Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said on Tuesday that after the assasination of Bangabondhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his family members, pro-Pakistan Jamaat-e-Islami and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) had distorted history and Bangla language by changing the poetry of Kazi Nazrul Islam and Madanmohon Torkalonkar to Arabic words.
Remembering the supreme sacrifice of the martyrs of February 21, 1952 who were killed by Pakistani forces for demanding the rightful place for Bangla in then East Pakistan at an event here, Hasina said that mother tongue is an asset for any nation.
The day is also observed as International Mother Language Day' as declared by the UNESCO in 1999.
Hasina said her government raised the literacy rate in the country to 65.5 per cent from 45 per cent during the 1996-2001 tenure for which it was awarded by the UNESCO. The government also formed a fund with the award money to provide stipend for higher education.
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"Many languages in different countries are getting lost... We want the engendered languages of the world to be preserved. We're giving utmost importance to research. I want the International Mother Language Institute to make a huge contribution for preserving languages," she said.
The Prime Minister said the country's children should learn one or two foreign languages alongside learning their mother toungue, i.e., Bangla.
Pabitra Sarkar, former Vice Chancellor of Rabindra Bharati University in Kolkata, presented the keynote paper focusing on The necessity of multilingual education in the multilingual world'.
Children from different countries, including Bangladesh, India, Australia, Algeria, Japan, China, Russia and France greeted the Prime Minister in their respective mother tongues on the occasion of the International Mother Language Day.
Noting that English has become the dominant medium of international communication now, Hasina said, "Along with English, I think it is essential to learn your own language. Our children can learn one or two other languages alongside Bangla."
Hasina had laid the foundation for the International Mother Language Institute in Dhaka during the visit of then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in 2001, but the subsequent BNP-Jamaat government stopped its work.
However, she thanked the BNP regime of 2001-2006 for stopping its works, saying that otherwise her government wouldn't have got the scope to develop this institute as per her design.
Hasina also recalled the contribution of her father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to the Language Movement of 1952, as she stressed on the need for research to preserve, revitalise and develop mother languages of the world as many languages are getting lost.
She said the government will take steps to provide fellowships for language research in the International Mother Language Institute. The PM also said that the government provides fellowships and stipends to 24 million students in Bangladesh besides giving free textbooks to school students.
"I think this institute has a responsibility to preserve all the languages of the world, and conduct research on them so that people know the history of languages," she said, adding that if needed, she will promote a fund to provide fellowships for language researchers.