International Mother Language Day is being observed every year since February 2000 to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism. It was proclaimed by the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in November 1999 (30C/62) to celebrate every February 21 as International Mother Language Day in recognition of the sacrifices of the Bangla language martyrs, who dedicated their lives for establishing the rightful place of Bangla (or Bengali).
The date represents the day in 1952 when students demonstrating for recognition of their language, Bangla, as one of the two national languages of the then Pakistan, were shot and killed by police in Dhaka, the capital of the then East Pakistan, now Bangladesh. The Pakistan government was mandating Urdu language as the state language in both East and West Pakistan. I salute those brave martyrs. I am quoting from a Bangla song written by Abdul Gaffar Choudhury to mark the Bengali Language Movement in 1950s East Pakistan (now Bangladesh):
আমার ভাইয়ের রক্তে রাঙানো একুশে ফেব্রুয়ারি
আমি কি ভুলিতে পারি
ছেলেহারা শত মায়ের অশ্রু গড়ায়ে ফেব্রুয়ারি
আমি কি ভুলিতে পারি
আমার সোনার দেশের রক্তে রাঙানো ফেব্রুয়ারি
আমি কি ভুলিতে পারি।।
My Brother’s blood spattered 21 February
Can I forget the twenty-first of February
incarnadined by the love of my brother?
The twenty-first of February, built by the tears
of a hundred mothers robbed of their sons,
Can I ever forget it?
Bangla is the national and official language of Bangladesh and it is one of the 23 official languages in India. It is the official language of the states of West Bengal and Tripura. It is also the co-official language of the state of Assam. It is the second language in Jharkhand state. Bangla was made an honorary official language of Sierra Leone in order to honour the 5,300 strong Bangladeshi peacekeeping force from the United Nations stationed there. Bengali is one of the most spoken languages, ranked fifth in the world. It is the second-highest spoken native language in India, after Hindi. It is also a recognized secondary language in the City of Karachi in Pakistan. The national anthems of both Bangladesh and India were written in Bangla by the Bengali Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore. I am proud that Bangla is my mother language.
“মোদের গরব, মোদের আশা, আ-মরি বাংলা ভাষা” — Atul Prasad Sen.
United Nations have stated that the languages are the most powerful instruments of preserving and developing our tangible and intangible heritage.
All moves to promote the dissemination of mother tongues will serve not only to encourage linguistic diversity and multilingual education but also to develop fuller awareness of linguistic and cultural traditions throughout the world and to inspire solidarity based on understanding, tolerance and dialogue.
শুভ আন্তর্জাতিক মাতৃভাষা দিবস! Happy International Mother Language Day!