Dhaka, Bangladesh – Media and academic delegates from 36 countries took part in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Shaheed Minar National Monument in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka on Sunday in conjunction with the 49th Anniversary of Bangladesh Victory Celebrations.
The monument was erected to commemorate those killed during the Bengali Language Movement demonstrations of 1952 in then East Pakistan.
The ceremony was led by Samia Halim, director-general of external publicity wing at the ministry of foreign affairs.
An unnamed ministry official who spoke during the ceremony said after a long struggle, the movement gained momentum and the Bengali language was officially recognised in Pakistan in 1956.
He said the Shaheed Minar was designed and built by Bangladeshi sculptors Hamidur Rahman and Novera Ahmed.
“The monument was destroyed several times by our neighbour and what stands now is [the] latest, modernised design, which signifies in abstract form the mother tongue and the children on both sides,” he said. “More than 100 people were killed, mostly students and scholars and their bodies were never found. Steps are being taken to identify these brave souls so that their names can be inscribed in the monument grounds.”
“It was inaugurated on 21 February 1963. Even though reduced and curtailed, the Shaheed Minar became the symbol of the spirit of the Language Movement in the minds of the people. National, mourning, cultural and other activities are held each year on 21 February [Ekushey February] to mark Language Movement Day, or Shaheed Dibas, centred on the Shaheed Minar. Since 2000, 21 February is also recognised as International Mother Language Day,” the official said.
The planning, selection of the site and the construction work of the memorial were done by students from the Dhaka Medical College. The small structure of the first memorial is 101.2 feet high and six feet wide, was constructed at the spot where the killings took place, which is the south-eastern corner of the present monument site.
Immediately after construction, a plate with the words “Shaheed Smrtistambha”, or monument in the memory of the martyrs, was affixed on the monument.
The enormous design includes a half-circular arrangement of columns to symbolise the mother, with her fallen sons, standing on the monument’s central dais, and the red sun shining behind. The centre of the monument goes up to 14 metres high and was made from marble stones.
The stairs and barrier are highlighted in white to create a divine look. The fence on both sides is painted with lines from poems of legendary poets in iron letters. As visitors enter the monument, they will find two statues of patriots who sacrificed their lives.
A marble floor was designed to reveal the moving shadows of the columns. The basement of the Shaheed Minar also included a 1,500-square-foot mural representing the history of the Language Movement.