Language Martyrs’ Day

Observed annually on February 21st in Bangladesh, Language Martyrs’ Day is a day that commemorates those who lost their lives in 1952 during the Bengali Language Movement. This is a national holiday in Bangladesh so the general population has a day off and schools, government offices, and most businesses are closed for the day.

This is a holiday that’s known by a number of different names including State Language Day, Language Movement Day, and Shôhid Dibôs in Bengali. On this day, the national flag is flown at half-mast on all government buildings and on many private businesses. It’s also a day on which television channels broadcast special programs to highlight the importance of this holiday.

The History Of Language Martyrs’ Day

India was partitioned in 1947 by the British, which created the Dominion of Pakistan. This region feature two distinct areas—one to the northwest and one to the northeast of India. While the Dominion was in control of the western part, most people lived in the eastern portion where Bengali was the primary language.

The Dominion wanted Urdu to be the official state language to be used in media and in schools. This would end up causing a great deal of unrest and eventually protests in East Pakistan.

In 1952, the government reacted to the protest by passing a law that banned any gathering that consisted of more than 3 people. In defiance of this oppressive law, students began gathering at the University of Dhaka on February 21, 1952.

The police enforced the law, which enraged the already rowdy crowd. When the students attempted to enter the East Bengal Legislative Assembly, the police would end up opening fire on them. This resulted in the death of four protesters.

The protests would lead to Bengali being recognized as the second official language of Pakistan in 1956. Pakistan’s Constitution was also ratified so that both Urdu and Bengali would be the official languages of the country.

Observing Language Martyrs’ Day

This holiday is observed by putting the Bengali flag at half-mast in mourning of the students who died on this day during the Language Movement. People also get the day off, so they often visit with friends and family members on this day.

Where is it celebrated?
Bangladesh (Public holiday)
When is it?
This year (2023)
February 21 Tuesday
Next year (2024)
February 21 Wednesday
Last year (2022)
February 21 Monday