Monday, February 20, 2012

International Mother Language Day

21st February (Bangla:একুশে ফেব্রুয়ারী Ekushe February) was declared as the International Mother Language Day (Bangla:আন্তর্জাতিক মাতৃভাষা দিবস Antorjatik Matribhasha Dibos by the UNESCO on 17th November,1999 to uphold the significance of Mother Language in the life of an individual and to promote unity in diversity- respect all languages alike.

2012 International Mother Language Day theme: “Mother tongue instruction and inclusive education”. It emphasizes on imparting basic education to children in their mother languages for better understanding. It further shows the importance of mother tongue and multilingual education to reduce discrimination.
"The mother language, in which the first words are uttered and individual thought expressed, is the foundation for the history and culture of each individual. Moreover, it has been proven that children learn the best when they are instructed in their mother language during their first years at school" UNESCO says.

Significance of 21st February:
The date, 21st February was chosen as the International Mother Language Day to commemorate the martyrs who sacrificed their lives to uphold the dignity of their Mother Language Bangla on this very day in 1952. This was one of the rare instances in world history where people fearlessly gave up their lives for the sake of their mother language.

Background of 21st February, 1952 in brief:
The Partition of British India in August 1947 led to the formation of two independent states: The Union of India and the Dominion of Pakistan. The Dominion of Pakistan consisted of two far-flung territories i.e. East Pakistan (Now Bangladesh) & West Pakistan (Now Pakistan). East and West Pakistan were separated by 1600 Kilometers (approx: 1000 Miles) of Indian Territory but the key factor that made the separation even more prominent is Language and Culture.

21 February- Dhaka Protest rally
Protest Rally on 21/2/1952,Dhaka
The Mother language of the all the people of the then East Pakistan was Bengali (almost 99% Bengali speakers). The Bengalis were deeply attached to their language. On 27th January, 1952 the oppressive rulers of West Pakistan declared that “Urdu and Urdu alone would be the state language of Pakistan”. This hurt the sentiments of the Bengali people, the people demanded the recognition of Bangla also as the state language of Pakistan but all their pleas fell on deaf ears of arrogant West Pakistani rulers. There were widespread protest across the then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), people from all walks of life united to defend Bangla. The West Pakistani Government tried to curb the protests by force. On   21st February, 1952   in Dhaka the police opened fire on unarmed peaceful protesters, killing several of them. 

This laid the foundation for Bengali Language Movement, Since then 21st February has been annually observed as Mother Language Day or Language Martyrs Day in the then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) as well as in West Bengal state of India and in other nations with sizable Bengali speaking Population. 

Shaheed Minar at Dhaka
Shaheed Minar at Dhaka.
The Shaheed Minar (Martyr Monument) was built in Dhaka, to commemorate the Bengali language martyrs. Several permanent replicas of the Shaheed Minar of Bangladesh have been built in different nations across the world to commemorate the martyrs of Bengali language movement and it has become the symbol of International Mother Language Day.

Replicas of the Shaheed Minar in other Nations:
Why should we celebrate?
This is the day that emphasizes the importance of our mother language and reminds us that mother language is the only language that is dearest to our heart, the language of our thoughts and emotions and the language that represents an individual to the core. It reminds us that every individual should have the right to speak their mother tongue and we should pass it on to our next generation no-matter where we live.

Speaking ones mother language freely is the fundamental right of every individual. Apart from knowing the mother language it is always beneficial to learn other languages i.e. being bilingual or multilingual. Bilingualism and multilingualism has its own benefits as it empowers the person to easily connect with people of different linguistic and cultural background.

If you are among the ones who feel ashamed to speak your mother language fearing that you would be looked down upon or be discriminated or mocked upon; then, this is the day to celebrate your identity- be Proud of your Mother Language! If you speak your mother language with confidence, you are bound to gain respect.

21st February is a public holiday in Bangladesh where as its observed globally but its not a public holiday elsewhere.

The observance of this day is significant among the Bengali community all across the world especially in the Bengal region (Bangladesh and West Bengal). Cultural Programs, Book Fairs and various other events are organized on this day.

Rally demanding recognition of
Pashto Language in Pakistan.
Ironically International Mother Language is also observed in present day Pakistan. The  demands of the Punjabi, Balochi, Pashto and Sindhi people to declare Punjabi, Balochi, Pashto and Sindhi languages as the national Languages of Pakistan are totally unheard and they are deprived from their fundamental right to use their respective mother languages for official, educational and business purposes. 

A language without official recognition is destined to die in the course of time. Thus, for a language to flourish and develop substantially it is necessary that the language is officially recognized and is used in day-to-day life.

Peace and coexistence is possible only by respecting the enormous linguistic and cultural diversity and encouraging multilingualism.


  1. International Mother Language Day is an observance held annually on 21 February worldwide to promote awareness of linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism. It was first announced by UNESCO on 17 November 1999. Its observance was also formally recognized by the United Nations General Assembly in its resolution establishing 2008 as the International Year of Languages.

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  3. Thanks for the appreciation Soniya Saha.

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  7. Yes! We the only nation who are feel for this. We die for it. Thanks for great post. My Complaint

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  10. 21st February is a day of celebration, joy of independence and morally important day. The world remembers their old and new culture, their present lives. In fact, people of all nation celebrating this day worldwide festival.

  11. Population of BangladeshJanuary 12, 2015 at 3:12 AM

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