Proclaimed by the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in November 1999, 21 February has been observed as International Mother Language Day every year since February 2000 to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism.
On 21 February 1952, students demonstrating for recognition of Bangla vehemently refuting the rulling then West Pakistan authorities’ decision as one of the two national languages of the then Pakistan were gunned down by police in Dhaka, the capital of what is now Bangladesh and the then East Pakistan.
So, does the then ruling West Pakistan, now Pakistan, observe the International Mother Language Day? How does it observe the day?
Quoting Karachi-based journalist Monir Ahmed, BBC Bangla reports Pakistan officially observes 21 February as ‘International Mother Language Day’.
The day is observed in cities such as Karachi, Islamabad and Lahore, quite prominently. Seminars are arranged. Discussions are arranged in some universities. Early morning processions are arranged in some places.
A literature festival was held on 18 and 19 February, says Ahmed.
However, common people and students in Pakistan do not have any clear knowledge on why 21 February is made the International Mother Language Day or what happened on the day in 1952, Ahmed added.
Pakistani people have a vague idea about the historic 1952, which they know as suppressing Bangla language through Urdu and a somewhat Language Movement in the then East Pakistan.
The national curriculum in Pakistan lacks complete history regarding 1952, said Monir Ahmed.
He said Pakistan is a multilingual country with six major and over fifty-nine small languages.
However, neither all these languages are properly in practice nor mother language of every communityas the medium of education is available.
Historic 21 February
The date commemorates a rare battle fought in the world history for one’s mother tongue. Salaam, Barkat, Rafique and Jabbar the names got etched in the psyche of people for the times to come.
Bangladesh and the Indian state of West Bengal have for the last 65 years celebrated their mother tongue on this day. This is the language that has given the two countries their respective national anthems.