UNESCO designated 21 February as International Mother Language Day in 1999. The date was
chosen to honour five students and others shot dead by the police in former
East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) on 21 February 1952. They were demanding the recognition of Bangla, the language of East Pakistan, as one of the state languages of Pakistan. The state responded with brutality, violence and murder, across the country. Their demands were ultimately successful and Bangla was recognised as one of the national languages of Pakistan. The Language Movement, as it became known, initiated a nationalist resistance movement against the economic, social and political exploitation of East Pakistan which ultimately led in 1971 to its emergence as the independent state of Bangladesh after a 9-month brutal war, in which over 3 million people were killed. Every year, Bangladeshis across the world commemorate Language Martyrs Day on 21 February.
We at UNA Luton celebrate linguistic diversity each year with Purbachal - the eastern sky, a British Bangladeshi cultural organisation which is also chaired by our own Chair, Dr Nazia Khanum OBE DL. We hold the event virtually at a weekend near 21 February, partly for convenience, partly to avoid clashing with official celebrations..
The legendary Bangladeshi writer, poet, reporter and columnist, Abdul Gaffar Choudhury, was an eyewitness of the massacre on 21 February and wrote a moving poem about it. This was put to music and has become the anthem for
Bangladeshi Language Martyrs Day. The first line is 'Amar bhiaer rakte rangano, ekushe February, Ami ki bhulite pari?' - '21 Febuary is coloured by the blood of my brother, How can I forget it?'
IMLD anthem in 14 Languages - sung by renowned Bangladeshi singer, Dr Rukhsana Safa, accompanied on the guitar by Dr Sybghat Rahim
UN theme: Multilingual education – a necessity to
A celebration of the contributions of mother-tongues to identities,
cultures, enrichment and community cohesion
Date: Sunday 26 February 2023
Organised by: United Nations Association-Luton and Purbachal-the eastern sky
Promoting linguistic diversity
Dr Nazia Khanum OBE DL, the Chair both of UNA Luton and Purbachal, expressed solidarity with the people of Ukraine as they fought to defend their country and their cultural identity against the invasion of a superpower.
Shahnaz Saad, Vice Chair of Purbachal - welcome
Hadi Faisal - poem (Bangla)
Nesmina Pervin Nawrin, Majuba Khan, Farzana Eiva - Ekusher February song (Bangla)
Shenna Lopez - linguistic background of the Philippines (English), poem (Filipino)
Susan Lousada, Lord Lieutenant of Bedfordshire - message of support
Zahra Amreen - Dance
Dr Nazia Khanum OBE DL - welcome address
Inayah Khan - poem (Urdu)
Kasia Cantone - Living in a multi-lingual household (English), poem Polish)
Shawkutur Rahman, Labiba Rahman - proverbs in Bangla and English
David Jonathan - Poem (Hindi)
Khadija El Ouafi - overview of the language of Arabic
Renato Cantone - living in a multi-lingual household (English), poem (Italian).
Moazzem Hussain, Aayan Hasan, Ajwa Hasan - importance of mother tongue (Bangla)
Zeenat Mannan - short story (Bangla)
Dr David Cheesman - languages of Great Britain, ancient and modern
Dr Anwarul Haque - poem (Bangla)
Discussion - how can diaspora communities in the UK maintain their mother languages?
Kimberly Khan - International Mother Language Day (English)
Nesmina Pervin Nawrin - song (Bangla)
Mahima Kabir - song (Bangla)
Over 120 different languages are spoken in Luton and we celebrate their variety each February. This year, we held our event on 27 February as a convenient Saturday. The official date for International Mother Language Day is 21 February. This was designated by UNESCO to commemorate 21 February 1952, when a number of students and other civilians were killed by the police as they protested against the non-inclusion of Bangla as one of the state languages of Pakistan. At that time, Bangladesh was East Pakistan.
The event was hosted by Dr Anwarul Haque, General Secretary of Purbachal, and Majuba Khan, Social and Cultural Secretary of Purbachal.
Broadcast 3 March 2021
Welcome: Dr Nazia Khanum, OBE DL, Chair or UNA-Luton and Purbachal
Messages of support from: Helen Nellis, Lord Lieutenant of Bedfordshire; Susan Lousada, High Sheriff of Bedfordshire; Rachel Hopkins MP (Luton South).
Dr Rukhsana Safa, the renowned Bangladeshi singer, opened the
event with the iconic Bangla song, 'Amar bhaier rokte rangano, ' sung in 14 languages.She was accompanied on the guitar by Dr Sybghat Rahim.
Commemoration of International Mother Language Day University of Bedfordshire: 24 February 2020
commemoration was organised by the UNA-Luton at the University of Bedfordshire,
with support from the University of Bedfordshire and Purbachal - the eastern
sky, a Bangladeshi cultural and artiistic organisation. International Mother
Language Day was proclaimed by UNESCO in 1999 in honour of the students killed
by the police in Dhaka, then East Pakistan, who protested against the decision
of the Pakistan government to impose Urdu as the only national language of the
country, suppressing Bengali which was spoken by the Majority. It is a unique
example of people dying to protect their language.
See the International Mother Language Day message from Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO