Every year, on the 21st of February, the world celebrates International Mother Language Day. It is a global initiative to promote multilingualism, cultural and linguistic diversity. On the 17th of November 1999, UNESCO announced the initiative for the first time. Subsequently, the United Nations General Assembly recognized the endeavour in a resolution that established 2008 as the International Year Of Languages. Since the year 2000, 21st Feb has been observed globally as the International Mother Language Day.
It was Bangladesh that proposed the initiative to recognize 21st Feb as the International Mother Language Day. This is because the infamous date is a sad reminder of a brutal past in the country’s history.
In 1947, after India gained independence from the British, the country was divided into two parts – India and Pakistan. The latter was further divided into East and West Pakistan. The two separate regions of the country differed greatly from each other in terms of language, culture and social norms. Furthermore, the two halves of the country had to contend with the vast expanse that was India in between them.
In 1948, the then Pakistani government declared Urdu as the only national language of the country. Since the overwhelming majority of the population in east Pakistan recognized themselves as Bengali, they protested that Bangla be also recognized as one of the national languages.
In order to suppress the protest movement, authorities in Pakistan banned rallies and public meetings. With the students from the University of Dhaka leading from the front, large sections of the masses held massive meetings and rallies. On the 21st of February 1952, the police clashed with the rallies. In the course of the altercation, they opened fire on the demonstrators that left many dead in its wake. To this day, the incident is one of the rarest occurrences in history where a group of individuals were martyred while defending their right to speak in their mother tongue.
This mindless act of violence perpetrated by the Pakistani government backfired immeasurably. Galvanized by the shocking brutality of the authorities, the people of Bangladesh took to the streets in unprecedented numbers to not only defend their right to speak in their mother tongue but to seek justice for the ultimate sacrifices made by their fellow citizens.
Eventually, good triumphed over evil. In 1956, the despotic regime succumbed to the powerful people’s movement and granted official status to Bangla.
Since then, every year, Bangladeshis remember 21st Feb as a day of reckoning – the fateful moment when innocent and peace-loving Bengalis sacrificed their lives for their values and principles. To commemorate the national tragedy, Bangladeshis annually gather at Shahid Minar – a monument built in memory of the fallen heroes in a solemn, somber and serene fashion to express both sorrows as well as gratitude.
In Bangladesh, the 21st of Feb is a national holiday. The international resolution was first suggested by Rafiqul Islam, a Bengali residing at Vancouver, Canada. On the 9th of January 1998, he wrote a letter to Kofi Annan, the then Secretary General of the United Nations. In it, Mr. Islam petitioned Mr. Annan to save the myriad and diverse languages of the world from extinction through the establishment of a globally recognized International Mother Language Day. As a date of choice, He suggested the 21st of Feb to the Secretary-General to honour the fallen men and women of Bangladesh.
At Hi-Tech Animation, one of the best training institutes in the country, we echo the spirit and sentiments of International Mother Language Day. Our brilliant and talented students hail from diverse backgrounds in terms of ethnicity, social and economic upbringing. We celebrate the diverse originality, creativity and imagination that our pupils regularly bring to our classrooms. We are united in our unanimous vision to further the discipline of animation and serve our community by nurturing young artists and developing them into skilled digital professionals.
Last but not least, we salute the astonishing bravery and courage of ordinary citizens who made extraordinary sacrifices so that the rest of us could live to see a better and brighter tomorrow.