Observance of this year's Ekushey in the capital included a rather extraordinary recreation of the 30 minutes of the day 58 years ago that ended in bloodshed for protecting the right of the Bangalee people to have their mother tongue as a state language, and made the day to become International Mother Language Day.
Organised by the daily Prothom Alo and Grameen Phone, the event titled Dunia Kapano Tirish Minute or 30 Minutes that Shook the World took place at the historic Amtala of Dhaka Medical College which used to be Dhaka University back in 1952, and where the language movement activists gathered on February 21 that year to break the curfew imposed by the then Pakistan government.
The Pakistani law enforcers took 30 minutes to open fire on the language movement activists from the start of the latter's breaking of the curfew, leading to the martyrdom of Salam, Barkat, Rafique and Jabbar.
Overwhelming majority of the demonstrators were young students who were protesting the then Pakistan government's evil design for forcing Urdu on the Bangalee people of East Pakistan as their state language.
They were breaking the curfew to advance towards what was the State Assembly Building back then near where the Central Shaheed Minar is now, to place their demand for Bangla as a state language, to the then assembly members. But police bullets stopped their advance killing the language martyrs.
The stopping of the advance however proved to be only temporary as the killings pushed the movement into a higher gear, which ultimately forced the Pakistani government to accept Bangla as a state language in 1956. In 2000, Unesco declared February 21 as International Mother Language Day.
Yesterday, actors recreated the historic 30 minutes at equally historic Amtala on a well made stage, depicting the build up of the historic struggle and its crescendo, through nicely choreographed physical acting with accompanying music, for several thousand emotion gripped audience.
The event started at 3:20pm and ended at 3:50pm, just like it had happened on the historic day in 1952.
Language movement veterans Abdul Matin, Ahmad Rafique, Anisuzzaman, Sayeed Haider, Sharfuddin Ahmed, Murtaza Bashir, Rawshan Ara, Halima Khatun, and Sufia Ahmed came out on the stage by the end of the show, eliciting cheers of respect from the crowd. The crowd then retraced the historic bold journey towards the Shaheed Minar led by the language movement veterans.
The nation yesterday paid rich tribute to the Language Movement martyrs at other venues as well.
President Zillur Rahman and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina laid wreaths at the Central Shaheed Minar three minutes past midnight and stood in silence for a few moments in remembrance of the martyrs.
They were followed by the deputy speaker and chief whip of the parliament, ruling Awami League leaders, cabinet members, Dhaka city mayor, chiefs of the three armed forces, the dean of diplomatic corps, the attorney general, and leaders of Awami Swechhasebak League, Sector Commanders' Forum, Samyabadi Dal, Bangladesher Samajtantrik Dal, and National Awami Party.
Opposition Leader also BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia placed a wreath at 12:19am.
Different socio-cultural and professional organisations, and people of all walks of life thronged the Central Shaheed Minar throughout the day to pay homage. The day was a public holiday. The national flag was at half-mast all over the country.
Areas adjacent to the Central Shaheed Minar on Dhaka University campus had a facelift on the occasion, while roadsides and dividers were adorned with Bangla alphabets and the national flag.