About International Mother Language Day
In 1947, India was partitioned by the British, creating the 'Dominion of Pakistan', which was two separate regions to the northwest and northeast of India.
Even though the majority of people lived in the eastern part, where Bengali was the main language, the Dominion was in the control of the western part. In 1947, the western-based government had proposed Urdu as the only state language, and that it would be used exclusively in schools and in the media. This move caused unrest and protests in East Pakistan.
In early 1952, the protests had intensified and the government imposed a law (Section 144), which banned any gathering of more than three people.
On February 21st 1952, In defiance of the law, students began gathering on the University of Dhaka. The police enforced section 144 and arrested several protestors. This further enraged the crowd and when the students attempted to enter the building of the East Bengal Legislative Assembly, the police opened fire and shot dead four protestors.
As a result of the protests, Bengali was recognised as the second official language of Pakistan on February 29th 1956, and the constitution of Pakistan was reworded to "The state language of Pakistan shall be Urdu and Bengali."
The efforts of the Bangladeshi people to protect their language is honoured by UNESCO which established February 21st as International Mother Language Day in 2000. The intention of the day is to promote awareness of linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism.Find out more