Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Monday said Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was imprisoned repeatedly for waging language movement though efforts were made to downplay his role in that historic episode.
"Many learned persons asked ‘what was his (Bangabandhu) contribution’ (to the language movement)? He was in jail . . . if so, why was he in jail (at that time)? He was in jail for going to wage the language movement," she said.
Actually, nobody wanted to give the importance of Bangabandhu's contribution to the language movement, she added.
The premier was addressing the Ekushey Padak-2023 distribution ceremony at Osmani Memorial Auditorium here as the chief guest, reports BSS.
At the function, 19 eminent personalities and two organizations were given the padak (award) in recognition of their contributions to various fields.
Sheikh Hasina said she delivered an address after getting the report of the then intelligence branch of Pakistan highlighting the contribution of Bangabandhu to the language movement.
But many learned persons of the country at that time penned down many write-ups criticizing her massively, saying that she was telling the story making by her, she said.
She also added she never thought that this situation has to be faced in an independent country.
The prime minister said "Joy Bangla" slogan, which inspired the freedom fighters to make supreme sacrifice, and the historic March 7 speech were banned after the assassination of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1975.
"Actually, his (Bangabandhu) name was tried to be eradicated from the history. Not only that, his contribution to the Language Movement was tried to be erased," she said, adding that even many scholars mentioned he had no contribution as he was in jail at that time.
The head of government said Bangabandhu was arrested on three occasions within months after the emergence of Pakistan as a country. When he had been arrested in 1949, he was not released until February 27, 1952, she noted.
While he was in jail, student leaders used to meet him and received his instructions regarding the Language Movement, she said, adding it can be learnt reading the books "Oshomapto Attojiboni" (Unfinished Memories) of Bangabandhu and "Secret Documents of Intelligence Branch on Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman."
The specific dates, names of student leaders who met Bangabandhu and his role during the Language Movement can largely be known from the 113-130 pages of the Volume-II of the secret documents book, she continued.
The prime minister said there was always a tendency to omit the name of Bangabandhu from the history.
But, Awami League (AL), after assuming power, tried to enrich Bangladesh's language, literature and culture, she said, adding: "We are Bangalee and as Bangalee, we will move ahead in world arena with head high."
Sheikh Hasina said, "We've got this Bangladesh. So, we will take this country ahead further."
She said there are many worthy persons in the society who are not known to many "but, we try to recall their contribution to different aspects of the society."
To this end, she mentioned her effort of conferring Ekushey Padak on 21 persons on the eve of Amar Ekushey which was used to give to a limited number of people earlier.
Sheikh Hasina hoped that the new generation will contribute to different sectors of the society to take the country further ahead following the footsteps of the luminary persons.
She added: "We will learn from history but take Bangladesh ahead in compliance with the modern world and modern technology."
Referring to making the country a developing one by 2021, the prime minister reiterated her vow to build Bangladesh as a developed, prosperous and smart country by 2041.
Earlier, the prime minister distributed the "Ekushey Padak 2023" to 19 eminent persons and two organizations.
The Ministry of Cultural Affairs organized the function on the occasion of the Amar Ekushey and the International Mother Language Day.
With State Minister for Cultural Affairs KM Khalid in the chair, Secretary of the ministry Md. Abul Monsur delivered the welcome address.
Cabinet Secretary Md. Mahbub Hossain conducted the award-giving ceremony and read out the citations of the recipients.
The Ekushey Padak was introduced in the memory of the martyrs of the Language Movement in 1952.
The award is given to individuals and organizations in recognition of contributions to a number of fields including the War of Liberation, literature, music, education, journalism, poverty reduction, research, and visual arts.
The nation is set to observe the "Amar Ekushey and the International Mother Language Day" tomorrow to pay glowing tributes to the Language Movement martyrs who made supreme sacrifice for the cause of the mother language on February 21 in 1952.
The ministry of cultural affairs confers the award with a gold medal, a certificate of honour and a cheque of Taka 4 lakh.
Earlier on February 12, the government announced the names of 19 eminent citizens and two organizations for the "Ekushey Padak-2023" for their outstanding contributions to respective fields.
This year, three persons got the award in the Language Movement category, one in the Liberation War, eight in Shilpakala (acting, music, recitation, arts and painting), two in politics, one person and one institution in education, one person and one institution in social service and one each in journalism, research, and language and literature.
Khaleda Manzur-e Khuda, valiant freedom fighter AKM Shamsul Haque (posthumously) and Haji Mohammad Majibur Rahman were given the award in the Language Movement category.
Masud Ali Khan and Shimul Yusuf received the award in the category of Shilpakala (acting) while Monoranjan Ghoshal, Gazi Abdul Hakim and Fazal-e-Khuda (posthumously) were named for the award in the category of Shilpakala (music), Jayanto Chattopadhyay in Shilpakala (recitation) category, Nawazish Ali Khan for Shilpakala, and Kanak Chanpa Chakma for Shilpakala (painting).
Momtaz Uddin (posthumously) was given the award in the Liberation War category, Md Shah Alamgir (posthumously) in journalism, Dr Md Abdul Majid in research, Professor Dr Mazharul Islam (posthumously) in education, Md Saidul Haque in social service, Advocate Manjurul Imam (posthumously) and Akhter Uddin Mia (posthumously) in politics, and Dr Maniruzzaman in language and literature.
Bangladesh National Museum received the award in the category of education while Bidyanondo Foundation in social service.
Till 2022, a total of 543 distinguished individuals and reputed institutions were awarded "Ekushey Padak" in recognition of their contributions to various fields in national life.