21st February International Mother Language Day
At a public meeting on 21 March, 1948, the Governor General of Pakistan, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, declared that there could be no language, other than Urdu to be used as the national language for both East and West Pakistan. People of East Pakistan -- whose main language was Bengali – launched a serious protest against this. A province-wide strike was called for by the students in this regard in a student meeting on 21st February. The Government invoked Section 144 just the previous day. The students continued with the strike, but with an agreement to continue with their protest without violating the legal binding of Section 144. Even then the police showered bullets on the students and the province witnessed blood pool. The day 21st February became one of the most memorable days in Bengali calendar.
With a vision to promote the cultural diversity as well as multilingualism (linguistic diversity), each year the member states of UNESCO and at its headquarters observe "21st February" as the International Mother Language Day. UNESCO aims at the development of the fullest awareness not only of linguistic tradition, but also of cultural tradition world wide. Aiming "to inspire the solidarity based on understanding, tolerance and dialogue" UNESCO put special value to International Mother Language Day.
In the commemoration of the pathetic demise of those innocent students, the day is internationally observed as a very significant day in the history – especially for the people who are related to language and education. Each year on the International Mother Language Day (21st February), the Linguapax Institute, which is a non-governmental body in Barcelona, Spain, award The Linguapax Prize "to linguists, researchers, professors and members of the civil society in acknowledgement of their outstanding work in the field linguistic diversity and/or multilingual education." The nomination for the award winners is usually submitted in the month of December of just the previous year. The Linguapax Prize was awarded for the first time in the year 2002 and once each year thereafter. From 2002 – 2004 (the first three year), the Linguapax Prize had been awarded to two individuals each year. But it was since the year 2005 that only one person has been recognized to be awarded Linguapax Prize each year.
It is on or around this particular day (International Mother Language Day – 21st February) each year that UNESCO organizes related events at its headquarters in Paris. UNESCO sets up a specific theme for the International Mother Language Day to hold the events each year. Languages, being a potent tool to preserve and develop the tangible and intangible heritage of mankind, are at the heart of their objectives.