I have been absent from this column for the last few weeks. This was because, like the whole nation, I was in a state of inaction, almost zombied by the turn of events around us. In order to put perspective in the light of reality we are, from time to time, constrained to fall back on history much to the discomfort of some who are averse to doing so. All the same today, in this column, I would endeavour to recount, in brief, events from history leading up to the present when the youth of our country, like in the past, have again been awakened by their conscience and have taken upon themselves the responsibilities of putting things right.
So, here it goes!
March 7, 1971. Bangabandhu gave a clarion call for the Independence of Bangladesh.
March 25, 1971. The marauding Pakistan army started Operation Search Light in Dhaka mowing down the defenceless people of Dhaka.
March 26, 1971 (Very early in the morning). Declaration of Independence by Bangabandhu was transmitted across the country through the wireless of East Pakistan Rifles.
March 27, 1971. Major Ziaur Rahman declared independence of Bangladesh on behalf of Bangabandhu, our great national leader (in his language).
And our war of liberation started spontaneously.
Between March 25 and 26 a number of senior Bengali Army officers from Comilla cantonment, Gazipur cantonment and at various other places in East Pakistan revolted and went into action against the occupation army of Pakistan.
During the same time Bengali air force and navy officers as well revolted from their respective places and joined the war of liberation.
April 17, 1971. The elected Bengali members of the National Assembly of Pakistan congregated at a mango orchard in Baidyanath Tala of Meherpur sub-division under Kushtia district. The unilateral declaration of independence of the people's republic of Bangladesh was announced from this congregation. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was elected the first President of Bangladesh. During his absence, Syed Nazrul Islam was to stand in for him. Tajuddin Ahmed was elected the first Prime Minister of Bangladesh. The first government of independent Bangladesh was sworn in.
July 11-17, 1971. Bangladesh was divided into 11 sectors under same number of sector commanders. Each sector was further structured into a combination of sub-sectors, each commanded by a sub-sector commander. A special contingent of naval commandos was also formed in that meeting.
August 1971. A conspiracy against the war of liberation and in favour of a confederation with Pakistan was revealed by the Mujib Nagar Government and people connected with it were removed from important positions. However, a conspiracy to dismember Bangladesh was on with the help of the then US and Pakistan government.
August 15, 1975. As a part of that conspiracy, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his compatriots were brutally killed with their families in the dead of night.
November 4, 1975. The four distinguished leaders of Bangladesh Politics namely Syed Nazrul Islam, Tajuddin Ahmed, Kamruzzaman and Syed Mansur Ali were brutally killed within the Dhaka Central jail.
November 6, 1975. A valiant sector commander of the liberation war and a number of his deputies were murdered by the forces that were involved in the killing of Bangabandhu and also the jail killing. This opened the flood gate of the collaborators with the Pakistan army during the war of 1971 to emerge in limelight.
Golam Azam came back from Pakistan and was given the citizenship of Bangladesh. Rest of the Jamati leaders who were imprisoned were also released.
Subsequently, some of them were made ministers in the Bangladesh Cabinet. Non-communalism or secularism from the constitution was done away with.
We were conspired to be on the path of a fundamentalist state.
All these are a part of history. Mention must be made of the fact that common Bangladeshis never condoned the conspiracy hatched and put to practice by the successive Post-Bangabandhu governments. Therefore, Jamat-e-Islami, led by the Pakistani collaborators, could never emerge as a dominant political force. They never got more than a very small number of seats in the parliament from any general election held in Bangladesh. Despite that the legacy of the Pakistanis within the administration of Bangladesh overlooked the Jamat conspiracy and allowed them to flourish. They were also nurtured by money sent from various like-minded sources and within Bangladesh their business flourished to an unimaginable extent. They took recourse to political killing and pillage in collaboration with their mentors. So, we saw hand-grenades hurled at public meetings killing prominent political leaders, sitting members of the parliament etc.
Lately when the present government under the international crimes tribunal started a trial of the war criminals and the criminals against humanity with proven evidence, the culprits went as far as to declare that there would be a civil war in Bangladesh unless the process of trial were stopped forthwith. They actually let loose a reign of terror in the name of demonstration, burning and destroying properties and beating the law enforcement authority mercilessly. This was going on unabated when the youth turned around. They turned around when a person with conclusive evidence of ordering to kill, rape and destroy the properties of Bengalis in 1971 was spared from the foremost punishment enunciated in our law for the crimes he committed. So, they came in hundreds, thousands and hundreds of thousands and congregated in Shahbag. The youth were enthusiastically encouraged by people from various walks of life- old and young, men, women and children! The wave created in Shahbag reached the far flung areas of Bangladesh. It is like awakening of the dead souls of the martyrs of 1971. Nothing short of retrieving the values of 1971 would be acceptable anymore.
Though it seems inevitable that the long lost glory of Bangladesh is going to be reincarnated, I dare say, that we have miles to go. All kinds of conspiracies have been unleashed to smother this initiative and take the nation back to pre-71. This is not new. The generation that fought the war of liberation faced the same ordeal but their spirits, valour and sincerity of purpose was so deeply embedded in their hearts that all conspiracies were blown away like straws in a tempest.
Time has come for all of us, old and young, to hold hands together and forge forward towards the freedom that our martyrs dreamt of 41 years ago.