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Dhaka Tribune

Independence Day In Bangladesh

A Long Walk to Freedom

As proud flags are raised with the hoist, when fireworks are set to be ignited, and patriotic eyes become all moist; as we pledge the flag and anthems sing, and celebrate the sound of freedom’s ring...

Update : 26 Mar 2024, 10:00 AM

Patriotism is the theme for the 26th of March in Bangladesh. Many poets have taken on the subject over the years and their words, even in part, have been engrained in the minds of millions of our people. Like famed poet Walt Whitman, on this day, I hear Bangladesh is singing the varied patriotic songs. I hear those of mechanics, each one is singing his as it should be blithe and strong, the carpenter is singing his as he measures his plank or beam. The mason is singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work. The boatman is singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand is singing on the steamboat deck. The shoemaker is singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter is singing as he stands. The wood-cutter’s song and the ploughboy’s song are on their way in the morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown. The delicious singing of the mother or of the young wife at work, or of the girl sewing or washing, each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else. The day what belongs to the day—at night the parties of young fellows, robust, friendly are on singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs for Bangladesh.

As proud flags are raised with the hoist, when fireworks are set to be ignited, and patriotic eyes become all moist; as we pledge the flag and anthems sing, and celebrate the sound of freedom’s ring... Thank brave people for Independence Day! Today we celebrate freedom. Thanks to those who came before. 

Those brave men who fought and died in each and every war. Freedom always comes at a price, and while we celebrate, we should tip our hats to the heroes who made our country born in 1971. Here is our honour to the builders—the builders of the past; here is our honour to the builders that built ships to last; here is our honour to the captain, and honour to the crew; and here are our double-column headlines to the ships that battled through. I would say to them all that the wild wave’s song is a paean for the men and women that battled through. 

The sunrise plains are a tender haze and the sunset seas are gray, but I stand here, where the bright skies blaze over me and the big today.  Or a mournful day, for the sun wheels swift from morn to morn and the world began when we were born and the world is ours to win.

Today, is an auspicious day for our country because on this day, we are entering the 53rd year of our Independence. Today we re-dedicate ourselves to the progress and prosperity of our nation; to the welfare of all our people; and today we salute our beloved bicolour flag. 

On 26 March, 1971 the independence of Bangladesh was declared by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the Father of our Nation and the Liberation War began. The people of then-East Pakistan took part in this war to liberate Bangladesh from the oppression of military leaders of Pakistan. Independence for Bangladesh was gained through a nine-month people’s war against the Pakistani Army, which resulted in the loss of about 3 million lives. The Freedom Fighters, with military support from India and former Soviet Union, defeated the Pakistani Army on 16 December in the same year. Thus, Bangladesh came into being.

But the people of Bangladesh discovered their identity through the Language Movement in 1952. The struggle to establish their identity and national spirit began soon after 1947, when the British left India dividing it into two countries: India and Pakistan. Bangladesh, then East Pakistan, was part of Pakistan, which was put together by combining two geographically, culturally, and linguistically separate groups of people. 

In the elections of December 7, 1970, the Awami League won 160 out of 162 seats in the-then East Pakistan and would have had a clear majority in the new assembly. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman became the majority party leader of the Pakistan National Assembly. 

The military rulers of Pakistan refused to allow the Awami League to form a government. A heinous conspiracy was plotted by the-then Pakistani military dictator president Yahya Khan along with Pakistan’s People’s Party chief Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Even though a conspiracy was being planned, General Yahya Khan was careful not to let this be known. A full-scale movement of non-cooperation with the military government began on early March, 1971. Thus, Bangladesh plunged into a gory war seeking its own birth. 

The Pakistan Army began their genocide by attacking the innocent Bengalis of Dhaka city and then the whole land of Bangladesh with their sophisticated weapons. The dwellers of Dhaka city never confronted such unimaginable cruelty. The Pakistani army systematically massacred thee million Bengalis and unleashed a brutal war against us to prevent our shoot for independence. 

But the brave people of this beloved land did not let the dream of encircled flag of red and green fall down to dust. During the nine months struggle which ensued an estimated three million Bengalis died and ten million refugees fled into India. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib was imprisoned in West Pakistan. A Bangladesh Government in exile was established. The Bengalis started smart and courageous guerrilla warfare. At one point, India and former Soviet Union also got involved in the war. The actual military campaign of India took place in December and lasted only ten days. Our Freedom Fighters and the Indian Army launched a massive offensive against the Pakistani forces to support the Bangladesh movement. On December 16, 1971, the Pakistan army surrendered.

On this day, we pay rich tributes to the memory of the day of our independence. On this day, we also pay rich tributes to the memory of the martyrs who laid down their lives for the sake of our independence. 53 years after the birth of the nation, many have forgotten the sacrifices of those who are no longer with us. But for those of us who survived, for our parents who kept us safe through the months of terror, there is no erasing the horrors of 1971.

Anwar A. Khan is a freedom fighter who writes on politics and international issues

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