International Mother Language Day is observed every year to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism.
Multilingual and multicultural societies exist through their languages which transmit and preserve traditional knowledge and cultures in a sustainable way.
It was first announced by UNESCO on November 17, 1999. Since then it is being celebrated every year. The date represents the day 21st February 1952 when four young students were killed in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, because of Bengali and Urdu language controversy. Because of this unfortunate incident, International Mother Language Day is celebrated in all over the world, while it is a public holiday in Bangladesh.
In 1948, the then Government of Pakistan declared Urdu to be the sole national language of Pakistan even though Bengali or Bangla was spoken by the majority of people combining East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and West Pakistan (now Pakistan) The East Pakistan people protested, since the majority of the population was from East Pakistan and their mother language was Bangla. They demanded Bangla to be at least one of the national languages, in addition to Urdu. The demand was raised first by Dhirendra Nath Dutta from East Pakistan on 23 February 1948, in the constituent Assembly of Pakistan.
To demolish the protest, the government of Pakistan outlawed public meeting and rallies. The students of the University of Dhaka, with the support of the general public, arranged massive rallies and meetings. On 21 February 1952, police opened fire on rallies. Salam, Barkat, Rafiq, Jabbar and Shafiur died, with hundreds of others injured. This is a rare incident in history, where people sacrificed their lives for their mother tongue
On International Mother Language Day UNESCO and other UN agencies take part in the events to promote cultural and linguistic diversity all around the world. They appreciate and encourage people to be knowledgeable about their mother language and provide them with awareness regarding the promotion of their language and culture towards other countries. In Bangladesh on International Mother Language Day people go to Shaheed Miner to pay tribute to the martyr of 21st February and sprinkle flowers on the monument. This is a time for Bangladeshis to celebrate their culture, traditions and their Bengali national language
International Mother Language Day is celebrated in memory of the four students who were killed while fighting for their mother language and is celebrated to tell them that we will never forget their sacrifices.