INTRODUCTION: Thousands of people from all parts of Bangladesh attended the annual ceremonies at the Martyr's memorial in Dacca on Saturday (21 February).
GV PAN People laying wreaths at Martyrs' Memorial.
GV Tomb decorated with wreaths and crests, TILT DOWN TO wreaths on tomb steps.
GV Large symbolic wreath of Bangladesh map.
GV Wreath laying.
GV PAN Procession arriving at memorial.
GV PAN Photographs of martyrs PAN TO Floral map of Bangladesh.
SV Barefoot mourners carrying wreath to steps.
GV Procession of women towards tomb.
GV PAN Mourners marching past martyrs' grave.
LV Massed crowd of primary school teachers at protest.
TS PAN Striking teachers standing and sitting in Baitul Mokarran Square.
SV Speaker addressing crowd from balcony.
LV Crowds sitting on top of building PAN TO crowd below.
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Background: INTRODUCTION: Thousands of people from all parts of Bangladesh attended the annual ceremonies at the Martyr's memorial in Dacca on Saturday (21 February). The ceremonies commemorate four students killed by police during a demonstration in 1952 to demand that Bongali should be recognised as an official language. On Friday (20 February) there was a demonstration of a different kind when striking schoolteachers protested against plans to place them under the control of local councils.
SYNOPSIS: The Martyr's Memorial, known as the Shahid Minar, was built in 1953 a year after the students' deaths, at a time when Bangladesh was still part of Pakistan. Many Bangladeshis believe that their deaths marked the starting point of the movement which ended with independence in 1971. President Ziaur Rahmann visited the Memorial at midnight the previous night to lay a wreath on the steps of the tomb.
Bangladesh now observes February 21st as a national holiday when business comes to a halt and flags are flown at half-mast. But the Martyr's Memorial has become a focus for differences of political opinion as well. Fifty people, mostly students, were arrested during clashes between supporters of the ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party and the opposition Awami League. Police said both groups were attempting to take control of the memorial.
Supporters of the Awami League maintain that the martyred students belonged to their party, and that they should therefore be allowed to conduct the ceremonies. They have also alleged that President Zia was a party to the killing of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, founding father of independent Bangladesh.
The teachers' demonstration on Friday paralysed much of central Dacca. They met in Baitul Mokarran Square to press their demand for full status as government employees, and not local council staff. The primary school teachers, who have been on strike for two months, say that the local councils are run by men of 'doubtful integrity'.