, decorated with Bangla letters against the backdrop of a rising sun.
On February 21, 1952, which fell on Phalgun 8, 1359 on the Bangla calendar, the rulers of what was then a united Pakistan clamped Section 144 banning protests against the announcement that Urdu would be the only state language even though a majority of the combined population spoke Bangla.
It was the first uprising of Bengalis against the colonial attitude of Pakistani rulers that became the prime inspiration for their struggle for self-determination throughout the 1950s and the 1960s leading to the emergence of the independent Bangladesh through a nine-month war.
Ekushey February, formally known as Shaheed Dibas or Martyrs’ Day, has come to be observed as International Mother Language Day since February 2000 to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism after a proclamation by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation in November 1999.
The national flag is hoisted at half-mast atop government, autonomous and private buildings. The day is a public holiday.
Black flags were hoisted to pay tributes to the martyrs, including Salam, Jabbar, Rafiq and Barkat who were killed in police firing into a students’ procession brought out defying Section 144 demanding Bangla as a state language in February 1952.
Like the previous years, Dhaka University is supervising the Amar Ekushey observance programmes. Fine arts students decorated the walls around the monument with floral designs. Roads, dividers and islands have been decorated with the national flag, festoons and cardboard cut-outs with Bangla letters.
The Dhaka Metropolitan Police have, meanwhile, taken all-out security measures for a smooth observance of Amar Ekushey.
People outside the capital also thronged monuments across Bangladesh and other countries to pay tribute to the martyrs as Amar Ekushey was observed officially in all district and upazila towns where various organisations also placed flowers and wreaths at local shaheed minars.
The state-run Bangladesh Television aired live the observance at the Central Shaheed Minar.
Bangladesh Betar and private television and radio channels are airing special programmes on the occasion. Newspapers published supplements highlighting the significance of the day.
Source: New Age