21 February is International Mother Language Day

21 February is International Mother Language Day. This day was established in 1999 by UNESCO to commemorate the tragic events in Dhaka. On 21 February 1952, five students who demanded the official status of the Bengali language were killed by Pakistani police.

International Mother Language Day is to raise awareness of the diversity and value of mother tongues: regional, national, official and unofficial.

In 1948, the Pakistani government established Urdu as the official language in East Pakistan. This decision led to an outbreak of protests by the community living in East Bengal and mostly speaking Bengali (the language has almost 200 million speakers).

To crush the protest, the Pakistani government outlawed public gatherings. Students of Dhaka University, with the support of the public, organised mass rallies and assemblies. On 21 February 1952, police opened fire on rally participants. Abdus Salam, Abul Barkat, Rafiq Uddin Ahmed, Abdul Jabbar and Shafiur Rahman were killed and hundreds of others were injured. February 21 is a national holiday in Bangladesh (Amor Ekushey), celebrated with great solemnity. The place where the martyrs for their mother tongue are revered is the Shaheed Minar monument in Dhaka.