Women's role in '52, '71, Shahbagh | The Daily Star
01:16 PM, December 02, 2014 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:16 PM, December 02, 2014

Women's role in '52, '71, Shahbagh

Women's role in '52, '71, Shahbagh

A mother and her daughter joined Shahbagh Projonmo Chottor/Gonojahoron Moncho in Dhaka and expressed their solidarity with the movement in demanding death sentence for the war criminals. While her daughter chanted slogans the mother cried with joy! During the last 42 years, the mother could not demand justice for the killing of her husband by the war criminals during the Liberation War in 1971, but her daughter had demanded justice now. Better late than never she realised, being a freedom fighter.

Those memories of 1971 took her 42 years back to a battlefield where she chanted the slogan Joy Bangla, and today her daughter too chanted Joy Bangla. She felt proud of her daughter. She smiled and wiped the tears from her eyes with a corner the white sari she wears as a widow. The irony of fate is that people know her as a widow instead of knowing/recognising her as a freedom fighter! Maybe the reason is that she is a woman.

Many of you may remember that there was a poster in 1971 with the writing Banglar mayera, meyera, sokolei muktijoddha (mothers and daughters, all of them are freedom fighters of Bangladesh). That is true for this mother and daughter. Who knows, maybe more mothers and daughters like them, who lost their near and dear ones in the Liberation War, were also demanding justice like in Shahbagh elsewhere in Bangladesh.

In fact, active participation of girls and women has given a new dimension to the Shahbagh gathering and all over Bangladesh. It established the historical truth that women of Bangladesh must get equal credit for their participation in Bangla Language Movement in 1952 as well as in the Liberation War in 1971. 1952 helped create 1971 and placed our independent Bangladesh on the map of the world. So, the credit should go equally to women and men for this great achievement!

Lucky Akter's slogans encouraged/energised all the participants at Shahbagh. They also encouraged the people of Bangladesh to believe in the spirit of the Liberation War and to join the movement with the feeling that they were fighting another war against the same enemies/war criminals who killed three million people and dishonoured about half a million women of Bangladesh in 1971. Definitely, this new revolution will help us build a new Bangladesh free from war criminals through a renewed spirit of patriotism in today's children, youths, girls and women, boys and men, irrespective of race or gender or whether they were rich or poor.

In the Bangla Language Movement in 1952, it was women who first went to the streets during the curfew. They broke Section 144, avoided police barricade, assembled at Amtola on Dhaka University campus and joined the movement. Dr. Halima Khatun, Dr. Sufia Khatun, Rawshan Ara Bachchu, Sufia Ibrahim, Fazilatunnessa, Rani Bhattachariya, Pratibha Mutsuddi, Sofia Khan, Zulekha, Nuri, Sara Taifur, Sufia Ahmed, Safia Khatun et al were among the protesters. Some of them were arrested and harassed.

Language Movement activist Professor Halima Khatun told me that after February was recognised as International Mother Language Day, the Movement has been getting due importance. But women's contributions are still ignored. As a result, 60 years after the Language Movement, the nation does not have a written history about their valiant role. It is really a matter of great regret.

The new generation and the world know very little about the contribution of women in our Language Movement. It is true that 1952 created 1971. Finally, we earned Bangla and Bangladesh with the sacrifice of the martyrs of the Language Movement as well as the martyrs of the Liberation War. We must keep in mind that February 21 is not only a day for us, but also a day for all the people of the world, as it is now International Mother Language Day, declared by Unesco in 1999.

Prominent freedom fighter Dr. Laila Parveen Banu told me: “Liberation War of 1971 has made all classes of girls and women of Bangladesh courageous, confident and encouraged to march forward. So the empowerment of women in Bangladesh was accomplished by them. But we could not still build a Bangladesh with gender equality, which we dreamt of in 1971 and fought for. Only a small number of women in our country are empowered, those who are well off; but unfortunately poor girls and women have been fighting to survive because most of them are disempowered. Thousands of girls are working in the garment industries and contributing a lot to earn foreign currency, moving the wheel of mainstream development; what is the government doing for them, nothing.” Dr. Lalila added that we expected a social change and democracy in our country, but that change did not happen and democracy is not yet established. 42 years after our independence, women still work in the brickfields, but they do not get equal wages asmen. So discrimination against girls and women exists in many sectors, and in their families also, she concludes.

So, I would like to say that Shahbagh is a sign of women's empowerment that we expected. I express solidarity with those women and the logical movement of Shahbagh, and demand required security from the government for all the people who have established a noble example by organising this movement for the sake of the Golden Bengal we collectively dreamt of in 1971. But the pitiless truth is that, though the women are freedom fighters, most of them have been suffering from abject poverty, but there is no one to help them. It seems there is none to listen to their sorrows.

Women's contribution must be discussed in all the forums and documented properly in all the documents of the Language Movement and the Liberation War. Above all, women's contribution should be given greater emphasis. Their active participation and invaluable personal, social and collective contribution helped us to be winners in many movements. Women have struggled and fought equally like men. If we feel proud of Amar Ekushey on February 21, Victory Day on December 16, and the Shahbagh movement and others, women must get their due share of credit. I pay a tribute to all the martyrs and activists. Long live revolution and long live our blood-earned, beloved Bangladesh. I am proud of my country, everywhere, always!

The writer is a journalist, columnist and author. E-mail: parvezbabul@yahoo.com

This article was previously publised on February 21, 2013.

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