Since 1952, February 21st has been commemorated by the people of Bangladesh, and Bengalis around the world, as Language Martyrs Day, after student demonstrators from East Pakistan were killed by Pakistani police, whilst protesting for Bangla to be preserved as an official language of Pakistan.
These students are celebrated as martyrs, with their deaths being seen not only as leading to the preservation of the Bangla language, but also being the start of the struggle for Bangladesh independence.
In 1999, UNESCO created International Mother Language Day, so that 21st February would be recognised across the World, to promote linguistic and cultural diversity.
Rushanara Ali MP said:
"It is vitally important that we commemorate International Mother Language Day to honour and pay tribute to those who sacrificed their lives to protect the Bangla language. I am very proud of my Bangladeshi heritage. It is an honour to come from a country where people fought so bravely to protect their language and cultural identity
On International Mother Language Day, we must use this time to reflect on the importance of maintaining marginalised languages, and encourage greater understanding and mutual respect between different cultures.
Thanks to the efforts of those who have sacrificed so much in the past, our communities are given the chance to flourish by being able to freely express themselves in their mother-tongue."