Kolkata, Feb 21 (IANS) West Bengal on Thursday observed the International Mother Language Day with floral tributes, processions and cultural programmes as people remembered the martyrs who laid down their lives for the cause of the Bengali language in Dhaka (then in East Pakistan) in 1952.
Earlier, this day was celebrated as the Language Martyrs’ Day.
After paying floral tributes at the Bhasha Shahid Smarak (memorial ground) here, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said it is important to be proud of one’s mother tongue while giving due respect to all other languages.
“Best wishes to all on International Mother Language Day. Respect all languages but take pride in your mother tongue,” Banerjee tweeted.
Employees of the Bangladesh Deputy High Commission here organised a morning procession, offering prayers and tributes to the martyrs.
Several cultural programmes were organised across the state to mark the occasion in which folk singers, chhau dancers and Baul singers took part.
Local television channels and FM radio stations too aired special programmes on the occasion, recollecting the history of the momentous struggle.
In 1948, Pakistan declared that Urdu would be the sole official language for both West and East Pakistan. The people of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), whose main language was Bengali, protested against the declaration.
On February 21, 1952 students and political activists took out a procession against this. Several protesters were killed in firing.
Following protests, the Pakistan government relented and in 1956 it gave equal status to Bengali. Since then the day is celebrated as the Language Martyrs’ Day.
In 1999, the UNESCO declared February 21 as International Mother Language Day to promote awareness of linguistic and cultural diversity in the world.