Due to the Covid-19, public gatherings to mark Martyrs’ Day in Tower Hamlets have been cancelled. The council is asking residents to mark the day in a way that protects the community, the NHS, and adheres to the latest government guidance on Coronavirus (Covid-19) – by observing it from home and online.
Martyrs’ Day falls on a day known as The United Nations’ (UN) International Mother Language Day. On 21 February each year, there is a worldwide observation aimed at promoting awareness of linguistic and cultural diversity and promoting multilingualism. Sadly, according to the UN, every two weeks a language disappears taking with it an entire cultural and linguistic heritage.
The date was chosen in recognition of the killing of four students in Bangladesh on 21 February 1952, during a campaign to officially use their mother language, Bengali. It has been a public holiday in Bangladesh since 1953. The Shaheed Minar (‘Martyr Monument’) in Dhaka, Bangladesh, which commemorates those students, has a replica in Altab Ali Park in Whitechapel, which is typically the focus for public commemoration in Tower Hamlets.
This year, the council is telling individuals and the public not to visit the park to lay wreaths or commemorate the day.
John Biggs, Mayor of Tower Hamlets, said: “Tower Hamlets is proud to be home to residents from so many diverse backgrounds and cultures. Martyrs’ Day reminds us of the sacrifice made by the brave people who fought for justice in Bangladesh and is now an international day to mark the importance of language and diversity worldwide. This year, due to Covid-19 public events cannot take place as normal and we must stay at home to keep our community safe, but we will mark this from home and online.’’
Nurul Islam, General Secretary, Kendrio Shaheed Minar Committee, UK added: “Due to the on-going Covid-19 pandemic outbreak, we will not be able to organise the international Mother Tongue Day event on 20 February 2021.We believe the situation will change and hope to commemorate the event in February 2022.
However, we must follow the government lockdown rules, stay home, protect the NHS, save lives, and continue to control this vicious virus. Take care and stay safe.”
Her Excellency Saida Muna Tasneem, High Commissioner for Bangladesh to the United Kingdom said: “Every year I join the Bangladesh community at the Altab Ali Park Shaheed Minar to pay homage to our Language Martyrs. The High Commission also celebrates 21 February with all diplomatic missions in London to promote multilingualism, diversity, and global peace.
This year, we plan to celebrate 21 February as the ‘Mujib Year of Multilingualism Day’ with our foreign diplomatic friends, only virtually, in full compliance with UK national lockdown regulations.
I urge all our Bangladeshi diaspora brothers and sisters in the borough of Tower Hamlets to celebrate 21 February by staying at home and keeping our families and friends safe from Covid.”