The nation is paying glowing tributes to the Language Movement martyrs, who laid down their lives for the recognition of Bangla as a state language on this day 64 years ago.
Humming "Amar Bhaiyer Rokte Rangano Ekushey February...", thousands of Bangalis thronged the Central Shaheed Minar in the capital and elsewhere in the early hours today to pay homage to the language heroes.
With Bangladesh, 193 countries across the globe are observing the day, as the Unesco on November 17, 1999, declared February 21 as the International Mother Language Day.
As the clock struck 12:00am, President Abdul Hamid led the nation in paying tributes by placing wreaths at the Central Shaheed Minar.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina followed him a few moments later.
The premier was followed by the Speaker and Deputy Speaker, the ruling party chief whip and leaders of the 14-party ruling alliance. After them, Opposition Leader in Parliament Raushan Ershad led her party leaders in showing respect to the martyrs for their supreme sacrifices.
Later, chiefs of the three services, diplomats, wounded freedom fighters, members of Dhaka University Teachers Association, Sector Commanders Forum, other political parties and their wings paid their homage.
BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia also placed wreaths at the Central Shaheed Minar. Last year, she had organised a doa mahfil at her office but did not visit the monument.
Later on, the Shaheed Minar was opened to the public. Thousands of people from all strata of society walked barefoot to it for paying tributes to the valiant sons of the soil.
To mark the day, the Central Shaheed Minar and its adjacent areas on Dhaka University campus wore a festive look with street paintings and graffiti with Bangla alphabets and selected verses about mother languages on the walls.
A four-layer security was in place in and around the Central Shaheed Minar to avoid any unwanted situation. A total of 8,000 law enforcers in uniforms and 1,000 in plainclothes were deployed.
Besides, CCTV cameras were installed from Shahbagh to Shaheed Minar.
The day is a public holiday. The national flag will be hoisted half-mast in all educational institutions and government, semi-government and autonomous offices in respect for the language martyrs.
Bangladesh Betar and Bangladesh Television and private radio stations and television channels will air special programmes on the occasion.
On this day in 1952, students and people from all walks of life took to 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, Rafiq, Shafiur, Jabbar and a few others were killed when police opened fire on their procession.
Pakistan government was ultimately compelled to include an article in the country's constitution on February 29, 1956 that declared, "The state languages of Pakistan shall be Urdu and Bengali."
However, Ekushey did not end there; it rather planted the seed of freedom in the hearts of Bangalis and 19 years after the Language Movement, an independent country named Bangladesh was born.
To mark the day, ruling Awami League will organise discussion tomorrow at Bangabandhu International Conference Centre, while the BNP will hold a discussion the same day at the Institution of Engineers, Bangladesh.
President, PM, opposition leader, BNP chairperson and leaders of other political parties issued separate messages on the day.
President Abdul Hamid, in his message, greeted people of all languages across the world on the occasion.
"We feel proud that the spirit of Amar Ekushey is now inspiring the people of different languages around the globe to protect and preserve their own languages and cultures transcending the boundary of our country," he said.
PM Hasina called upon all to protect the dignity of the constitution and take a fresh vow to work together for people's welfare.
"The greatest Ekushey is the symbol of grief, strength and glory in the life of every Bangali," she said and paid her deep homage to the memories of the martyrs.
Raushan, in her message, said February 21 is an occasion for the world to pay respect to their own mother languages.
Paying deep homage to the memories of the language martyrs, BNP chief Khaleda Zia said the sprit of Amar Ekushey would inspire them to resist all “conspiring” forces.
BOMBS BLAST IN JESSORE
Several crude bombs exploded on the premises of the Shaheed Minar in Jessore town early today, said police.
Ilias Hossain, officer-in-charge of Kotwali Police Station, said the incident happened following a scuffle between two groups over placing wreaths at the monument.
Seven to Eight crude bombs exploded when the local MP Kazi Nabil Ahmed was leaving the Shaheed Minar paying floral tributes to the martyrs, he told The Daily Star over the phone.
Police fired 25 blank shots to bring the situation under control, he said, adding that no one was hurt or arrested.