Bangladeshis observe language day amid high security

February 21st, 2008 - 9:08 pm ICT by admin  

Dhaka, Feb 21 (DPA) Tens of thousands of people gathered at a national memorial on a university campus in the Bangladeshi capital Thursday, marking the killing of a dozen protestors in police firing 56 years ago, officials said. The protestors, students at Dhaka University, were Feb 21, 1952, gunned down by security forces while claiming their right to use their mother-tongue.

The protestors were demanding a national status for the Bengali language spoken by more than 90 percent of the people of the then East Pakistan, which seceded from Islamabad’s rule and emerged as independent Bangladesh in 1971.

The country’s police chief, Nur Muhammed, said additional riot police, plainclothes officers and commandos created a three-tier security cordon around the memorial.

An estimated 50,000 people joined a nightlong vigil Wednesday on the Dhaka University campus ahead of the memorial services for the victims of the 1952 massacre of students largely blamed on the Pakistani forces.

The military-backed caretaker government in Bangladesh put the security forces on a state of high alert.

About 8,000 police and paramilitary border guards were deployed in Dhaka and the southern business hub of Chittagong in the face of a security threat from suspected Islamic militants who have vowed to turn the Muslim country into an Islamic state.

The killings carried out by the Pakistani forces widened the political gap between the ethnic Bengali language majority and the ruling Urdu speakers in former Pakistan’s western wing.

The events of 1952 triggered a nationalist struggle for independence that came through the 1971 victory of the combined forces of India and Bangladesh under a unified command against Pakistan.

Bengali Language Movement Day was recognized by the United Nations as the International Mother Language Day in 1999 to focus attention on the state of indigenous languages.

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