A Golden Jubilee…
Bangladesh celebrates its Victory Day on December 16 every year to commemorate the victory of the Combined Forces in support of a Free Bangladesh over the Pakistani Forces in the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971. This year was not an exception to this. Bangladesh has turned 50 as an Independent Nation in 2020. Moreover, the People of Bangladesh celebrate the Birth Centenary of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (March 17, 1920 – August 15, 1975) – the ‘Father of the Nation‘ of Bangladesh who had served as the first President of country and also as the Prime Minister from April 17, 1971 until his assassination on August 15, 1975 – this year. Their aspiration to be free from the yoke of Pakistan revolved around him. The world has seen a lot of able Statesmen. However, there would not be hardly one like Sheikh Mujib, as countless people were ready to sacrifice their lives in the name of Bongobandhu (the Friend of Bangladesh).
Sheikh Mujib possessed the quality to blend with the masses. Also, he had the strength to sensitise his countrymen about their root, as well as about racial and linguistic values, in order to Unite and stand in Solidarity in the quest of realising their Dream. Otherwise, it would not have been possible for the People of Bangladesh to stand against the brutal repression of the Military Rule of Pakistan for nine months, especially when their leader was locked in prison! They did not hesitate to sacrifice their lives in order to fulfil their dream, instilled in their hearts by their beloved leader! The unwavering support and assistance extended by Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of India, training of Mukti Bahinee (the Bengali Freedom Fighters) by the Indian Army, and their interactions were considered as milestones as far as Bangladesh’s path to Independence was concerned. It is to be noted that the support of erstwhile Soviet Union and the antagonism by China and the US also influenced the regional geopolitics at that period of time. Bengalis across the Globe, would remember Bongobandhu, forever, for his relentless pursuit to make a Nation independent and victorious by instilling the desire for Freedom in its core…
It is never easy to achieve Independence through War… However, it is equally difficult to uphold the values of Independence in a Free Nation! It should be borne in our minds that Democracy, Socialism and Secularism had become main pillars of the Constitution of Independent Bangladesh. Bongobandhu used to say that Independent Bangladesh should belong to all: Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Bengalis and non-Bengalis, alike. His dream was to preserve and enrich the Bengali Language and Culture. In a newly Independent Nation, it is quite natural that the people possess a Nationalistic emotion. However, the word Bengali became synonymous with Secular Nationalism in the Constitution! As per the Constitution, all the religious communities would live in Bangladesh together, peacefully, and that there should not be any form of Communalism. Bongobandhu, sincerely, expressed hope that the Liberal Bengali Language and Culture would unite the South Asian country.
Unfortunately, the secular values have been attacked in Bangladesh many a time in the last five decades. The unfortunate assassination of Bongobandhu in 1975 is a burning example of that. Later, during a rule imposed by the Armed Forces erased the word Secularism from the Constitution of Bangladesh. The term returned to the Constitution only in 2011 with a Constitutional Amendment. However, attempts to spread Communalism are still on. Religious Fundamentalism is quite active in the realm of Society and Politics. That is why an extremist group demolished some statues and sculptures across the country, terming them ‘Anti-Islamic’. The group, reportedly, attacked a statue of Bongobandhu in Kushthia!
The then Government had removed the statue of Fakir Lalon Shah – a prominent Bengali philosopher, author, Baul saint, mystic, songwriter, social reformer and thinker in British India – from the Dhaka airport premises in 2008. As Bangladesh is celebrating the ‘Mujib Year’ or ‘Bongobondhu Botsor‘, a section of the people is discussing whether the Secular Dream, as envisaged by Bongobandhu, has been shattered, or not…
Sheikh Hasina – the daughter and successor of Bongobandhu and the current Prime Minister – has tasted various forms of success at the National and International levels. Under her leadership, Bangladesh has been tackling the COVID-19 Pandemic, as well as the Rohingya Refugee Crisis, with a fair amount of success, apart from registering an increase in the Per Capita National Income. At a time when the Islamic hardliners are destroying her father’s statue, Sheikh Hasina’s Government has completed the task of installing steel spans at the Padma Bridge that is still under construction. She had to face a lot of problems while implementing this mega project, as the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and other Global Lenders refused to provide Bangladesh with loans, claiming that the country’s Administration was a corrupt one… Bangladesh is constructing the bridge on its own!
Attaining self-sufficiency and being resolute in one’s faith had been the ideal of Bongobandhu. Now, it is a challenge for Sheikh Hasina to safeguard the Constitution-recognised Secularism, and to successfully preserve the rich Cultural Heritage of Bangladesh at the beginning of the Golden Jubilee of the country’s Independence…
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