Students marked Bangladesh’s language movement by places a wreath of flowers at the Shahid Minar replica in the village of Shingerkach, Biswanath, Sylhet District.
February 21, in Bangla “Ekushey,” refers to February 21, 1952, the day that students demonstrated against the forcible imposition of Urdu as the national language of then-East Pakistan (now Bangladesh).
As Bangla was the language of the majority, the sympathies of the entire nation were with the students. Group after group were put under arrest. In the afternoon, the police opened fire, killing three students. The liberation war flowed from the language movement. Bangla was eventually recognised as the state language, even before independence of 1971.
“The lesson of Ekushey is not to resign to fate, nor to surrender to forces of oppression, nor to let things go unchallenged. It is the victory of life over death, of courage over fear and of knowledge over ignorance,” states the introduction of Poems on 21st issued by the Bangla Academy in 1983.
The UN has declared February 21 as “Mother Tongue Day,” an international commemoration. With so many indigenous languages disappearing throughout the world, the lessons of Ekushey are universally important.
I have not come, where endless patches of blood
glow like so many fiery flowers, to weep.
Today I am not overwhelmed by grief.
Today I am not maddened by anger.
Today I am only unflinching in my determination.
Text taken from “First Poem on Ekushey,” by Mahbub Ul Alam Chowdhury)