Forty-seven years have passed by. The near and dear ones of the four most important national leaders of Bangladesh after Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib are yet to receive any justice for the savageMore
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.
To consolidate cross-border energy security, Bangladesh and India scripted another golden chapter in their bilateral ties through the launch of the operation of the India-Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline (IBFP) for diesel supply on March 18.
The operation of the Bangladesh-India Friendship Pipeline will put in place a sustainable, reliable, cost-effective, and environment-friendly mode of transport in High-Speeded Diesel from India to Bangladesh. The project is jointly implemented by the Numaligarh Refinery Ltd of India and Meghna Petroleum Ltd of Bangladesh.
The 131.57 km long pipeline project connects Siliguri, West Bengal, and Parbatipur, Dinajpur. Of the pipeline’s total length, 126.50 km is inside Bangladesh while the remaining 5.07 km is in India. About 1 million metric tons of diesel can be imported from India annually through the pipeline. However, two and a half lakh tons will be imported in the initial phase According to the 15-year agreement, the import volume will increase to 4 to 5 metric tons per year. Bangladesh can be benefitted from this High-Speed Diesel cost-effectively and sustainably.
First of all, the present energy crisis in Bangladesh is partly due to over-dependence on gas which fulfills more than 70 percent of its energy needs. The present gas deficit against the national demand daily is expected to increase further in the future. The crisis will deepen unless a greater share of renewable and no renewable energy is included in the energy mix. So, Bangladesh needs to transition from conventional energy sources to ensure its energy security & long-term sustainability. In this context, cross-border energy cooperation can be a sustainable mode of energy transport which can help Bangladesh to mitigate energy shortage. The diversification of Bangladesh’s energy industry is aided by the import of diesel from India. Bangladesh’s current heavy reliance on natural gas as its main energy source makes it susceptible to changes in price and supply. Diesel’s inclusion in the energy mix gives the nation a more reliable and secure energy supply.
Growth in Agricultural Sector
One of the main conditions for development is uninterrupted power and energy supply. The operationalization of the India-Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline will enhance ongoing energy cooperation between the two countries and will further grow in Bangladesh, particularly in the agriculture sector. As the demand for diesel is highest in 16 districts of the northern region during Aman and Boro season, the government decided to import this fuel through the pipeline. If the project is implemented, diesel can reach the consumer level in 16 districts of the Rangpur and Rajshahi divisions in a short time. As a result, it will be able to provide it to the farmers at a low cost in a short period besides saving a huge amount of money. Not only that, this pipeline will open new employment opportunities for both countries.
Cost and Time Effective
India-Bangladesh diesel trade had been ongoing since 2017 carried by train. The cost of transportation was a huge sum of amount for Bangladesh Petroleum Company. About 2,200 tonnes of diesel is sent from Numaligarh Refinery Limited (NRL) through West Bengal Railway every month. Moreover, according to BPC, it has to pay an average premium of $11.50 per barrel (159 liters) for bringing fuel oil (including freight). It can be eight dollars if imported through this pipeline. A reduction of 5.5$ per barrel can save about 9.75 million dollars per 100,000 tons. People of 16 districts of the northern region will be able to enjoy this benefit in addition to taking less time in fuel supply.
Reduce System Loss and Carbon Footprint
This pipeline will be a milestone in providing quick and uninterrupted fuel supply to the northern region of the country in a cost-effective manner. Apart from uninterrupted, cheaper, and quicker energy supply security, the cross-border pipeline is expected to help BPC reduce the system loss that it incurs in the form of pilferage. Because no one can be able to reach the underground pipeline to commit petty theft.
The automatic and computerized process will reduce the system loss drastically. The Fellowship Receipt Terminal will be the country’s first modern automatic and computerized system. If something is done in the pipeline on the way or otherwise, the place of automaticity can be identified immediately.
Not only that, the supply of diesel through the pipeline would reduce the system loos and as the pipeline is situated underground, it will also reduce the carbon footprint of the supply.
Enhanced Energy Cooperation
Through this pipeline, an alternative source of diesel import is being created for Bangladesh. In addition to reducing the cost, it has created a big ring for fuel security. At least 40,000 liters of fuel have been stored at the terminal and depot for two months. According to Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation, Bangladesh imports 6.5 million tons of fuel oil annually. Of that, 4 million tons of diesel is imported annually. Through this pipeline, almost fifty percent of imported fuel will come to this country by reducing the significant amount of transportation costs.
Future Prospects of the Pipeline Energy Cooperation
This successful operation of this pipeline might bring new pipeline opportunities for Bangladesh. India also wants to use pipelines to secure the energy security of its northeastern states. India in its bid to save time and cost of transporting liquefied natural gas (LNG) and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) to the North Eastern states, wants to set up facilities along the Bangladesh coast. The IOCL has proposed to build an LPG bottling plant in a joint venture with BPC and LNG terminal in another joint venture with state-run Petrobangla imported LNG, after re-gasification, will be supplied to the North Eastern states using Bangladeshi pipelines, while the imported LPG will be bottled in the neighboring country and also be supplied there.
The pipeline project has been successfully implemented because of the true friendship between India and Bangladesh. Enhanced energy cooperation through bilateral and multilateral arrangements can address the challenges posed by high fuel prices in the wake of Russia Ukraine war. And India Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline is a striking example of bilateral energy cooperation. Once diesel starts to arrive in Bangladesh, it will usher a new dimension to the energy cooperation between India and Bangladesh.
Bangladesh has warmly hailed the normalization of diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran in a major breakthrough announced in an agreement brokered by China.
Bangladeshi Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen told journalists here Sunday night that Dhaka lauds China, Iraq and Oman for facilitating the negotiation, leading to the successful breakthrough which reflects the power of constructive engagement and meaningful dialogue.
He also lauded the leadership of Saudi Arabia and Iran for this very positive development.
Bangladesh believes that this would contribute to reducing tension and conflict in the Gulf region, foster stability, and create the path for “durable and sustainable long-term peace for the betterment of the brotherly peoples in the Middle East region,” he said.
Tehran and Riyadh announced an agreement in Beijing last Friday to restore their diplomatic ties.
India will begin exporting diesel to neighbouring Bangladesh through a pipeline this month after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina inaugurate the cross-border oil pipeline on 18 March.
“Good news is India will send us diesel, the (oil) pipeline has been completed. The two premiers will inaugurate the pipeline on 18 March,” Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen said.
The India-Bangladesh cross-border pipeline will be inaugurated by the Prime Ministers of Bangladesh and India virtually.
India-Bangladesh friendship pipeline
Till now, Bangladesh used to import diesel from India through railway carriages. The announcement of India-Bangladesh friendship pipeline (IBFPL) launch by Momen came a week after he held talks with Indian counterpart, India’s External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar on the sidelines of the G20 Foreign Ministers’ meeting last week in New Delhi.
India-Bangladesh oil pipeline
India would export diesel to Bangladesh through the 130-km pipeline.
The India-Bangladesh oil pipeline has been constructed at a cost of Rs 3.46 billion and has been drawn from the Indian line of credit (LoC).
The pipeline stretched 125-kilometre inside Bangladesh territory and 5-kilometre inside India.
The cross-border pipeline will carry fuel from Assam-based Numaligarh Refinery Ltd’s (NRL) marketing terminal at Siliguri in eastern Indian state of West Bengal to the Parbatipur depot of Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation (BPC).
The mechanical works of the project was completed on 12 December last year. The ground breaking ceremony for IBFPL was held in September 2018 in the presence of PM Modi and PM Hasina through video conferencing.
During his meeting with Hasina in 2017, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had agreed to finance the cross-border pipeline with a capacity of one million metric tonne per annum (MMTPA)..
The project once completed will solve the problem that 100,000-ton tankers cannot dock at Chittagong Port, Bangladesh, and must rely on maritime ships to transport crude oil.
The pipeline with India will cut transportation cost of fuel oil for Bangladesh by 50 percent, State Minister for Power, Energy and Mineral Resources Nasrul Hamid has said. State Minister for Power, Energy and Mineral Resources Nasrul Hamid on Friday said the Bangladesh-India Friendship Pipeline will effectively contribute to the country’s energy security.
“It [the pipeline] will be a milestone in providing quick and uninterrupted fuel supply to the northern region of the country in a cost-effective manner,”
During a visit to the receipt terminal at Parbatipur in Dinajpur on Friday, Nasrul described the India-Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline as groundbreaking in Bangladesh’s energy history. “It will ensure energy security and low-cost fuel.”
In the near future, Bangladesh needs to transition from conventional energy sources to ensure its energy security and long-term sustainability. Following the Ukraine crisis, energy security has become a major concern for developing and least-developed countries. In this context, cross-border energy cooperation and revitalising the idea of the power corridor could perhaps help Bangladesh to mitigate its energy crisis.
Friendly and warm relations between Bangladesh and India since the birth of Bangladesh in 1971. In any time of crisis, India and Bangladesh have got each other’s side just like a close mother. Be it the current corona epidemic, or the liberation war of 1971. However, the whole world is currently in a turmoil due to the post-pandemic wartime global crisis. Along with the political and economic crisis, the energy crisis has also intensified. Bangladesh is also in the grip of this crisis. To solve this global energy crisis, Bangladesh government has decided to reduce energy consumption. Importing fuel oil at an affordable price was very important for Bangladesh to reduce this cost. Although talks were started with countries like Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and Brunei about the import of fuel oil, Bangladesh’s neighboring friendly country India was the first to come forward to supply fuel.
The initiation of multi-dimensional avenues of cooperation with Bangladesh is only possible because of its geographical proximity to India. A prime example of this is the import of diesel from India through pipelines. These imports will ensure maximum utilization of Bangladesh’s geographical proximity to India. Diesel will arrive in the pipeline from India in June this year. Once this diesel starts coming in, it will be profitable for both Bangladesh and India. In this diesel trade, both countries will benefit economically and Bangladesh will be able to face its energy crisis more firmly. India will also benefit from it. India will earn revenue through this diesel export. India has already expressed a positive attitude towards increasing cooperation with Bangladesh. Not only that, recently Bangladesh-India has signed several agreements and memorandum of understanding to increase bilateral trade and investment.
Bangladesh-India diesel trade
Since 2017, India-Bangladesh diesel trade has been going on through railways. About 2,200 tonnes of diesel is sent from Numaligarh Refinery Limited through West Bengal Railway every month. This transportation cost was very expensive for Bangladesh Petroleum Company. When this pipeline is operational, the supply of fuel in the country will increase significantly and the cost of transporting fuel by rail will be reduced. As the demand for diesel is highest in 16 districts of northern region during Aman and Boro season, the government decided to import this fuel through pipeline. If the project is implemented, diesel will reach consumer level in 16 districts of Rangpur and Rajshahi divisions within a short period of time. As a result, besides saving a huge amount of money, it will be able to provide it to the farmers at a low cost in a short period of time. This export of India will not only strengthen Bangladesh’s economic relationship with India but also strengthen the bond of friendship during energy crisis as well as dollar crisis. Apart from ensuring uninterrupted, cheap and fast fuel supply, the cross-border pipeline is also expected to help reduce system losses through petty pilferage due to rail transport.
India-Bangladesh Partnership Pipeline Agreement
An agreement was signed between the two countries in November 2018 to implement the India-Bangladesh Partnership Pipeline Agreement project. The work of this project started in March 2020. whose term was till June 2022; But the project has been extended till July 2023 as the pace of work has slowed down due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Now the construction of this Bangladesh-India friendship pipeline is almost at the final stage. The 131.57 km long pipeline project connects Siliguri and Parvatipur, Dinajpur in West Bengal. Out of the total length of the pipeline, 126.50 km is inside Bangladesh and the remaining 5.07 km is in India. Out of the construction cost of Tk 520 crore, Government of India is contributing Tk 303 crore and BPC is paying the remaining Tk 217 crore. About 1 million metric tons of diesel can be imported from India annually through this pipeline. However, in the initial phase, two and a half lakh tons will be imported. According to the 15-year agreement, the import volume will increase by 4 to 5 MT annually.
Light of hope in times of crisis?
When Bangladesh along with the rest of the world is troubled by the energy crisis, this diesel business is showing a kind of light of hope. An alternative source of diesel import is being created for Bangladesh through this pipeline. According to Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation data, Bangladesh imports 6.5 million tons of fuel oil annually. Among these imported fuels, 4 million tons of diesel are imported annually. About fifty percent of the imported fuel will come to this country by reducing the significant amount of transportation cost through this pipeline.
Moreover, according to Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation data, currently the average premium cost per barrel (159 litres) of fuel oil (including freight) is $10. If this fuel is imported from India, it costs eight dollars. A reduction of two dollars per barrel can save about $1.5 million per 100,000 tons. Apart from taking less time for fuel supply, the people of 16 districts of the northern region will be able to enjoy this benefit. So, importing from India will also save foreign exchange. Now if it is possible to import in rupees instead of dollars, our dollar crisis will be reduced to some extent. Later, if India gives some price concession to Bangladesh, Bangladesh may benefit more.
Exporter India on the other hand can earn foreign currency inflows from its export earnings and invest it in other sectors to benefit economically. Even if India exports refined oil to Bangladesh at cheaper prices, it will bring overall economic benefits to both countries. India and Bangladesh through bilateral and multilateral energy cooperation can address the global problem of high energy prices in the wake of the Russia-Ukraine war. When diesel starts coming in, the India-Bangladesh alliance pipeline, if properly managed, could be a prime example of bilateral energy cooperation. Not only this, it will usher in a new dimension in energy cooperation between India and Bangladesh.
We recall with highest regards the stormy days of our life in the month of March, 1971. And his 7 March Speech, 1971 shall be considered as a turning point of our history. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman made a historic speech on this day at a mammoth public gathering at Suhrawardy Udaan. He made a clarion call to his people in a thunderous voice, “Build forts in each homestead. You must resist the Pakistani enemy with whatever you have in hand. Remember, we have given a lot of blood, a lot more blood we shall give, if need be, but we shall liberate the people of this country, Insha Allah (i.e., if God blessed). The struggle this time is the struggle for our emancipation; the struggle this time is the struggle for independence.”
“Speech is power, speech is to persuade, to convert, to compel” has rightly been said by Ralph Waldo Emerson. This historic speech of Bangabandhu reminds us of how powerful a speech was; this one speech had united the whole Bengali nation to come into a single platform to give a befitting reply to the Pakistani military junta. Our glorious Liberation War then started to gain Bangladesh. Happily, for Bangladesh, happily, we trust, for the whole human race of this country, we pursued a new and nobler course. We accomplished an armed rebellion which has no parallel in the annals of human society at that clarion call of Bangabandhu.
Because of the above address, the international Newsweek magazine termed Bangabandhu as a ‘Poet of Politics’ in the cover story of its 5 April 1971 issue. There can be no doubt about where his heart was. He is Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Like Thomas Carlyle, he might have believed, “Every noble work is at first impossible.” But by his long-standing struggles with the Pakistani rulers, he proved that impossible is the word which would not be found in his dictionary.
The Sheikh was a large, tall man and he looked very impressive with his long back-brushed hair and spectacles. He was intelligent and stubborn, but had very high political charisma. His political stature was legendary. His great charisma combined with political acumen made him the greatest of the different leaders of the Bangladesh Independence movement. The fiery revolutionary turned irascible statesman has had a profound effect on politics and his people during his time. A thorn in the side of Bengali leaders since the inception of Pakistani regime, he had been a beacon of resistance for their anti-Bengali stance.
While it is true that the Bangladesh revolution was the result of years of efforts by many people, it is also true that without the singular charisma, vision and willpower of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, it probably would not have happened. Many around the world love him for his ability to thumb his nose at the mighty Pakistani rulers and get away with it. We must give Bangabandhu his due honour as one of the most remarkable men during his time across the world.
He is remembered as a visionary who fought for his countrymen all through his life. He was a superior politician than anyone else during his time in the whole world. Still, Bangabandhu has remained a great leader…after his death and he will remain the same in the years to come. His martyrdom allowed others to pick up the fallen banner of freedom and independence. His influence on later fighters is considerable. Today, Bangabandhu’s remains lie in a monument at Tungipara where he was born. One of the ugliest and most tragic incidents in the modern history of the world took place during our glorious Liberation War in 1971 when millions of our unarmed people were gunned down by savage Pakistani army and their local cruel cohorts. Uncle Sam played a very dirty role by giving their mighty support to Pakistan in order that Bangladesh couldn’t born.
You can’t have a revolution without something to rebel against. The Pakistani rulers had kept an iron grip on power in this land of Bangladesh since 1947. But Bangabandhu stuck to his idealism throughout the struggle of independence of Bangladesh, breaking ties with other puppet politicians as they sold out. He was an implacable force and fought the Pakistani rulers and their local accomplices with no compromise. Bangabandhu truly believed that he knew what was best for his people and the country. He was a high ranking planner and organiser, who succeeded through bold politicking where others relied on strength of the Pakistani military junta. He is considered to be a symbol of rebellion, patriotism and idealism.
A gifted fiery speaker and tireless political worker, he dedicated his life to making Bangladesh a better place and people responded by creating a cult of personality to him that exists to this day. The words of Herodotus “It is better by noble boldness to run the risk of being subject to half the evils we anticipate than to remain in cowardly listlessness for fear of what might happen” are truly having relevance with Bangabandhu.
When we think of this golden son of this soil, it reminds us of the words of Egon Schiele, “All beautiful and noble qualities have been united in him; he shall be the fruit which will leave eternal vitality behind even after its decay. How great must be our joy, therefore, to have given birth of a great son to us.” When we think of our Bangabandhu, we find William E Channing’s words as true, “Politics…regarded as the study and pursuit of the true, enduring good of a community, as the application of great and unchangeable principles to public affairs, is a noble sphere of thought and action.” We agree with Dwight D Eisenhower when he says—“Politics is a profession; a serious, complicated and, in its true sense, a noble one.” Bangabandhu was such a politician of noble stature and high level of respect gained by impressive development or achievement.
From the rising to the setting sun, may his presence come to our life every day; every time to inspire us to build a golden Bangladesh in line with his spirits. “Better to die fighting for freedom then be a prisoner all the days of your life” was the principal motto of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman throughout his life as pointed out by Bob Marley. Malcolm X Said, “Sometimes you have to pick the gun up to put the gun down” and maybe, the Sheikh has correctly assessed the same path and gave a clarion call to his people whom he loved so much in that direction.
In 1971, our strategy was not only to confront the cruel Pakistani beasts and their local collaborators, but also to lay siege to it; to deprive it of oxygen; to shame it; to mock it with our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness armed fights – and our ability to tell our own stories. Stories that are different from the ones we were once compelled to believe.
Bangabandhu’s historic March 7 speech is recognised as one of the world’s all-time best. It is correctly said Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s historic March 7 speech that effectively declared Bangladesh’s independence and it has been selected as one of the most rousing and inspirational wartime speeches in the last 2,500 years. The much-talked-about inspirational speech is considered by many to be one of the world’s best. He broke with established customs. Noted journalist and columnist Syed Badrul Ahsan has aptly said, “Sheikh Mujibur Rahman became from rebel to founding father of Bangladesh.” Sheikh Mujibur Rahman is popularly known in Bangladesh as Bangabandhu (Friend of Bengal) and he was a Bengali politician and the founding leader of Bangladesh. He is widely revered in the country as the Father of the Nation.
The eyes of the world focused on Dhaka’s the-then Race Course Maidan that day as international media descended upon the-then East Pakistan amidst speculation that Sheikh Mujib would declare a unilateral declaration of independence from Pakistan. The speculation gained credibility as there were open calls by people in this soil to make the unilateral declaration. The speech was immensely successful in giving Bengalis a clear goal of their struggle, the goal of independence. It inspired millions across Bangladesh to get engaged in the freedom struggle. This historic address was a de facto declaration of Bangladesh’s independence.
Infamous Lieutenant General AAK Niazi, Commander of Pakistani troops said, “Mujib virtually became the ruler… His residence at 32 Dhanmondi became the presidency (from March 7)…the command of the central government began to be defied.” “Bangladesh had virtually come into being on 7 March 1971” is said by Pakistani Lieutenant General Kamal Matinuddin.
Bangabandhu’s 7 March, 1971 speech has been recognised as one of the world-famous speeches in the book entitled, “We Shall Fight on the Beaches: The Speeches That Inspired History”, by Jacob F Field, a noted Historian. It is truly a very powerful speech in the annuals of the world history.
He was the most charismatic political personality the Bengali nation has ever produced. Embracing Bangabandhu at the Algiers Non-Aligned Summit in 1973, Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz, known as Fidel Castro, is a Cuban politician and a revolutionary who commented, “I have not seen the Himalayas. But I have seen Sheikh Mujib. In personality and in courage, this man is the Himalayas. I have thus had the experience of witnessing the Himalayas.”
-The End –
The writer is an independent political analyst based in Dhaka, Bangladesh who writes on politics, political and human-centred figures, current and international affairs.
Bangladesh’s National Board of Revenue (NBR) on Sunday withdrew import duty on both raw and refined sugar in order to enable consumers to get the sweetener at lower prices.
In a notification, NBR withdrew a 3,000 taka (about 28 U.S. dollars) specific duty on the import of raw sugar and 6,000 taka duty on refined sugar per tonne with immediate effect.
Apart from this, the NBR reduced the regulatory duty on the import of sugar to 25 percent from 30 percent.
The reduced import benefit, which reportedly comes following a proposal from the commerce ministry to bring down the prices of sugar from its current record level of up to 120 takas per kilogram, will remain effective until May 30 this year.
The overall import cost of raw and refined sugar is expected to decline by 6,500 takas and 9,000 takas per tonne respectively following the fresh duty waver and reduction measures, according to an estimate by the NBR. (1 U.S. dollar equals about 106 takas)
On January 8, 2023, Mohammad Salim, deputy leader of Block B, Rohingya Camp-8 West, in the Ukhiya Sub-District of Cox’s Bazar District, was killed by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA).
On January 7, Mohammad Rashid, the leader of Block A, Rohingya Camp-15, in Teknaf Sub-District of Cox’s Bazar District, was killed by masked assailants.
On January 6, 2023, an insurgent, identified as Nurunnabi, was injured in a shootout that took place between two terrorist groups at Block B-39, Rohingya Camp-8 East, in Ukhiya. The members of the Armed Police Battalion (APBn) and law enforcement agencies recovered a grenade from the house of the injured insurgent.
Three terrorism-linked incidents of violence in quick succession, resulting in two fatalities, reported from Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar District.
According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), there were 18 fatal terrorism-linked incidents which had resulted in 22 fatalities in 2022. In 2021, there were five incidents which had resulted in 17 fatalities.
The prominent incidents in 2022 included:
December 26: A group of 12 armed militants of ARSA shot dead a Rohingya leader in Block 16, Rohingya Camp-8 West in Ukhiya. The dead person was identified as Mohammad Hossain alias Shafique who was the leader of Block B.
November 29: Unidentified assailants shot at and stabbed to death a Rohingya community leader, Shahab Uddin. Uddin was a deputy leader in H-14 Block Rohingya Camp-12 in Ukhiya.
October 18: Unidentified men killed a Rohingya youth, Syed Hossain, at Rohingya Camp-19 in Ukhiya.
ARSA, a lethal insurgent group based in Myanmar, is escalating activities in Bangladesh. Investigations against ARSA ‘commander-in-chief’ Ataullah abu Ammar Jununi and 65 others were launched on November 23, 2022, in the case of the killing of a Directorate General of Forces Intelligence officer, Rizwan Rushdee, and the injuring of a Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) trooper, during an anti-smuggling operation in the Bandarban District on November 14, 2022.In October 2022, ARSA was responsible for multiple incidents of killing, attacks and threats in Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar. In 30 attacks just between August and October 2022, ARSA killed or injured Rohingyas by shooting, hacking and separating organs, to create a reign of terror among the refugees. According to partial data compiled by the Institute for Conflict Management (ICM), in the year 2022, nine ARSA-linked incidents of violence have been reported in Bangladesh, in which five persons (three civilians and two militants) were killed and another six (all civilians) were injured.
Moreover, there has been a marked increase in unlawful activities in the Rohingya refugee camps, through 2022, due to the growing and active presence of organized gangs. According to an August 11, 2022, report, Rohingyas had formed at least 20 organised armed gangs, presently active in the refugee camps, prominently including the ‘Salman Shah Group’, ‘Putia Group’, ‘Munna Group’, ‘Hakim Group’, and ‘Jokir Group’. The gangs were involved in serious crimes such as arms, drugs and human trafficking, gold smuggling, kidnapping, extortion and killing. They were also involved in robberies, burglaries, cybercrime, sexual violence and harassment, as well as illegal SIM card and the hundi (money laundering) trade. They have also been involved in grabbing land from Bangladeshi citizens and also run juvenile gangs.
As reported on August 11, 2022, some 101 Rohingyas have been killed in the last five years in internal conflicts among these gangs. In October, 2021, a report indicated that shoot-outs and clashes between these gangs in the Rohingya camp areas were motivated by efforts to establish supremacy and taking control of the illegal Yaba (a cocktail of methamphetamine and caffeine) and gold smuggling, money laundering, and extortion rackets that have proliferated there. As reported on October 3, 2021, the Officer-in-charge (OC) of Teknaf model Police Station in Cox’s Bazar District, Hafizur Rahman disclosed that a total of 27 cases have been filed against just one such group – the Hakim Group.
Moreover, some 100 armed groups, prominently including ARSA, the Rohingya Solidarity Organization (RSO), the Arakan Rohingya Army (ARA), and Jamaat-e-Arakan, are engaged in a turf war to control the camps. The conflict is most violent between ARSA and RSO. ARSA and ARA, led by Nabi Hossain, who was part of ARSA, but left the groups in 2020, are also violently engaged in their efforts to dominate the region. Though no authoritative data is available about the losses faced by these groups, Fawz-ul-Kabir alias Moulavi Abu Anas, ARSA ‘second-in-command’, who reportedly resigned from the outfit in June 2022, has publicly criticized the ARSA leadership for recent casualties suffered by the group at the hands of RSO.
Meanwhile, ARSA has targeted members of the Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights (ARSPHR), a group that represents parts of the refugee community. Chairman of the ARSPHR and a prominent Rohingya leader, Master Mohibullah, was shot dead by suspected ARSA militants at his office in Kutupalong, Cox’s Bazar District, on September 29, 2021. Subsequently, several ARSPHR members have been killed by ARSA. In the most prominent incident, on October 22, 2021, at least six Rohingya refugees, who were followers of Master Mohibullah, were killed and eight were injured, inside a refugee camp in Ukhiya.
On September 19, 2022, reacting to the rising waves of crime and violence Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal declared that no more Rohingya would be allowed to enter the country. Those who had come earlier, fleeing persecution in Myanmar, have created many problems, he added.
On October 27, 2022, three battalions of APBn arrested at least 41 Rohingyas, including six murder accused, in a special operation, ‘Operation Root Out’, in the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar.
In addition, the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) region, consisting of three hilly, forested southeastern Districts of Bandarban, Rangamati, and Khagracchari, is experiencing increasing ethnic violence even after 25 years of the signing of the CHT Accord of 1997. According to partial data collated by SATP, in 2022 incidents of violence have risen, with 15 fatalities recorded in 2022, as compared to 10 through 2021. The reasons for the increase are, the emergence of ethnicity based armed group, the Kuki-Chin National Front (KCNF) and the Marma National Party in CHT, which has challenged existing groups such as the Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti (PCJSS) and the United People’s Democratic Front (UPDF). The KCNF, an armed organization led by erstwhile PCJSS member Nathan Loncheu Bawm, appeared in 2021. Although it was first announced as the Kuki-Chin National Development Organization (KNDO), its latest incarnation as KCNF was declared after KNDO’s head, Nathan Loncheu Bawm, failed to contest the 2018 elections. KCNF’s main demand is the formation of an autonomous state for the ‘greater Kuki-Chin race’, within the CHT.
Moreover, as reported on January 4, 2023, there are concerns in the CHT that a vested quarter has been providing backing and shelter to armed terrorist groups, while meting out suppressive measures and imposing the responsibility for terrorist activities upon the Jumma people engaged in the movement demanding implementation of the CHT Accord. One such terrorist group is the KCNF, which is reportedly providing shelter and military training to an Islamist militant group, the Jamatul Ansar Fil Hind al Sharqiya (JAFHS), in their hideouts in the remote Ruma township in the southern part of CHT. On January 12, 2023, RAB disclosed that 12 operatives of JAFHS and 14 operatives of KCNF had been arrested, to that date, in the ongoing anti-militancy drive that started on October 10, 2022. On October 20, 2022, RAB arrested seven JAFHS operatives. The arrestees confessed that they had an agreement with KCNF to provide them shelter and training in exchange for money.
Meanwhile, the Bangladesh government continued to articulate and implement a zero-tolerance policy towards Islamist terrorism and the use of its territory as a terrorist safe haven. Through 2022, there was not a single case of a fatality related to proscribed Islamist terrorist groups reported in the country, continuing with the trend established in the previous year, 2021.
2022 witnessed a total of 263 arrests of Islamist terrorists/radicals belonging to various outfits, including 200 Jamaat-e-Islami-Islami Chhatra Shibir (JeI-ICS), 12 JAFHS, 10 Jamaatul Muslimeen, eight Ansar al-Islam, seven Hizb-ut-Tahrir (HuT), among others. Also, as reported on June 30, 2022, the Counter-Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) unit of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) started a process of deradicalizing militants inside prisons under the “Construction of the Counter-Terrorism and Transnational Crime Prevention Centre of Bangladesh Police”. Under this process, social, clinical, and educational psychologists; religious clerics, and counterterrorism experts were expected to start deradicalizing jailed militants and also those on bail from June 2022 onwards, CTTC chief Mohammad Asaduzzaman disclosed. While reiterating the zero tolerance policy on November 17, 2022, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina stated,
Let us all hold peace, the message of Islam in our hearts and eradicate darkness, illiteracy, discord, violence, terrorism and militancy from the society; resist the evil forces which are making misinterpretation of Islam. We’ve adopted zero tolerance towards militancy to uphold the peaceful glory of holy Islam by keeping the country free from militancy.
Meanwhile, the last quarter of 2022 recorded some violent incidents and clashes involving members of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and Awami League (AL), including:
November 28: Multiple cocktail bomb explosions occurred in the AL office in the Chanda area of the Kaliakoir Sub-District in Gazipur District. Two cases have been filed against 27 leaders and activists of BNP and more than 200 others for their alleged involvement in the explosions. On the same day, two bombs exploded at a fish farm on the Trimoni intersection in Gangni city in Meherpur District. Police later recovered another three bombs from the site of the explosion. However, no casualty was reported. A case was registered against 11 leaders and activists of BNP and its allied organizations in connection with the blasts.
November 29: Two AL members were injured as a crude bomb exploded in the AL party office in the Dhangora Junction area in Raiganj Sub-District, Sirajganj District. Later, BNP activists and two party leaders were charged. Raiganj BNP municipality unit convener Ainul Haque, its secretary Khairul Islam, and 20 named and 150 unnamed BNP men were accused in the case. Apart from direct violence, BNP and its allies are also working at the international level with various lobbies, to target the AL Government.
Meanwhile, on December 7, 2022, Sheikh Hasina declared that Bangladesh’s next general elections will be held during the first week of January 2024.
With elections in the coming year, and the increased activities of BNP and its cohorts, the situation in Bangladesh is likely to become precarious. Security Forces’ successes against the Islamists are, certainly, a signal achievement, but Islamist radicalization remains widespread, and the disruptive efforts of terrorist formations – some old and some new – persist. Moreover, the troubles in the Rohingya refugee camps have created new and serious threats to the internal peace and security of Bangladesh in general, and the Cox’s Bazar District and Bhashan Char, in particular. The escalating violence in CHT, is another flashpoint of concern. A relatively peaceful for Bangladesh could find itself abruptly destabilized as the General Elections approach.
India had always found Bangladesh by its side when needed. The bilateral security relation had always been reciprocal. Bangladesh has shown its commitment to the security issues of India. Especially the trend started when the prime minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina Came into power. As well as, the credit for a reciprocal security relationship goes to the Prime Minister for addressing India’s security concerns.
The northeast region of India is one of the most vulnerable areas in terms of security. Security cooperation has been a major feature in Bangladesh–India bilateral ties. India sees Bangladesh as the closest partner in ensuring security in its geographically disadvantaged northeast states. The security issues like terrorism, insurgency, and separatist movements in the northeast region have been controlled and managed, partly because of the immense help provided by Bangladesh. Bangladesh has taken significant steps in dealing with major northeastern insurgent organizations and maintained close cooperation with India in terms of intelligence sharing and security matters. In addition, Bangladesh has also entered an Extradition Treaty with India in January 2013 to address the security concerns of each other and strengthening mutual trust. With the treaty, India gained a way to clamp down on insurgency in the northeastern region of the country. Not only that, the militants of northeastern states failed to get any shelter in Bangladesh because of the land border agreement with Bangladesh signed in 2015. This stopped them from carrying out their operations for separatist movements and insurgencies in the North East. The incumbent Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar showed his gratitude towards Bangladesh by saying that, the terrorist activities in the country’s northeast region have declined because of India’s strategic land boundary pact with Bangladesh.
Terrorism is one of the pressing security issues in both Bangladesh and India. As mentioned before, Bangladesh has a significant role in fighting terrorism in northeastern states as they had been facing longstanding insurgency movements. In the past, the insurgents used to use the territory of Bangladesh as their base. But this situation was strong-handedly mitigated after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina came into power. Her commendable actions against the terrorists have contributed to opening up a new era of cooperation between the two countries.
For example, Bangladesh handed over top Ulfa leader Anup Chetia, a founding member of one of India’s top insurgent groups United Liberation Front of Asom (Ulfa), to India 18 years after his arrest in Dhaka for trespassing. This person had been in prison since his arrest in Mohammadpur on December 21, 1997. It was a major boost to bilateral security cooperation between India and Bangladesh. Not only that, Bangladesh sent back some other top Ulfa leaders, including ArabindaRajkhowa, in 2009 through the border with the northeastern Indian state of Assam. Both extraditions expedited the process of peace talks between the separatists and New Delhi.
Moreover, the government of Sheikh Hasina strengthened oversight mechanisms in border areas to arrest any kind of smuggling of illegal consignments for the insurgents operating in the northeastern states of India. Bangladesh has handed over to India a list of several factories operating inside their country including some close to the border of northeastern states of India which produced phensidyl only targeting Bangladesh as its market. The phensidyl produced in those factories, set up by the Indian businessmen, were being smuggled into Bangladesh by organized cross-border syndicates.
The northeastern states are almost detached from the Indian mainland. The terrorists and separatists take the advantage of the “Chicken’s Neck” and carried out their insurgent movements in these states. Bangladesh, in turn, has been always by India’s side in combating the situation though some views of India and Bangladesh are completely different. Therefore, the divergent views of India and Bangladesh to understand security issues need to be synchronized for mutual benefit. Only active security engagement between the two countries would help in transforming relations from the present state of mutual suspicion to one of mutual benefit and mutual trust. Both of the countries should consider the bilateral issues from a pragmatic view to reach a consensus on contentious bilateral issues as well as to further strengthen this relationship to a new horizon of development. A long-standing durable relationship between the two countries is necessary to maintain stability in the northeastern states of India.
Views expressed are personal
Two US Congressmen, Mr. Chabot from Ohio (Republican) and Mr. Khanna from California (Democrat), have moved a resolution entitled “Recognizing the Bangladesh Genocide of 1971” in the House of Representative on October 14, 2022 calling that the House “recognizes that such atrocities against ethnic Bengalis and Hindus constitute crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide.” Genocide is a serious crime and genocide was definitely committed during this fateful year but the question that one needs to ask is genocide of whom and by whom. There existed at least three communities at the time, but the resolution mentions only two – Bengalis (Muslims) and Hindus. It ignores Urdu-speaking non-Bengali Muslims known as Biharis because most of them migrated there in 1947 from the neighboring Indian state Bihar. More than fifty years later, one needs to analyze conditions of all three communities to find the truth behind this genocide claim.
An Extraordinary Year
The year 1971 was an extraordinary year, but explanation for events of this year demands some reference to the history of the whole region. The area (Bengal, Bihar and Orissa), rich both agriculturally and industrially, attracted immigrants and colonizers throughout the medieval period. In 1757, the English East India Company (EIC) occupied the territory and introduced a discriminatory policy to eliminate Muslims from socio-economic power by promoting Hindus, although in pre-British Bengal Hindus enjoyed equal opportunities. The British white supremacist Islamophobic approach well matched with the Hindu upper caste outlook. The Hindu rise in economic and political superiority soon resulted into Hindu cultural domination – a phenomenon that came to be known as the Bengal Renaissance. During the century long EIC rule, Muslims and Hindu lower caste suffered heavily. William Hunter, an EIC civil servant, described the condition of Muslims as “‘the Musalmans’ as ‘in all respects…a race ruined under British rule’.” The colonizers, however, seemed to have learned a lesson through this experience: after 1857, they did not destroy a whole community; they only created loyal native aristocrats. Muslims of Bengal, on their part, secured the separate electorate system – a system that safeguarded Muslim voting Muslim members of legislative assemblies in an environment where the Hindu majoritarian approach had threatened Muslim interests. This system eventually helped establishing Pakistan as a separate nation in 1947. However, due to the British discriminatory policy, Bengali Muslims hardly had any representation in top civil and military bureaucratic cadre in the newly established government in Pakistan. The 1971 catastrophe must be understood in this context.
United Pakistan Years
The twenty-four years history of Pakistan (1947-1971) is a tragic history for Muslims of the sub-continent. Pakistan’s idealism was lost and within a decade, elites in Pakistan fulfilled the objective of the former EIC official Lord Macaulay’s desire of creating agents of English taste (brown sahib) in colonial territories. They hardly recognized contributions of Bengali Muslims to the Pakistan Movement and made no gesture to create equal opportunities for East Pakistanis to catch up with their legitimate share in the country’s civil and military bureaucracy and in its economic growth. In fact, the only handful of those East Pakistani officials who had held higher positions in the British-Indian administration, were also deprived of further promotion. Justice Abu Saleh Muhammad Akram, the senior most serving judge to succeed the first chief justice of Pakistan’s Supreme Court did not do so. Instead, Justice Muhammad Munir became the second Chief Justice of Pakistan’s apex court. Justice Munir soon came up with a new term – the doctrine of necessity – to validate an executive action justifying the dissolution of Pakistan’s Constituent Assembly. East Pakistan was also deprived of their fair share in central government’s assets while the main source of foreign currency income came from an East Pakistani product, namely jute. This created a huge tension between the two regions of Pakistan. East Pakistani demands for justice and equal rights went to deaf ears. In Pakistan today there is a common tendency to blame India for what happened in 1971, although both the Qur’an and history has taught us that whatever befalls a community, it happens due to its internal weaknesses. More than half a century later, one needs to reflect and look back and identify its causes. Aside from historical causes noted above, one finds plenty of immediate weaknesses. We will highlight only a few here.
Moving toward Conflict
Faced with protests against his dictatorial rule, President Ayub Khan handed over power to the chief of armed forces, although under the constitution formulated under his own patronage, he was supposed to hand over power to the Speaker of the National Assembly. The Speaker happened to have been from East Pakistan. The new military general turned president, Yahya Khan, conducted a general election in 1970 but did not ensure a free and fair process. In East Pakistan, the Awami League (AL) – the party that secured most seats in the parliament – made a mockery of the system. It began with a huge propaganda campaign by publishing pamphlets with fake information about discrepancies between the two wings of Pakistan. Then they made sure that none of its political rivals could hold large public rallies anywhere in East Pakistan. On January 18, 1970 they attacked an opposition public rally (since January 1 public political activities were allowed) killing two and injuring hundreds in the open daylight in the capital city Dhaka. Neither the martial law administration, nor the civilian authorities took any action for exaggerating and spreading fake information about provincial inequalities. They also began fascist type attacks on political opponents. The AL had already a reputation of having a fascist approach to politics: In 1957, some of its leaders were involved in killing the Deputy Speaker of East Pakistan provincial Assembly during an ongoing session. Its student’s wing, East Pakistan Chhttra League, was also known for campus violence all over East Pakistan. By the end of Ayub regime, they began to receive support from International Islamophobic forces. A former KGB agent, Yuri Bezmenov, in an interview has revealed mechanisms of Soviet assistance to breakup Pakistan.
Years later, I found more information about how India was assisting secessionist elements in East Pakistan. In a casual discussion, an Indian friend of mine told me that he had received an offer from one of his neighbors that he could assist settling a personal dispute by supplying him with grenades. How he could have a military weapon in his personal possession, my friend wondered. His neighbor explained that when he was posted in East Pakistan during the last days of Ayub regime to work for Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) of the Indian armed forces, he officially received those weapons. Since there was no accountability, he kept some when he retired. Many academic works on RAW would later confirm this claim. Nevertheless, as soon as the election results were out in late 1970, a drama of negotiations began between the military and political leaders. While these negotiations were still going on, extremist elements of AL began to target non-Bengalis all over East Pakistan; not only looting and vandalizing their properties but also sporadically killing them extremely cruelly. Both the martial law and civilian authorities maintained complete silence on these atrocities.
Beginning of the Carnage
The government of Yahya Khan decided to take the fatal military action on March 25, 1971. Reporting on their first night’s operation in a Dhaka University hostel, a Pakistani army officer describes in a recently self-published book:
In another room of the hostel, twenty stark naked young girls of West Pakistan and Bihari origin were found locked up, some since as long as fifteen days. In Jul 1971, I had the opportunity to speak to one of the NCOs of this unit, who was a part of the party, which recovered these unfortunate girls. This tough and hardy soldier shuddered at the memory and said that what they saw at that time would neither be forgotten nor forgiven by anyone present there. The young and innocent girls had been kept naked throughout their captivity and were sadistically tortured and brutally raped beyond all conceivable limits. The last addition to this group was a fifteen-year-old daughter of a Bihari businessman, who had been forcibly lifted from her house on 23 Mar, and during the last two days had been raped by at least 50 hoodlums. Five of these girls later expired due to internal injuries. It was only on witnessing such barbaric and inhuman episodes that some soldiers went berserk too and it became difficult for their officers to maintain the traditional control and discipline of the Army. In some instances, even some officers lost control over themselves. The intent here is to present some idea of the inherent stress of the situation and the extreme emotional trauma the troops were exposed to. Suffice it to say that for many soldiers as well as some officers, the spirit of revenge coupled with the opportunity to exact it proved too strong to be curbed merely by platitudes of the traditional Army discipline. [The Creation of Bangladesh: Witness to Carnage 1971 (p 217)]
Killings and rape of non-Bengali communities outside of Dhaka continued after March 25. A Bangladeshi academic, Taj Hashmi, has recently narrated his personal experience and developments in Bangladesh in the “Preface” of his book Fifty Years of Bangladesh, 1971-2021: Crisis of Culture, Development, Governance and Identity (Palgrave, MacMillan, 2022) as:
“At Sirajganj, a small town in northern Bangladesh before the Pakistani Army entered the town on 27 April 1971, I lost many Bihari school friends, who were burned alive or brutally killed by Bengali lynching mobs. Fazlul Haq Qureshi was one of them. He saved my life the day before he was killed along with all of his immediate family members. Almost 700 Bihari men, women and children met the same fate at Sirajganj alone, where I grew up.”
He has devoted one chapter in the book about the merciless massacre of Bihari Muslims in 1971. The Indian-American academic Sarmila Bose has perhaps conducted the most extensive and painstaking research on the subject. In 2006, in an article in The Telegraph (India) she captioned a picture as “The massacre may have been genocide, but it wasn’t committed by the Pakistan army. The dead men were non-Bengali residents of Jessore, butchered in broad daylight by in Bengali nationalists.” Bose has partially answered the question that we have asked in the title of this article. And yet the Congressmen have failed even to mention massacre of non-Bengalis in 1971. In an article writing for Aljazeera in 2011 after the publication of her major work on the subject she wrote:
As soon as I started to do systematic research on the 1971 war, I found that there was a problem with the story which I had grown up believing: from the evidence that emanated from the memories of all sides at the ground level, significant parts of the “dominant narrative” seem not to have been true. Many “facts” had been exaggerated, fabricated, distorted or concealed. Many people in responsible positions had repeated unsupported assertions without a thought; some people seemed to know that the nationalist mythologies were false and yet had done nothing to inform the public. I had thought I would be chronicling the details of the story of 1971 with which I had been brought up, but I found instead that there was a different story to be told.
The different story that is missing regarding events of 1971 is the story of the treatment of non-Bengalis. Why are these stories missing? Not only the Yahya regime – the regime that imposed a war on the total population of East Pakistan with its Operation Searchlight on March 25; it also made non-Bengalis and pro-Pakistani Bengalis vulnerable to aggression of the secessionist elements. By then most Bengali members of Pakistan armed forces either had revolted or were eliminated by Pakistan armed forces themselves. Only a handful remained loyal to Pakistan. Indiscriminate killings continued by all sides. The Yahya regime foolishly kicked out all foreign journalists from East Pakistan and heavily censored internal press. Subsequent governments in Pakistan seemed to have been shy to speak about it. Brig Karrar Ali Agha failed find a reputed Pakistani publisher for his work. Even to this day, the government of Pakistan has not released findings of its own appointed commission on the subject. The Hamoodur Rahman Commission report came into the public eye only when an Indian news channel leaked it.
I have always wondered about reports of non-Bengali massacres in various parts of then East Pakistan. Were these reports exaggerating the situation? As a college student at the time, I participated in many protest marches during the last days of Ayub Khan, and I witnessed growing tension but I could not have imagined such behavior against non-Bengalis. However, knowing the character of AL student wing, Chhattra League, I could not rule out the possibility of such atrocious behavior. Yet, reports of organized massacres all over East Pakistan struck me as extremely shocking. This reminds of many unknown faces participating in anti-Ayub rallies and my Indian friend’s assertion of the presence of RAW agents in East Pakistan makes sense to me now.
Genocide of Whom?
Does this mean we are suggesting that Pakistan armed forces did not commit genocidal crimes? Definitely not. However, genocide by definition demands evidences of organized killings and elimination of a community. Therefore, one should examine whether Pakistan army’s actions were in response to some of the atrocities committed by AL thugs earlier, as reported by Brig Karrar Ali. I have discussed the subject with Dr. Gregory Stanton, President of Genocide Watch, explained the situation in Bangladesh during the period, but he was insisting on Hindu genocide at the time. Referring to his Bangladeshi and Indian colleagues, he told me that any recognition of Bihari genocide would only undermine the genocide committed by the Pakistani troops. He also expressed his reluctance to conduct further inquiry on the subject. Are the interest groups politicizing the issue? Only a thorough examination of all three communities today has the potential of finding the answer. Such undertaking, however, may jeopardize India’s image as a “magnanimous power.”
The resolution placed at the US Congress wants us to recognize India’s “magnanimous role” in creating Bangladesh. Hundreds and thousands of Bangladeshis, particularly in the diaspora, are crying foul today because of India’s hegemonic control over their country. They forget that the geography of their country is the main factor that their leaders in 1947 opted for fighting for a homeland jointly with what became Pakistan. More than half a century later one should also seriously examine India’s role in the whole episode.
Views expressed are personal
Today is 16 December. It is our Victory Day. This is a day of celebration for us all in Bangladesh!In memory of our Victory Day of 16 December 1971, our fallen heroes who left us in the heart and in the lungs, this round ember of pure love, that I try to rekindle with my poor means, with each breath. We will one day disappear, but let’s swing like feathers before we merge into the ground.
Today, as we should every day, we remember those who volunteered, sacrificed, served, fought, and died, for our freedom. We thank you, and we salute you as we salute those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. We will never forget it. We will remember you.
Bangladesh is a land of countless festivals, in stride with the cycle of the seasons. These proceed with sowing and harvesting and around them have grown legends, most of them portraying the victory of good over evil. Joy Bangla (meaning victory to Bengal). Joy Bangabandhu. Joy Bangladesh, we love you. Joy our valiant and patriotic people who fought with the cruel Pakistani military junta and their local henchmen for establishing Bangladesh in the 1971 war. We salute those heroic people of Bangladesh who were brutally murdered by the evil forces of the Pakistani establishment.
We have lost in nostalgia for those horrible months of 1971 and are now enjoying the sunshine of our independence on this bright morning. Victory Day is Bangladesh’s most important secular holiday and a key element of the national identity, reflecting the nation’s enormous sufferings and honouring millions of victims of the bloody hell 1971 war, but we also wish to speak about the need today to fight global terrorism and cooperate with other nations to do that.
Victory Day is a public holiday in Bangladesh. In a remarkable feat of historical memory, today it is a vast torrent that fills the streets of every Bangladesh city. Yet, it is hard to deny the sheer weight of public enthusiasm on display, with whole families walking together to honour their ancestors, generating a mood that seems both sombre and festive. It is something for parents to do with their children, generation after generation. About three million Bangladesh people died and much of the country was devastated, leaving almost no family untouched. The anti-Pakistani victory is a great source of pride for our people, and legitimacy for our state, at a time when there is quite a lot of uncertainty. So, the idea is to take every opportunity to celebrate it.
This year’s Victory Day will commemorate the 49th anniversary of the capitulation of the Pakistani regime. Victory Day is comparable is like to Memorial Day in Bangladesh, and dedicated to the commemoration of all who died during our glorious Liberation War in 1971. Both are typically marked with parades and the visiting of memorials and cemeteries. For us, it can be canonised as the “Great Patriotic War” in Bangladesh — can in terms of mythological importance be compared to D-Day for Americans? Both events have left unforgettable imprints in the psyches of the respective societies.
While paying dues to fallen heroes is commended around the world, Victory Day in Bangladesh has increasingly become a manifestation of our people’s supreme sacrifices in 1971. Victory Day marks the decisive battle during the 1971 War of Independence in which our people defeated Pakistani forces who sought to re-assert control over our sacred land. Although it marks an important historical battle, the annual military parade also commemorates and recognises the contributions of all our people in their fight to gain and retain our independence.
Victory Day is celebrated all over the country. We hope the people of Bangladesh celebrate the end of Pakistani domination on us and remember those who stood by us in those times when Pakistan’s Army and their local accomplices were knocking at our doors, bombing our places into oblivion and killing millions of our people with no mercy in their hearts. The veterans also say that even though those horrible days are long gone, they should never be forgotten, adding that unfortunately, our world has changed from true patriotism to mollification.
The people bring together people whose near and dear ones fought for the independence of Bangladesh. Thus, we are honouring the memory of heroes who earned this hard-won victory 49 years ago, the war, the deadliest conflict in human history, came to an end as Pakistan’s Instrument of Surrender came into force on 16 December 1971. Almost all people of Bangladesh’s population were caught up in this 9-month-long war. Fireworks will conclude the day of commemoration. The observance of Victory Day is carried annually out to pay respects to the victims and fallen heroes of the war and to give laurels to the surviving veterans.
Long live the cause of freedom! Being a landmark event, people commemorate the patriots who gallantly fought the then-fascist Pakistani troops. It was the shared arduous experience of defending our beloved country that shaped and formed Bangladesh’s modern nation. The memory of the war has become sacred, and, for most people, it is as important as their own birthday. The emergence of Bangladesh has always had a significant place in Bangladesh’s ideology and its importance to its people can be magnified.
With some three million deaths in the fight against the Pakistani military junta and its local confederates, most of Bangladesh’s families experienced personal loss. Victory Day is a public holiday to mark the defeat of the Pakistani enemies by our freedom-loving forces in accompaniment of the Indian people and the Indian Army. The Pakistan Army ceded to the joint command forces of Bangladesh and India on this day 49 years ago. Victory Day is the festival of hope and togetherness. May our life be illuminated with endless prosperity, sparkling happiness and glowing health and that should be our prayers on this gracious occasion. We wish all parts of light in our lives and our dreams come true for a golden Bangladesh.
It is rejoicing that will be when we all see the green and red flag flying atop. We will sing and shout the victory because life is a highway. Righteousness was restored driving away wrongful-nesses; those were the days of great trials of fierce battles, darkness, tanks, bombs, guns and bayonets; still, we were the voice in the desert crying to behold the victorious freedom fighters were coming, riding on the clouds shining like the sun, at the trumpet’s call.
Lift our voices because it is the day of remembrance out of the harrowing hill, salvation will then come to our golden garden.
And those were the days of hell, but our dry bones became as flesh as living, and the time came for rebuilding the devastated country of praise. Bangladesh’s beauty is a merited gift; her departure is unnecessary, and her lips without speaking can write history. Bangabandhu’s call is the one we want to answer for eternity; to speak until no words remain; give until there is nothing to defeat to his submission is life’s greatest victory. The night flower of this heart was like a rainbow, our presence brightened the horizons, but just like the stars disappeared with the daylight.
Our eyes were full of tears once we discovered the beasts ramped on us. The news of the black night of 26 March 1971 blew like a missile in the heat with a fire shooting out from the dark sweltering us, blazing us, leaving the world of our land, all ribbon tied. Dimples and pretty lips, we dropped our world with beauty and tissues fighting back the enemies in full force. Filled with pink ivory issues, this is the way that we felt, we were real… They were killers, they were a disease! They sat there and shattered our lives. With many of people, you will discover we did not break like glass. Still, we walked in high heels strolling through pink valley skies. With a charm called a Pink Ribbon; – we wore.
Melodic lullabies echo as heartstrings strum secret chords as transcendental images appear. Stargazers are lost for words kaleidoscopic Illuminations paint the sky in an optimistic light. Hope descends in serene silence floating through shadows of the night dancing spirits move to dulcet tunes. Shadows can be seen against the moon. Do you hear our call? To the hallowed ground, we trip hand in hand with a new chapter to embrace in its splendour. Ring out voices on notes sweet and clear. To the universe, our souls will surrender, and fragments of the past spun into flags of freedom. Our Victory March erased from strife away with the racing winds ever so bold singing Golden Bangladesh to hail a new Life on this Victory Day; the lighter the air the higher we climb.
No more the fetid chitterlings to the fading strains of a repetitive tune. Not broken -We rise – We matter. Victory Day celebrations spell a victory for Bangladesh. Joy Bangla and Joy Bangabandhu. Joy Four National Leaders. Joy all Freedom Fighters.