Bengalis march through Whitechapel for Martyrs’ Day rally at Altab Ali Park
PUBLISHED: 19:15 21 February 2016 | UPDATED: 09:34 22 February 2016
Ekushey Probhatferi UK
Bengalis held a ‘Probhat feri’ procession in east London today followed by a rally to mark Martyrs Day when hundreds of campaigners died to get their mother tongue officially recognised.
The procession, which also commemorated International Mother Language Day, wound its way along Whitechapel High Street to Altab Ali Park, ending at the Shahid Minar memorial laying floral wreaths “in memory of language martyrs”.
They were joined by Tower Hamlets Mayor John Biggs who highlighted “the importance of language as a medium to one’s heritage and history”.
Martyrs’ Day is also a global event paying homage to activists who lost their lives in 1952 campaigning for Bengali to be one of the state languages of the former East Pakistan before its independence as Bangladesh in 1971.
The day’s events were arranged by the Joint Committee to Organise Ekushey Probhatferi UK to attract young people and non-Bengalis.
Children also marked International Mother Language Day at Whitechapel’s Idea Store when they performed dances, songs and role plays from different cultures around the world.
The idea was to raise awareness about different world languages and promote cultural diversity, organised by Tower Hamlets Council.
Other events included a children’s art competition at a cultural celebration at the nearby Kobi Nazrul Centre in Hanbury Street.
Martyrs’ Day commemorates the riots which led to hundreds of deaths when protesters tried to have Bengali recognised as an official State language in East Pakistan in 1951, before its breakaway from West Pakistan two decades later as the newly-independent Bangladesh state.
The “martyrdom” is marked with a march and rally every year at Whitechapel’s Altab Ali Park, the former St Mary’s Church gardens now a focal point of the East End’s expatriate Bangaldeshi Muslim community.