Today marks the 49 years of our existence as a sovereign nation; the most precious day of the Bangalee people.
Forty-nine years ago the people of Bangladesh decided to break free from the subjugation of their unlawful rulers from across 1,200 miles. Conceited beyond all proportions to consider themselves masters of the former, the rulers in West Pakistan of that time invented excuses one after another and resorted to countless intrigues in order to exploit and deprive the people in the eastern wing of their rightful share in material resources and political power. In essence, it was a total denial and flagrant violation of the human rights and dignity of the Bangalee people. Even the power-hungry military rulers in Rawalpindi and their civilian cohorts refused to recognize the popular mandate the Awami League received under the ablest leadership of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. There was no option but to fight back the brutal Pakistani army let loose to commit one of human history’s worst genocides.
The supreme leader of the Bangalees, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibar Rahman made the choice clear against overwhelming odds on the decisive day of March 7, 1971. The option had to be made. The choice was made —either live as free people with the heads held high and without fear or perish as a people or be condemned to history’s dungeon. The stake could not be higher and the people responded admirably. They knew that people from all strata would be required to make enormous sacrifices. So dedicated to the proposition that the making of a new nation conceived in liberty and equality demands a high price, its valiant sons and daughters prepared for the ultimate sacrifice. They were defending their motherland, their existence, language, culture, human rights, and dignity —all that is a hallmark of a 1,000-year-old civilized population.
Unarmed, the nation had hardly any time for preparation before the Pakistani army was ordered to unleash its genocidal mission. The barbarous marauding Pakistani army might have been far better equipped with the latest lethal weapons but they were morally degraded as against a people imbued with the spirit of patriotism at its best and finest. That finally decided the result of the nine-month-long war. The war ended in the surrender of the Pakistani forces on Dec 16 that year, and Bangladesh emerged as an independent nation on the world map after a nine-month bloody war in which 3.0 million people of Bangladesh sacrificed their lives and hundreds of thousands of women were dishonored for the independence.
Today the victory won in the war against Pakistan has amply been vindicated. Bangladesh has achieved a lot over the decades that we can be proud of. We’ve reached many milestones, especially in various socioeconomic sectors. In all human development indices (HDI), Bangladesh records better scores than Pakistan. It is not just on the war front that the country has triumphed, its economic gains make countries like Pakistan envious. As a nation, the Bangalees have proved their worth much better than the Pakistanis.
However, the victory won against a formidable foe cannot be the only goal nor will such a triumph be meaningful if the nation cannot become one in its war against poverty, inequality, social backwardness, and the myriad disturbing symptoms and ills such as physical and sexual violence against women and the obsession to make money means notwithstanding. Scientific and liberal outlook as against obscurantism and religious dogma, rational distribution of wealth as against accumulation by a few, opportunities and provisions open to all as against to privileged coteries alone can bring the final victory for the nation. The fight now is within to liberate the nation’s soul from avarice and selfishness. A new socio-economic order beckons the country and it must respond to it for consolidation of its victory and liberty
a true tribute to Victory Day is not about uncritically romanticizing the journey we’ve had as a nation, but about being reasonably proud of our achievements while making a conscious effort to understand and learn from our mistakes and failures.