Sunday, February 21, 2010

Today is the Ekushey February and International Mother Language Day


Ekushey February image representing the Central Shaheed Minar
(Central Language Martyrs' Memorial) in Dhaka. The white writing
in Bengali on the red stairs is "Ekushey" (February 21st). The white
writing at the top left corner says: "Can I forget my brothers'
blood-splattered February? Can I forget this February that's
bathed in the tears of hundreds of mothers who lost their sons?
Can I forget the February that's reddened with the blood
of my golden country?
" (translated by Jerome D'Costa)

Graphics (Toronto: February 14, 2010) © Joachim Romeo D'Costa

Today is the 58th anniversay of the Ekushey February (21st February) -- the Language Martyrs' Day in Bangladesh. It is also observed as the International Mother Language Day throughout the world.

This is the day when the Bangladeshis remember how their forefathers fought and some of them gave their lives on February 21, 1952 for preserving the dignity of their mother tongue Bangla (Bengali) in the then East Pakistan (later called Bangladesh). They also remember how this Bangla Language Movement acted as the seed for the freedom struggle through the Bangladesh War of Independence in 1971.

On the occasion of the Ekushey February this year, there are two encouraging news about the Bangla language. According to a report, a Bangladesh Foreign Ministry official mentioned that Italy has donated a prime piece of land in Rome near the Bangladesh Embassy for building a permanent Shaheed Minar (Language Martyrs' Memorial). In the past, on February 21, Bangladesh Embassy and Bangalis in Rome had been using a temporary Shaheed Minar to observe this day. Responding to Bangladesh Embassy's request, the government of Italy demonstrated this good gesture. After the General Conference of the United Nations Educational Social and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) declared February 21st as the International Mother Language Day to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism, this day is being officially observed annually since February 21, 2000 in major capitals of the world.

According to, while inaugurating the Ekushey Boi Mela (Ekushey Book Fair) at the Bangla Academy in Dhaka this year, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said the government of Bangladesh has been pursuing the case of Bangla (Bengali) language to be used as the seventh official language of the United Nations. She also mentioned that, when participating in UN sessions, she herself speaks in Bangla in all UN assemblies. She also said that the Awami League government during its 1996-2001 tenure took the initiative of forming the International Mother Language Institute. The work halted during the next government. She promised to complete the work during her tenure of office this time. She also informed that the government of Bangladesh would form an information bank to preserve local languages that are on the verge of extinction. Bookmark and Share