Language Movement Day or Language Revolution Day (ভাষা আন্দোলন দিবস), which is also referred to as Language Martyrs' Day or Martyrs' Day (শহীদ দিবস), is a national day of Bangladesh to commemorate protests and sacrifices to protect Bengali as a national language during the Pakistani regime in 1952.
Around 1950-52, the emerging middle classes of East Bengal underwent an uprising known later as the Language Movement. Bangladeshis (then East Pakistanis) were initially agitated by a decision by Central Pakistan Government to establish Urdu, a minority language spoken only by the supposed elite class of West Pakistan, as the sole national language for all of Pakistan. The situation was worsened by an open declaration that "Urdu and only Urdu will be the national language of Pakistan" by the governor, Khawaja Nazimuddin.
Police declared Section 144 which banned any sort of meeting. Defying this, the students of University of Dhaka and Dhaka Medical College and other political activists started a procession in February 21, 1952. Near the current Dhaka Medical College Hospital, police fired on the protesters and numerous people, including Abdus Salam, Rafique, Barkat, Jabbar died.
The movement spread to the whole of East Pakistan and the whole province came to a standstill. Afterwards, the Government of Pakistan relented and gave Bengali equal status as a national language.
This movement is thought to have sown the seeds for the independence movement which resulted in the liberation of Bangladesh in 1971.
Shaheed Minar, or the Martyr's monument, located near the Dhaka Medical College and Hospital.To commemorate this movement, Shaheed Minar (শহীদ মিনার), a solemn and symbolic sculpture, was erected in the place of the massacre. The day is revered in Bangladesh and, to a somewhat lesser extent, in West Bengal as the Martyrs' Day.
UNESCO decided to observe 21 February as International Mother Language Day. The UNESCO General Conference took a decision to that took effect on 17 November 1999 when it unanimously adopted a draft resolution submitted by Bangladesh and co-sponsored and supported by 28 other countries.
Language Martyrs' Day--21 February has received its first ever government level recognition in Canada this year (2006). To observe the day, Mayor David Miller has issued a proclamation, in which he encouraged the residents of Toronto to join this Language Day celebrations, where people from over 200 countries who speak more than 170 languages and dialects will take part.