People from all echelons of society streamed into the Central Shaheed Minar in Dhaka to pay homage to the martyrs after President Md Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina led the tributes by laying wreaths at the memorial on the first hour of Friday.
Hasina placed another wreath along with other leaders of the ruling Awami League.
Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury and Leader of the Official Opposition Raushon Ershad also paid respects to the heroes.
The Shaheed Minar opened to all after the VIPs paid homage amidst tight security.
The immortal line — “‘Amar Bhaier Rokte Rangano Ekushey February, Ami Ki Bhulite Pari’ (Can I forget the 21st of February, incarnadined by the love of my brother?) — was on everyone’s lips.
The Shaheed Minars throughout Bangladesh were also covered with flowers while different organisations held programmes in observance of the day.
It was a national holiday. The national flag flew at half-mast in honour of the martyrs.
Learning other languages is necessary for international communication, trade and commerce in this era of globalisation, but it must not happen by ignoring one’s mother tongue, Hasina told a discussion marking the International Mother Language Day in the capital.
She also emphasised proper Bangla pronunciation and highlighted the importance and splendour of dialects.
With its chief Khaleda Zia in jail for corruption, BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir headed the party leaders during a visit to the Azimpur Graveyard to pay respects to the martyrs.
They marched to the Central Shaheed Minar afterwards to place a wreath on the monument.
The people overcrowded the Amar Ekushey Book Fair at the Bangla Academy premises and the Suhrawardy Udyan after paying floral tributes to the martyrs at the Central Shaheed Minar.
Several youths were killed in police firing on Feb 21, 1952 to quell protests against the then Pakistan government decision to impose Urdu as the state language on the people of erstwhile East Pakistan, who wanted Bangla to be recognised as the mother tongue.
The Language Movement began the intense alienation of the Bengalis and finally led to the Liberation War in 1971.
The UNESCO in November 1999 had declared Feb 21 as the International Mother Language Day.