People pay tribute to language heroes on International Mother Language Day on 21 February. Photo: Syful IslamThe supreme sacrifice of the language heroes on this day 66 years back is being remembered as people in thousands are thronging the Central Shaheed Minar at midnight to pay their glowing tributes to the 1952 language martyrs by placing wreaths at the altar of the monument.President Abdul Hamid and prime minister Sheikh Hasina led the nation in paying homage to the language heroes as they placed wreaths at the Shaheed Minar here at one minute past midnight last night.Prime minister Sheikh Hasina arrived at the Shaheed Minar seven minutes before the clock struck 12 midnight while president Abdul Hamid reached two minutes before the zero hour.President Abdul Hamid and prime minister Sheikh Hasina proceeded to the altar of the Central Shaheed Minar together in slow pace as the immortal song on Amar Ekushey—“Amar Bhaiyer Rakte Rangano Ekushey February”—was playing over the loudspeaker.The president was the first to lay the wreath at the Central Shaheed Minar. Just after the president, the prime minister placed the wreath at the Shaheed Minar.They stood in solemn silence for some time as a mark of profound respect to the memories of the language heroes.Ministers, advisers to the prime minister, parliament members, chiefs of three services, diplomats, senior Awami League leaders, freedom fighters, and high civil and military officials were present on the occasion.Later, speaker of Jatiya Sangsad Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury, deputy speaker Fazley Rabbi Mia and leader of the opposition Begum Raushan Ershad placed wreaths at the Central Shaheed Minar.On arrival at the Shaheed Minar, the president was received by prime minister Sheikh Hasina and Dhaka University vice-chancellor professor Md Akhtaruzzaman.Children with their parents went to National Shaheed Minar to pay tribute to language heroes on 21 February. Photo: Syful IslamFlanked by cabinet members and senior leaders of the party, Sheikh Hasina, also the President of Bangladesh Awami League, later placed another wreath at the Shaheed Minar on behalf of the party. The chiefs of the three services and the inspector general of police (IGP) also laid wreaths at the altar of the Shaheed Minar.Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (JASOD) president and information minister and Hasanul Haq Inu placed a wreath.Later, Dhaka University vice-chancellor professor Md Akhtaruzzaman, Dhaka University Teachers’ Association, Sector Commanders Forum, war-wounded freedom fighters of the 1971 Liberation War, different political parties and socio-cultural organisations paid their homage.A group of Indian journalists from Kolkata and New Delhi, who are participating in a three-day Bangladesh-India media dialogue here coinciding with the International Mother Language Day 2018, also paid tributes to the language heroes by placing a wreath.Later on, the Shaheed Minar was opened to the public when thousands of people from all walks of life walked barefoot to it with flowers in hands and humming “Amar Bhaiyer Rokte Rangano Ekushey February” to recall the supreme sacrifice of the language heroes on this day in 1952.The day is also being observed in 192 other countries across the world as the International Mother Language Day declared by the UNESCO on 17 November 1999.On 21 February in 1952, students and people from all walks of life under the All-Party Students Action Committee took on the streets in Dhaka to protest the then Pakistan government’s refusal to recognise Bangla as one of the state languages and imposition of Urdu as the only official language of Pakistan.Salam, Barkat, Rafique, Shafique, Jabbar and some others embraced martyrdom when police opened fire on the procession in front of the Dhaka Medical College and Hospital (DMCH). The movement for Bangla, however, did not stop and Pakistan government on February 29, 1956 was compelled to recognise Bangla as one of the state languages of Pakistan besides Urdu.The decision, however, could not stop the movement against repression and misrule of the then Pakistani government and subsequently led to the War of Independence and ultimately the emergence of independent Bangladesh.The government had already taken extensive programmes to observe the ‘Shaheed Dibash’ and the International Mother Language Day on February 21 in a befitting manner.On the day, the national flag will be remained at half-mast in all educational institutions, government, semi-government and autonomous offices and private buildings across the country.The day is a public holiday.Quran Khwani, Milad Mahfil and special munajat will be arranged at Azimpur graveyard in the capital for the martyrs of the Language Movement.Like previous years, the Dhaka University authorities organised programmes at the Central Shaheed Minar in coordination with other relevant agencies.President Abdul Hamid and prime minister Sheikh Hasina already issued separate messages on the occasion of the day.In line with the national programmes, the day is also being observed by all educational institutions, city corporations, pourasabhas, the district and upazila administrations and Bangladesh missions abroad.Different organisations and institutions, including Bangla Academy, Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy, Nazrul Institute, Jatiya Grantha Kendra, Islamic Foundation, National Museum, International Mother Language Institute and Shishu Academy, observe the day through various programmes.The programmes include book fair, discussions, recitation, essay competition and cultural functions.To mark the day, the Central Shaheed Minar and its adjacent areas on the Dhaka University campus were decorated with street paintings and graffiti with Bangla alphabets and selected verses of eminent poets about the mother languages on the walls.Children with their parents went to National Shaheed Minar in Dhaka to pay tribute to language heroes on 21 February. Photo: Syful IslamTight security measures have been enforced in and around the Central Shaheed Minar to avoid any unwanted situation. Besides, CCTV cameras have also been installed in the surrounding areas of the Shaheed Minar.Bangladesh Betar, Bangladesh Television and private radio stations and television channels are airing special programmes on the occasion. National dailies published special supplements marking the day.Ruling Awami League (AL) took a two-day programme that includes placing of wreaths at the central Shaheed Minar at one-minute past zero hours, hoisting half-mast the national and party flags at its offices across the country and Bangabandhu Bhaban, wearing black badges and hoisting of black flag in the morning as a mark of respect to the Language Movement martyrs.The DU has taken a series of programmes to observe the Amar Ekushey. The programmes include placing wreaths at the Central Shaheed Minar, bringing out Provat Feri (Dawn March) led by DU vice-chancellor Md Akhtaruzzaman at 6: 30am from the foot of Aparajeya Bangla and offering Fateha at Azimpur Graveyard.The university will also arrange special prayers for the martyrs at all the masques of the campus, including its central mosque Masjidul Jamia after Zohr prayer.Islamic Foundation will hold Quran Khwani, doa and Milad Mahfil at Azimpur graveyard mosque in the city at 7.30am on Wednesday seeking salvation of the departed souls of the Language Movement martyrs.Later, another Quran Khwani, doa and Milad Mahfil will be held at the Baitul Mukarram National Mosque.Different roads and important city points have been decorated with festoons inscribed with Bangla alphabets.