The West Bengal government will build a martyrs’ memorial in Kolkata to honour those who sacrificed their lives in the Bengali Language Movement in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) in 1952, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said here on Friday.

Speaking at an event in the city held to observe the International Mother Language Day, she expressed her respect for all languages in the State and country.

Diversity celebrated

Pointing to the cultural and linguistic diversity of India, Ms. Banerjee said the Trinamool Congress government had accorded the status of second language to the languages spoken by more than 10 per cent of people in a region.

“Hindi is our national language. We have made Urdu the second language in areas where more than 10 per cent of the people speak the language.”

Ms Banerjee expressed love for the various languages in the State and said “I respect every language.”

IANS reports:

Employees of the Bangladesh Deputy High Commission went round the Park Circus area singing amar bhaiyer rakte ranga ekushe February, aami ki bhulite pari (How can I forget February 21, it is soaked in the blood of my brethren), that was composed in the memory of the martyrs of the language movement.

Eminent author Sirshendu Mukherjee was present at a discussion organised by the Deputy High Commission. A replica of the Bangladesh Shaheed Minar was also put up on the premises.

The Kolkata government organised a special function to pay tributes to the martyrs. Programmes were held across the city and districts. Local television channels and FM radio stations aired special programmes.

In 1948, Pakistan declared that only Urdu would be the official language of Pakistan. The people of East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, whose main language is Bengali, protested the declaration.

On February 21, 1952, students and political activists took out a procession. The police opened fire, killing several protesters, resulting in the agitation spreading over entire East Pakistan. The government finally relented and gave equal status to Bengali.

In 1999, UNESCO declared February 21 the International Mother Language Day, a day intended to promote free language choice.