Thursday, March 26, 2009

Today is the 39th Independence Day of Bangladesh

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March 26: The Independence Day of Bangladesh
The red signifies sacrifice and death that made the independence
possible in 1971. The rays signify freedom and green colour
symbolizes hope for independent Bangladesh. Jatiyo Smriti
Shoudha
(National War Memorial) represents the death
of millions and victory over the enemy. The Bangla
writing, Independence Day, is on top right.

Graphics design (Toronto: March, 2009) © Joachim Romeo D'Costa

Today is the 39th independence day of Bangladesh. This independence was earned through a long struggle and a plenty of bloodshed that started with the Bangla Language Movement in late 1940's.

First, there was the request for Bangla for inclusion as one of the state languages of Pakistan when they faced Urdu as the only state language. Then came the demand for preservation of the Bangla language's status -- but it was faced with repressive measures. Ultimately, on February 21 and 22, 1952, blood had to be shed to gain an equal status of Bangla with Urdu as the state languages of Pakistan. In the first Constitution of Pakistan in 1956, Bangla was officially included with Urdu as the two state languages of the country.

From the beginning of the independence of Pakistan on August 14, 1947, the Pakistani ruling elite, comprising mostly the Urdu-speaking North Indians who migrated to West Pakistan, began to treat East Bengal (East Pakistan) as a colony and supplier of raw materials. Consequently, the East Pakistanis demanded autonomy, which was stipulated in the 1940 Lahore Resolution of the All-India Muslim League. But after independence, the ruling elite merged all the provinces of Pakistan and made it a one unit country in spite of demands for autonomy for East Pakistan.

The six-point programme of the Awami League party, headed by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, spearheaded the autonomy of East Pakistan and gained overwhelmingly the seats in the national parliament in the election of 1970. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the leader of the Pakistan People's Party, and military of coterie of Pakistan conspired and did not allow Sheikh Mujib to take over the leadership of Pakistan as the Prime Minister. Instead, the military machine cracked down on the justifiably agitated East Pakistanis on March 25, 1971, from when started the nine-month long War of Independence. In the early morning of March 26, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman declared independence of Bangladesh.

In this war, three million East Pakistanis were killed, 300,000 girls and women were raped, and a billion-dollar worth of properties were destroyed. Over 10 million East Pakistanis took shelter in India as refugees, besides millions of internal refugees. In the war, India-trained East Pakistani muktijuddhas (freedom fighters) were engaged in guerrilla warfare throughout East Pakistan. In early December, 1971, when Pakistan suddenly bombed several West Indian airfields, India declared war with Pakistan and moved troops in East Pakistan. On December 16, 1971, Pakistan surrendered in Dhaka and thus, the new state of Bangladesh officially came into being.


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