Saturday, March 26, 2011

Today Is the 4oth Independence Day of Bangladesh

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Bangladesh muktijuddhas (freedom fighters) raising a flag
in honour of newly-independent Bangladesh

Painting (Toronto: March 10, 2011) © Joachim Romeo D'Costa

Today Gonoprojatontri Bangladesh (the People's Republic of Bangladesh) observes its 4oth independence day. In the early morning of March 26, 1971, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman declared the independence of Bangladesh before his arrest by the West Pakistani soldiers who had already started crackdown on the East Pakistanis (people of Bangladesh) before midnight of March 25. The birth pang of Bangladesh was in the form of the Bangladesh War of Independence that lasted for nine months. During this time, West Pakistani soldiers and their local collaborators killed three million East Pakistanis, raped three hundred thousand girls and women and made 10 million people leave their homes and take refuge in neighbouring India. Bangladesh muktijuddhas, trained by India, were engaged in guerrilla warfare with the West Pakistani soldiers and ultimately with the assistance of the Indian army liberated the country. On December 16, 1971, Bangladesh emerged as the newly independent nation.

The Real Independence Is Proven in Actions, Not in Words

A lot of water has passed through the rivers of Bangladesh, a lot of events took place in the country -- some are totally condemnable, some tolerable, others laudatory. In its 40 years of life, Bangladesh is now passing through its middle age. It's time to deeply reflect on the achievements and failures of this country that had gained its independence after profound sacrifices and pains of its entire population in 1971.

Being Bangladeshis, we must reflect on the following and prove the real independence in actions and not in words alone.

  • Are the fruits of independence being enjoyed by all Bangladeshis irrespective of religion, ethnicity and socio-economic-political status in the society?
  • How much freedom (personal freedom, freedom of religion, freedom of thought, freedom of the media including the press, freedom from encroachment of others, freedom from poverty) is being enjoyed by the people of Bangladesh?
  • How much discrimination is being faced by religious and ethnic minority groups in the country? What is really being done to reduce this discrimination?
  • Aren't indiscriminate and unnecessary hartals (general strikes), picketing and vandalism an encroachment on the rights and livelihood of other people?
  • Independence is supposed to provide opportunities to formation of political leadership in the country. In reality, same old leadership is holding on to the power in rotation depriving the formation, mentoring and maturity of new leadership. This huge gap is dangerous for the country.
  • How much has been done to look after the real muktijuddhas (freedom fighters) and birongonas (girls and women who had been raped during the Bangladesh War of Independence)?
  • Do our people know the real causes of and events that led to the Bangladesh War of Independence? Are our school, college and university textbooks portraying the true history of Bangladesh?
  • Forty years have already passed, but how much has been achieved in giving exemplary punishment to the war criminals who were engaged in crimes against humanity in 1971?
Flowery words by politicians will not suffice, but real actions will make Bangladesh truly independent. Otherwise, this country will remain fettered by half-truths and lies, injustices and hypocrisies with no real freedom in sight.


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