The nation in the first hour tonight paid glowing tributes to the Language Movement martyrs, who laid down their lives for the mother tongue - Bangla -- on February 21, 1952.
President Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina placed wreaths at the Central Shaheed Minar one minute past the zero hour amid tight security to pay homage to the Language Movement heroes.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina arrived at the Shaheed Minar seven minutes before the clock struck 12 midnight. President Abdul Hamid reached the Central Shaheed Minar just before the zero hour reports BSS.
President Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina proceeded to the altar of the Central Shaheed Minar together in slow pace as the immortal song on Amar Ekushey--"Amar Bhaiyer Rakte Rangano Ekushey February"-- was playing.
The President was the first to lay the wreath at the Central Shaheed Minar. Just after the President, the Prime Minister placed the wreath at the Shaheed Minar. They stood in solemn silence for some time as a mark of profound respect to the memories of the Language Heroes.
Ministers, advisers to the Prime Minister, parliament members, chiefs of three services, diplomats, senior Awami League leaders, high civil and military officials were present on the occasion.
Later, Speaker of the Jatiya Sangsad Dr Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury, Deputy Speaker Fazley Rabbi Mia and Leader of the Opposition Begum Raushan Ershad placed wreaths at the Central Shaheed Minar.
On arrival at the Shaheed Minar, the President was received by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Dhaka University Vice Chancellor Professor Dr AAMS Arefin Siddique.
Flanked by cabinet members and senior leaders of the party, Sheikh Hasina, also the President of Bangladesh Awami League, later placed another wreath at the Shaheed Minar on behalf of the party.
Later, 14-Party alliance leaders, Dhaka University Vice-Chancellor Professor AAMS Arefin Siddique, foreign diplomats, Dhaka South City Corporation Mayor Sayeed Khokan, Sectors Commanders Forum, Workers Party, Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal, Swechchhasebak League, language veterans and DU Teachers' Association (DUTA) placed wreaths at the Shaheed Minar.
Besides, thousands of barefooted people from all walks of life placed wreaths at the Central Shaheed Minar to pay tributes to the Language Movement martyrs.
They were singing the first four lines of the immortal song -- "Amar Bhayer Rakte Rangano Ekushey February....Ami Ki Bhulitey Paari" while scores of mikes were replaying the same spreading an emotional touch in and around the area.
Bangladesh Television, Bangladesh Betar and private TV channels aired live the midnight Ekushey ceremony while cultural personalities added extra flavour by reciting poems on immortal Ekushey February.
In observance of the day in a befitting manner, the Central Shaheed Minar premises have been tastefully redecorated with paintings, graffiti, buntings and selected verses on the mother language as the nation paid homage to the martyrs of the great Language Movement when clock struck one-minute past zero hours (midnight) tonight.
Tight security has been enforced around the main altar of the Shaheed Minar and the Azimpur graveyard of the language martyrs as streams of people were set to pour into these places to lay wreaths to express their heart-felt respect to the 1952 language martyrs.
On this day in 1952, students and people from all strata of society took to the streets in Dhaka to protest the then Pakistan government's refusal to recognize Bangla as one of the state languages and imposition of Urdu as the only official language of Pakistan.
Salam, Barkat, Rafiq, Shafiur, Jabbar and some other brave sons of the soil sacrificed their lives on this day to establish Bangla as the state language.
The Language Movement is indeed the most important turning point in the history of Bangalee as its spirit led to the Independence of Bangladesh through a bloody nine-month war in 1971.
The day is also being observed across the globe as the International Mother Language Day. On November 17, 1999, the UNESCO declared February 21 as the International Mother Language Day.
Countries across the globe have been observing the day since then to promote linguistic diversity and multilingual education and raise awareness of cultural traditions based on understanding, tolerance and dialogue.