Joi Bangla!

Bengal Restaurant Hosted Bronx Bangladesh Independence Celebration

Bengal Restaurant hosted Bronx Bangladesh Independence celebration

By Lennin Reyes

The Bronx Journal Staff Writer

On March 26, 1971, Bangladesh declared its independence from Pakistan after the Freedom Fights. Forty-one years later, Bangladeshis have settled all over the world, including in the Parkchester section of The Bronx. Hundreds gathered at the Bengal Restaurant on White Plains Road to celebrate the first Bangladesh Independence Day event in the Bronx.

After the national anthems for the United States and Bangladesh were played, Bangladeshi dignitaries spoke about growth of their community and reminisced about the country’s struggles during the Freedom Fights. One was Mohammed N. Mujumder, a Bronx notary officer who was young during those tough times. “I was only seven when the Freedom Fights were going on,” he said. “I remember running with my family from place to place trying to save my life.”

State Senator Rev. Ruben Diaz Sr. (D-Parkchester)

State Senator Rev. Ruben Diaz Sr. (D-Parkchester)

A few New York politicians and dignitaries joined in the celebration. “This is the first activity of this kind, I assure you it will not be the last,” State Senator Rev. Ruben Diaz Sr. said.

The Friendship is Cemented

The friendship is cemented

Another dignitary, attorney and State Assembly candidate Luis Sepulveda, had an anecdote about the Bangladeshi community’s tenacity. “Earlier this week, I spoke to [Mohammed] Mujumder and other Bangladeshis and told them I wanted to organize an Independence Day event for them,” he said. “It took us five days of hard work and we are here in a packed Bengal Restaurant.” The man called ‘Luis Bhai,’ or Luis brother, was not exaggerating. The Bengal Restaurant’s seats and standing room were filled with local residents, and media from both the Bronx and Bangladesh.

"Luis Bhai" is Recognized by Bronx Bangladeshis

"Luis Bhai" is recognized by Bronx Bangladeshis

Sepulveda also shares a special connection with the Bronx’s Bangladeshi community. “When I opened a law office 20 years ago, my first client was a Bangladeshi,” Sepulveda said. “I told him, ‘I’m a new attorney.’ He responded, ‘I’m a new immigrant.'” This connection blossomed to the point where Sepulveda reached out to the Bangladeshi community when he ran against Assemblyman Peter Rivera (D-Parkchester) in the 2010 primary. Because of this, Bangladeshis call him “bhai,” or brother.

State Assemblyman Eric Stevenson (D-Morrisania)

State Assemblyman Eric Stevenson (D-Morrisania)

Assemblyman Eric Stevenson (D-Morrisania) also joined Diaz and Sepulveda in the festivities. He said that he hoped that harassment of Muslims would come to a halt. “I do not want someone named Mohammed to be harassed by police or anyone else,” Stevenson said. “I plan to introduce legislation to stop this injustice from occurring.”

Bronx Bangladesh Women's Association

Bronx Bangladesh Women's Association

The three dignitaries handed out proclamations to recognize several organizations who serve Bronx Bangladeshis, such as the Bronx Bangladesh Society, the Bangladesh Friends Society of The Bronx, the Bangladesh-America Community Council, the Bronx Bangladesh Women’s Association, and the Bronx Puja Committee.

Biryani: Rice, Beans, Chicken, and Vegetables

Biryani: rice, beans, chicken, and vegetables

The organizations weren’t the only ones receiving something special. Everyone in attendance received a free bowl of biryani, a mix of rice, beans, vegetables, and chicken. Shortly after, the Bengal Restaurant was filled with the shouts of “Joi Bangla!” or victory Bangladesh!

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