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Bangladesh’s 53rd Independence Day



By: Debate 4 All June 21, 2023

 

Every year on March 26, Bangladesh celebrates its Independence Day with pride and fanfare. The day is welcomed by all Bangladeshis and people around the country celebrate with songs, dances, and various other festivities. But this bright day marking a new year for Bangladesh isn’t without sorrow.

At Ramna Race Course on March 7, 1971, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman gave a public speech that would become Bangladesh’s rallying cry in its fight for independence. His words, “Our struggle this time is a struggle for our freedom. Our struggle this time is a struggle for our independence. Joy Bangla!” are some of the most familiar phrases in his speech to an overwhelming part of the population, something often repeated during celebrations on this fateful day.

His speech essentially declared Bangladesh’s intention for independence. His speech wasn’t a declaration of war, rather it was cementing the idea of a free Bangladesh born out of peaceful negotiation. Sadly, it was not to be.

After Bangbandhu’s fiery speech on March 7, things were relatively quiet in the country. Was Pakistan not going to retaliate?

No one could have imagined the massacre the West Pakistan government had planned for March 25, 1971. Known as Operation Searchlight, hundreds of thousands of unarmed civilians died on that dark day, its horror still echoing in history. Bangladesh’s intellectuals, journalists, teachers, writers, anyone whose talents and skills would lead to any kind of improvements in East Pakistan were also targeted. The sheer number of deaths numbering in the thousands and the mass graves their bodies were thrown into meant that some didn’t know who lived or died. There is confusion to this day, half a century later, about who died and who didn’t during the blackest night in Bangladesh’s history.

The West Pakistan regime may have intended to use genocide to crush the Bangladeshis’ spirits, but it only lit their souls on fire. On March 26, 1971, the Father of the Nation declared Bangladesh’s independence, nothing ambiguous about it. Simply the pain of loss and a desire for freedom, and perhaps retribution, in the hearts of the grieving Bengalis.

The declaration on March 26 led to a nine-month long war between East and West Pakistan, later named the War of Liberation, ending on December 16. Bangladesh had no official army, just people wanting to fight for their country and willing to give their lives up for the cause. Bangladesh’s guerilla forces alone would not have been enough to hold off the Pakistani army and win; India came to its neighbor’s aid and fought side by side with Bangladesh that led to Pakistan’s eventual defeat. Finally, independence and freedom and the dawn of a new nation.

Bangladesh’s victory hadn’t come without a great cost, nor have the country’s struggles ended with the war. The undertaking of a new nation would not be easy or smooth, it was anything but that. Fifty-three years later, it continues to be true. Nonetheless, as we celebrate this monumental day in Bangladesh’s history – one of the few countries who fought a war to be able to speak their own language – let us remember not only the bad, but the good Bangladesh has accomplished in recent years.


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