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Every independent nation chronicles certain days of great historical importance which they observe with due pomp and grandeur as a mark of special honor and cultural heritage. One such eventful and the remarkable day is March 26, 1971. It is best known as the Independence Day of Bangladesh- a red-letter day in our national history. It commemorates the declaration of our independence by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the Father of the Nation in March 1971.

The independence that we are enjoying and of which we are heartily proud did not come so easily. It has a long history of which we are aware of and yet I would like to focus on it as briefly as I can to maintain the sanctity of the day. Even after the Great Divide, the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947 from the British Raj, Bangladesh the then (East Pakistan) was subjected to colonization through economic disparity, political injustice, and exploitation by its counterpart though it was established on religious sentiment. As a result, there was a tremendous undercurrent of discontent prevailing among the people of East Pakistan (Bangladesh). To this, there was treason to them particularly, when after the Pakistani general election in 1970 Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the head of the largest political party, the Awami League who had won a majority, was not allowed to form a government by Yahya Khan, the Pakistani military ruler and they created one after another obstacle on his way to become the PM of Pakistan. Even Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was falsely implicated in the Agartala Conspiracy Case. Nothing could prevent him from his indomitable courage to free the country from the tyranny of the Pak aggressor.
On March 7, 1971, he delivered his world-famous speech in the historic Ramna Race Course ground to inspire and unite the freedom-loving people for the non-cooperation movement against the Pakistani ruler. Again on the night of 25th March, the Pakistani Army launched Operation Searchlight and brutally killed many innocent people. Before his arrest, Bangabandhu declared the independence of Bangladesh in the early hours of March 26. A telegram containing the message was read several times over Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra. Even on the 27th of March the announcement of the declaration of independence of Bangladesh was broadcast on behalf of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Under this declaration, all Bengalis were called upon to rise against the attack by the West Pakistani Army. From that time the guerilla struggle started in full swing. The people took part in the war to be a separate nation, independent from Pakistan. The independence of Bangladesh was gained through a nine-month guerilla war against the Pakistani Army and their collaborators which resulted in the death of three million people and genocide in Bangladesh. The Mukti Bahini later with the military support from the USSR and India defeated the Pakistan Army which culminated at the end of the War of Liberation on 16th December 1971. Then many countries of the world officially recognized Bangladesh as an independent sovereign state.

On this day of independence, we remember with the gratitude and deep respect our freedom fighters, the martyrs of the War of Liberation, the people who lost their near and dear ones. We also express our debt of gratitude to India which not only gave shelter to the refugees from Bangladesh but also helped us with their strong army as the Allied Force to achieve the independence of Bangladesh within a short period.

But above all, stands to supreme our national leader Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman who deserves all the credit for the achievement of Bangladesh as the greatest Bengalee for all ages and times. He was invincible and fearless though he was kept under huge pressure in the imprisonment of West Pakistan: ‘‘Stone walls do not a prison make/ Nor iron bars a cage’’. Neither he surrendered nor bowed down to them. He did not hesitate to declare independence at the crucial moment. It was a big step forward and a milestone in our history of liberation. There was none equal to the task like him at that time. His enduring persistence and struggle for the freedom of his country and genuine love for the people led him to the pinnacles of glory and success:

‘‘The heights by great men reached and kept

Were not attained by sudden flight, but they,

While their companions slept,
Were toiling upward in the night.’’

As an iconic figure, he is a unique symbol of our independence, unity, cohesion, integrity, and pride. In the words of the poet we can say: ‘‘Tomar kirtir cheye tumi je mohot’’ (Thou art greater than thy achievement).

Today Bangladesh is held in high esteem for its transition from the least developing country to the status of developing countries by the international community. It has been possible because of the present government’s relentless endeavor and emphasis on realizing Bangabandhu’s dream of Sonar Bangla. If we stick to his ideals as nurtured by our PM and translate them into action, we shall one day in a fine morning, be one of the most developed countries of the world. Keeping the spirit of Independence Day in mind let me conclude with the words: Joy Bangla, Long live Bangladesh.

Nayeem Zaki

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