International Mother Language Day 2020 – Matribhasha Diwas 2020: Know Theme, Background, Importance for India

International Mother Language Day 2020: On 21st February, International Mother Language Day (IMLD) will be celebrated as a worldwide annual observance of UNESCO. MHRD will also observe Matribhasha Diwas on 21st Feb to highlight the linguistic diversity of our country. International Mother Language Day is celebrated across the globe on 21st February to celebrate the linguistic diversity that exists in the world. UNESCO has identified over 7000 languages that are used (read, written and spoken) in different countries across the world and 21st February has been marked to celebrate this ‘Multilinguism’.

Theme for 2020

The central theme for International Mother Language Day 2020 is ‘Languages without borders’. According to UNESCO, ‘local, cross-border languages can promote peaceful dialogue and help to preserve indigenous heritage’. On 21st February 2020 – the organization will be celebrating Multilinguism under this theme.

Importance for India

India celebrates its cultural heritage under the aegis of ‘Unity in Diversity’ principle and languages are not an exception to this. India has 22 officially recognised languages, 1635 rationalised mother tongues, 234 identifiable mother tongues, according to Census 2001. This makes International Mother Language Day especially significant in the Indian context. Especially, with this year’s theme being ‘Languages without borders’, it gives the diverse linguistic heritage of India to showcase its strength of how it has managed to house so many languages within the same geographic boundaries and used it as a tool to facilitate dialogue for conflict resolution.

Celebrations in India

India will observe and celebrate International Mother Language Day as Matribhasha Diwas across the country on 21st February. The main celebratory event will be organised by MHRD on 20th February 2020 in New Delhi. The event will be graced by the Vice President of India, Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu as the Chief Guest. Union HRD Minister Shri Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ will also attend the event as Guest of Honour along with MoS, Ministry of Culture and Tourism Shri Prahlad Singh Patel and MoS, HRD Shri Sanjay Dhotre.

The theme of the Matribhasha Diwas 2020 to be celebrated across India is ‘Celebrating our Multilingual Heritage’ reflecting the spirit of Ek Bharat Shreshth Bharat. On 21st February 2020, MHRD along with educational institutions will organize activities like Elocution, Debating, Singing, Essay writing competitions, painting competitions, Music and dramatic performances, Exhibitions, Online resources and activities as well as events exploring the cognitive, economic, social and cultural activities of multilingual society, Exhibitions depicting linguistic and diverse wealth of India in at least two languages and also more.


The roots of the International Mother Language Day can be traced back to a students’ movement in Dhaka, Bangladesh which took place in 1952. On 21st February 1952, four students from four students of Dhaka University namely Abul Barkat, Abdul Jabbar, Sofiur Rahman, Abdus Salam were gunned down by police, during their protest march demanding inclusion of ‘Bangla’ as one of the two national languages. The IMLD is celebrated to commemorate their sacrifice. On 29th February 1956, Bengali was adopted as an official second language of erstwhile East Pakistan.

From 1999 onwards, UNESCO – the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, started observing International Mother Language Day on 21st February every year. Over the two decades of observance of IMLD, UNESCO has promoted mother tongue-based multilingual education. Every year, UNESCO announces a unique theme for the International Mother Language Day and plans activities around it.

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