Midnight Martyr’s Day ceremony held in Whitechapel

A ceremony last night commemorating those who died to protect the Bengali language passed without incident, despite fears of violent clashes.

The Martyr’s Day ceremony in Altab Ali Park, Whitechapel, was held at midnight last night to commemorate 61 years since violent protests over the right to speak Bengali.

MP for Poplar and Limehouse had expressed fears that continuing unrest in Dhaka, Bangladesh, could spill over to the Bangladeshi community in Tower Hamlets.

He warned that two rival factions could hijack the ceremony to promote their own causes, and urged people to remain calm during the midnight gathering.

But police confirmed no arrests were made, and no reports of unrest were received.

The ceremony commemorated students and activists who gave their lives on February 21 1952 when Pakistani police opened fire on them during a protest for equal status for their mother tongue of Bengali.

Prior to Bangladesh gaining independence from Pakistan in 1971, Urdu had been imposed as the sole language for the country.