Education Minister Dr Dipu Moni has recalled the leading role of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in the 1952 Bangla Language Movement, how he later announced Bangla as the official language of Bangladesh and made history at the United Nations by delivering the first Bangla speech at the world assembly.
"Following Bangabandhu's footsteps Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina also made history by helping Bangla Language Martyrs Day emerge as Unesco International Mother Language Day for all peoples of the world," she said.
While addressing a programme hosted by Bangladesh High Commission in London, Dr Dipu Moni also proposed to declare 21st February as the Greater London Language and Diversity Day from 2022 when Bangladesh observes 70 years of Amar Ekushey and that of British Council in Bangladesh.
Bangladesh High Commission, London in partnership with UK National Commission for Unesco commemorated the Mujib Year Bangla Language Martyrs' Day' and the 'International Mother Language Day' proposing that "Bangla Language Martyrs Day 21 February be declared by the Greater London Authority as the Greater London Multilingualism and Diversity Day".
British Ministers, MPs, senior UN and Commonwealth officials and ambassadors of different countries along with the British-Bangladeshi community paid deep tribute to 1952 language martyrs and Bangladesh's Founding Father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman for their sacrifice to protect Bangla.
Thirteen embassies, high commissions and British institutions including High Commissioners and Ambassadors of Cyprus, India, Maldives, Saint Christopher of and Nevis, Sri Lanka, Georgia, Honduras, Moldova, Serbia, North Macedonia, Russia, Thailand participated with their cultural performers while Music Department of New Ham and the British Council joined the virtual commemoration under the theme "Mujib Year Celebrations of Multilingualism for Creative Economy and Inclusive Society".
Chaired and moderated by Bangladesh High Commissioner Saida Muna Tasneem, UK's Minister for London, Small Businesses and Enterprise Paul Scully MP, Commonwealth Secretary-General Baroness Patricia Scotland, former DG of Unesco Irina Bokova, High Commissioner of India to UK Gaitri Issar Kaur, Ambassador of Thailand to the UK Pisanu Suvanajata, CEO of UK National Commission for Unesco James Bridge, Bangladeshi-British MP Apsana Begum, Director for South Asia of the UK Foreign Office (FCDO) Ben Mellor, Director, British Council UK Charlie Walker, Director of Music, New Ham Borough with largest Bangladeshi community in London, Bangladesh Liberation War Action Committee UK veteran Sultan Mahmud Sharif and community leader Sayed Farook spoke at the event.
High Commissioner Saida Muna Tasneem paid homage to the language martyrs for sacrificing their lives to protect the dignity of Bangla.
She recalled with deep reverence that, "It was Bangabandhu, a valiant frontline leader of the Bangla Language Movement and chief coordinator of the All-Party Students Language Action Committee who declared in 1953 in Old Dhaka that 21 February be commemorated as the Language Martyr Day.
She said his daughter Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina not only took the bold diplomatic initiative to table the Unesco resolution proclaiming 21 February as the International Mother Language Day but also established world's only Mother Language Institute in Dhaka to research conservation of endangered languages and have been lobbying for Bangla to be included as an official language of the UN.
She called upon UK government to restore Bangla language and culture schools in Greater London so that young Bangladeshi-British children stay connected to their Bengali ethnic and secular cultural roots and identity.
UK's Minister for London Paul Scully paid profound tribute to the language martyrs and Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and mentioned that Bangladesh and the United Kingdom share a unique bond of friendship with strong cultural ties and the linkages, which is getting stronger day by day.
He said that the Bangladeshi diaspora in the UK are the pioneers in holding the spirit of Bangla, the sixth widely spoken language in the world and expressed hope that the spirit of 21 February will continue to foster linguistic and cultural diversity all around the world.
Paying rich tributes to 1952 language martyrs and Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland QC underlined that mother languages play an important role in learning and education, intercultural dialogue and global peace-building and are powerful instruments of development, economic growth and culture.
Former Director-General of Unesco Ms. Irina Bokova in her speech expressed profound happiness that as incumbent DG Unesco in 2017, she was privileged to process the inclusion of the historic 7 March speech of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in the Unesco's "Memory of the World International Register".
She praised PM Sheikh Hasina for establishing the International Mother Language Institute and commended Unesco for introducing the 'Unesco-Bangladesh Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman International Prize for the Creative Economy' during 'Mujib Year' to spread Bangabandhu's ideals and values to inspire young people across the world to contribute to the creative economy.
High Commissioner of India Gaitri Issar Kaur paid tribute to Bangabandhu and said that he would always be remembered as the champion of justice, equality and dignity while his vision would continue to inspire Bangladesh's progress.
She also praised PM Sheikh Hasina's political vision, progressive policies and devotion to the wellbeing of people and observed that under her leadership Bangladesh can play a leading role in showing the way to improve quality of life, effectively address climate change issues, create sustainable livelihoods and ensure the achievement of SDGs.
Expressing happiness to partner IMLD events with Bangladesh High Commission London for the past 3 years, UK National Commission for Unesco's Secretary-General James Bridge highly lauded Bangladesh's initiative in 1999 to table the International Mother Language Day resolution at the Unesco promoting multilingualism and diversity.
He paid profound respects to Bangla Language Martyrs and Bangabandhu, and congratulated Bangladesh for celebrating Bangabandhu's Birth centenary in collaboration with the Unesco and the Unesco-Bangladesh Bangabandhu Prize for the Creative Economy'.
The Day's programme began with the laying of a floral wreath at a symbolic Shaheed Minar at the chancery in the presence of the mission's officers and staff members maintaining UK lockdown laws, a one-minute silence and reading out of messages from President Md. Abdul Hamid, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen, and State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md Shahriar Alam.
A multilingual cultural soirée comprising songs, dance and poetry recitation was performed by different high commissions and embassies in London.
A major attraction was a rendition of the Amor Ekushey song by one hundred multilingual children of different ethnicity from three schools under the Newham Music Department, choreographed by renowned British-Bangladeshi singer Gauri Choudhuri.