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OP-ED: Mujibnagar Day: A watershed moment in our liberation struggle

  • Published at 01:44 am April 17th, 2021
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Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune

On this day in 1971, Bangladesh’s first government-in-exile was formed

angladesh has been always shaped by events as much as by people and leaders. In the long and turbulent history of the country, there are great events, rebellion, war, victory, assassinations, crackdowns, and massacres. Mujibnagar Day is one such watershed event in the annals of our glorious liberation struggle. 

Bangladesh’s first government-in-exile was formed on April 10, 1971 with Syed Nazrul Islam as acting president, Tajuddin Ahmad as prime minister, and Colonel MAG Osmani as chief of army staff “as the rightful constitutional, logical, and realistic step forward towards the full realization of our dream of an independent country of our own.” 

But April 17 is traditionally celebrated as Mujibnagar Day in the country because the oath-taking ceremony of our provisional/first government took place on that date. The address of Tajuddin Ahmad at the historic oath-taking ceremony of the first cabinet of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh at Mujibnagar on April 17, 1971 was an epoch-making event in our history, and his speech is of immense importance. He said: “Pakistan is now dead and buried under a mountain of corpses.” Yes, Pakistan was buried then.

The most devastating war was ever fought in this sacred soil in 1971. On December 16, 1971, the war was over, but by this time, hundreds of thousands had died, and Bangladesh was in ruins. The reflections on Mujibnagar Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service, and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us, and because of the opportunity it has given Bangladesh to show her sympathy with peace and justice for the betterment of the nation.

April 17 is a day of honour and reverence; it is a solemn day. On this great day, we must recognize a fortunate fact of life; our beloved government was formed and is protected by the blood of warriors. As auspicious as this is, we can be thankful, because over the years, Bangladesh has answered the call every time our way of life has been threatened. People of Bangladesh signed blank checks payable with their lives to the cause of creating Bangladesh. 

We gather in order to remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for us, and to pay them homage. Our purpose should be to gather around the sacred remains of our comrades who died in defense of our country, and garlanded the passionless mounds above them with the choicest flowers of spring time, and raise above them the dear old flag they saved from dishonour.  

Truly, the sacrifices made by this nation’s heroes and their families are immeasurable.

These are the grim realities of our freedom. Freedom ranks among the greatest of gifts known to man, but like anything of value, it has its price. Those who have lost a loved one in service to our country are all too familiar with the price that must be paid. They know what it is like to have their worst nightmare come true when they see their husbands, sons, and daughters are finally not returned. When the doorbell rings, they already know that their near and dear ones were brutally slaughtered and their dead bodies were allowed to eaten by the vultures, dogs, jackals, and other human flesh-eaters instead of burial. 

Those who have not experienced such things will never understand freedom in the way those who have do, because no one can feel the pain they have lived through. 

People in Bangladesh, then, having never laid such a sacrifice upon freedom’s altar, hold a very narrow view of what freedom really is. Let our gratitude to those who have given their lives to provide it, and our compassion for their loved ones, be unending.

This begs the question, how do we show our gratitude to our men and women who have given their lives for us? 

We each can do this in our own unique way according to our abilities, and when we do it redeems their sacrifices. As long as we bear this in mind and act upon it, we are honouring our fallen heroes, but if we, as a society, do not show gratitude for their sacrifices, their memory fades away. They gave the last full measure for us; their blank checks were cashed. Let us not commit the injustice of taking their sacrifices for granted. 

Their honour can never be taken away from them because, although they had to leave behind wives, husbands, children, and a lifetime of memories they never got to make, the honour they earned by the sacrifice of their blood abides with them eternally. They remain with us in spirit to the extent we dignify their offering.

Mujibnagar Day is an event marking a unique or important historical change of course, or one on which important developments depend and shape the history of Bangladesh’s War of Independence in 1971. It is truly an epoch-making event for the freedom-loving people of Bangladesh.

The formation of Bangladesh’s provisional/first government on April 17, 1971 was a milestone in the history of Bengali nation. It led to the real birth of a new nation. And we should study history because in history lies all the secrets of statecraft. 

Under the current situation, we should have firm determination, selfless sacrifice, and a deep sense of patriotism for protection and proper implementation of the spirit of our Liberation War against the evil designs of a section of our people who are out to establish the so-called Bangladeshi nationalism based on religion.

Anwar A Khan is an independent political analyst.

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