Streams of barefooted people from all walks of life began filing past the shaheed minars after placing flowers at the altars across the country as the clock ticked past Wednesday with the nation paying tributes to the 1952 Language Movement heroes.
People from all walks of life and ages began to gather at the Central Shaheed Minar in Dhaka and other memorials, mostly at educational institutions and important locations, built to commemorate the heroism and sacrifice of language movement martyrs.
They stood in queues at the Central Shaheed Minar and memorials built across the country from the first hours of Thursday to pay respect to the language heroes who made supreme sacrifice for establishing Bangla as a state language.
President Abdul Hamid was the first to place a wreath at the altar on behalf of the nation a minute after Wednesday midnight followed by prime minister Sheikh Hasina as the 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.
Hasina as the president of the Awami League, along with her party leaders, and cabinet colleagues placed another wreath at the monument on behalf of the party.
Jatiya Sangsad speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury, deputy speaker Fazle Rabbi Miah, diplomats, Dhaka University vice-chancellor Md Akhtaruzzaman along with the university teachers, Dhaka South city mayor Saeed Khokon, among others, also paid tributes to the language martyrs in the first hour of the day.
State dignitaries first placed wreaths at the Central Shaheed Minar. Wreaths were placed at the altar of the monument as Amar Bhaiyer Rakte Rangano Ekushey February was sung in chorus.
No sooner the memorial was opened to public after the dignitaries left, the altar of the monument was covered with wreaths.
Breaking the silence of night, mourners mostly dressed in black and white carried placards and banners commemorating the language martyrs, some demanded uses of Bangla at all sphere of life.
Artistes sang patriotic songs and recited poems on the Central Shaheed Minar premises, decorated with Bangla letters against the backdrop of a rising sun.
Ekushey February, also 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 UNESCO announcement in November 1999.
On February 21, 1952, which fell on Phalgun 8, 1359 on the Bangla calendar, the rulers of the then Pakistan banned rallies or processions to stop 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 for Independence in 1971.
The day is a public holiday. The national flag is hoisted at half-mast atop government, autonomous and private buildings. Black flags are 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 a ban.
Like the previous years, Dhaka University is supervising Amar Ekushey observance. Fine arts students decorated the walls around the monument with floral designs.
Roads have been decorated with the national flag and festoons and cardboard cut-outs with Bangla letters.
Dhaka Metropolitan Police have taken special security measures for a smooth observance of the day.
The state-run Bangladesh Television aired live the observance at Central Shaheed Minar.
Bangladesh Betar and private television and radio channels are airing special programmes. Newspapers published supplements highlighting the significance of the day.
Amar Ekushey is being observed officially in all district and upazila towns while various organisations also placed flowers and wreaths at local Shaheed Minars.
Bangladeshis living abroad are also observing the day, reports reaching Dhaka said.
Political parties and socio-cultural organisations are holding different programmes such as discussion, free medical camps and blood donation across the country programmes marking the day.
Ruling Awami League is scheduled to hoist national and party flag half-mast and hoist black flag at party’s central office and Bangabandhu Bhaban at 6:30am, wear black badges and place wreath at the grave of language movement martyrs with procession at 7:00am from south gate of New Market and will later place wreaths at Central Shaheed Minar.
To mark the day, the Awami League will hold a discussion Krishibid Institution auditorium in the capital at 3:00pm on Friday while party president and prime minister Sheikh Hasina is expected to chair.
Opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party leaders and activists are scheduled to gather in front of Balaka Cinema hall at 6:30am today to offer fateha at the graveside of language movement martyrs at Azimpur graveyard and pay tribute to the martyrs at central Shaheed Minar, said a release.
President Abdul Hamid and prime minister Sheikh Hasina gave separate messages paying rich tributes to the language martyrs and on the occasion of International Mother Language Day.
BNP acting chairman Tarique Rahman and secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir on Wednesday gave messages on the occasion of Great Shaheed Dibash and International Mother Language Day.
Jatiya Party, Communist Party of Bangladesh, Workers Party of Bangladesh, Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal factions, Socialist Party of Bangladesh factions, Ganasamhati Andolan and other left leaning political parties, different socio- cultural organisations have taken various programmes marking the day.