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International Mother Tongue Day observed

by Kolkata Today

Bengal today observed the International Mother Tongue Day or Matri Bhasa Divas showing respects for Salam, Barkat, Rafique, Jabbar and many others who laid down their lives to uphold the freedom of Bengali language in Bangladesh on 21 February 1952. Acknowledging their contribution and sacrifice for upholding Bengali language the UNESCO declared 21 February as International Mother Tongue Day on 17 November 1999 at its 30th session in Paris. Since then 188 countries observe 21 February as International Mother Tongue Day from 2000. In West Bengal and Tripura, 21 February is observed as ‘Bengali Language Day’ or ‘Bangla Bhasa Divas’. Although the demand for International Mother Tongue Day was first placed by Bangladesh, a Canadian multilingual society was the first to achieve success when they could convince the Secretary General of United Nations Kofi Annan on 29 March 1998. The draft letter of the Canadian society was signed by 7 races and 10 persons from 7 language speaking people. The matter was taken up by UNESCO’s language chief Anna Maria who wrote back to Rafikul Islam that the matter was interesting and that he should write to member states of UNESCO governing body as the proposal cannot be raised individually but only collectively. Although the European nations objected to the selection of 21 February later they accepted it. Kofi Annan decided that 21 February would be called International Mother Tongue Day and not Mother Language Day as was originally decided.

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