Patriotism is the theme for the 26th of March. 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 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 52nd 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 and the Liberation War began. The people of then-East Pakistan took part in this war to liberate Bangladesh from the oppression of the 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, 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.
The people of Bangladesh soon realised that being a part of Pakistan, which was created on the two-nation theory, there was little scope for the distance culture of Bengalis to flourish. The Bangla language is the most important vehicle of cultural expression for the people of this land. The refusal of the central government in West Pakistan to grant official status to the Bangla language became the focal point of the struggle.
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 the encircled flag of red and green fall down to dust. During the nine months of struggle which ensued an estimated three million Bengalis died and ten million refugees fled to 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 also got involved in the war. The actual military campaign of India took place in December and lasted only ten days. The Indian Army launched a massive offensive against the Pakistani forces to support the Bangladesh movement. On December 16, 1971, the Pakistan army surrendered.
Every year the Government, different organisations and institutions take elaborate programmes to celebrate the day on a befitting manner. The national flag is hosted in all important offices, buildings, institutions and shops. All-important places are tastefully decorated. Meetings and seminars are held to explain the importance of the day. On this day we pay rich tributes to the memory of the day. 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. 52 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.
Bangladesh today has yet to exorcise the demons of 1971. Many of the anti-Islamist-evil-reactionary and anti-liberation forces in the guise of humans who collaborated with the Pakistan army and murdered countless Bengalis have established their strong and wealthy positions in the soil of Bangladesh during 15 years of military dictatorial regimes. After 1991 national polls, their mango twigs who ruled the country have further ravaged the country to destroy the unexpended spirits of our glorious Liberation War of 1971.
Today the secular Bangladesh that was born from the ashes of 1971 is under threat. It is under threat from the same forces that helped perpetrate the genocide of 1971. The future of a secular Bangladesh hangs in the balance today. In 1971, Bangladeshis learnt the evils of both racism and religious extremism. It is a lesson we should not forget at our own peril. Many of these gryphons have yet to face justice for the irremissible crimes they committed continuing at full strength or intensity.
This day reminds us of the supreme sacrifice of our freedom fighters who will ever shine in our hearts like the luminous stars in the sky. But at the same time, we must remember the spirit of the liberation war. So, let all of us remember the spirit of Independence Day and see to establish just laws in the country to build it as a country which rightly be called “Golden Bangladesh.”
26 March is the Independence Day of Bangladesh. It is a red-letter day in the history of Bangladesh. It is a public holiday. This day is observed all over the country and also all over the world. It celebrates the country’s declaration of independence from Pakistan in the wee hours on 25 March 1971.