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The Anniversary That  Brings Joy and Pain

By Mohammad Shahidul Islam

On March 26 this year, the nation’s 41st Anniversary of independence is observed with usual zeal and gaiety, in spite of the deep frustration because of unfulfilled expectations. Independence, gained at the cost of a sea of blood and sacrifices of millions, stays a symbol of hope and an eternal source of inspiration. It is a day of great joy and high spirits because the nation came into existence on this day.

As a matter of custom, the acts of commemoration and showing of honour to the state heroes are performed in a routine fashion on this day. The day of our independence has been honoured in this way for the past 40 years. Meanwhile, we have passed our childhood, adolescence and even the early years of adulthood. The liberation war generation is now crossing middle age and many are already in their old age. Many have died. Many war heroes who embraced the enemy's bullet, but survived, are the living memories of the unparallel courage and sacrifice the freedom fighters had to make for the great cause of national independence. They are also honoured for their sacrifice and valour.

But is the day of national independence only one of commemoration and festivity? Is it the only way to honour the martyred war heroes as well as those who are still alive bearing the memory of the war? There are others who were crippled by enemy bullets and passing their days in wheelchairs. What are they witnessing? Are their feelings, in spite of their emotion and pride for what they did for the nation, full of unadulterated joy and merriment? All big questions need to find intelligent answers.

The celebration apart, the observance of this anniversary offers an opportunity to the nation to look back to see how far the very objectives of the War of Liberation have been fulfilled until now. This remains an essential exercise to evaluate the past and plan for a better tomorrow. The liberation war was not waged only to have a free country spreading over few hundred thousand kilometers and a flag of our own. It meant something more. The war was for bringing an end to years of exploitation by the Pakistani ruling class and achieving both political and economic emancipation. We have, literally speaking, achieved political freedom.

But we are still miles away from gaining true economic emancipation since nearly 40% of the population is still finding it hard to meet the bare minimum needs for their living. However, it did not go all wrong since the country achieved independence in 1971. There have been many positive developments on both the political and the economic fronts. But the people are not happy over the quality of governance, marked by massive mishaps, and quality of politics that is being pursued by the major political parties.

The heroes of the national liberation war, and all the people who were behind them, fought the war because their mission was to present their progeny with a nation that would be able to stand with its head high among the global community of nations. And if the nation and its people are really to bask in that kind of pride, they will have to do more than just remember the day and tell the rest of the world how we suffered and also with what great bravery the enemy was fought and vanquished in the end.

So, the main purpose of telling and retelling the story of our of liberation war and the great cause for which it was fought to our children, lest they be oblivious of our glorious national past, will be to show that we are also worthy of that noble legacy. But while telling the story of our national war of liberation, we need also to take great care that we are not lost only in the emotion-choked memory of the suffering, the sacrifice and the heroism that went with the war. We need to also to remember that it all had a still greater mission that propelled the war.

This year's anniversary of independence is being celebrated at a critical time facing the nation. Top leaders of the country's major political parties are debating the necessity of a caretaker government. The economy, for the first time in many years, is experiencing a slowdown and a record hike in food prices has hit the poor and the fixed income people very hard. Food production is not very satisfactory. Soaring food prices in the global market have made the situation rather difficult for both the government and the consumers.

The political landscape, however, remains very much clouded with uncertainty. The people are longing for a change in both the political and the economic scenarios; they want operation of a vibrant democracy led by honest, scrupulous and accountable politicians and a buoyant economy generating sufficient employment opportunities and improvement of the conditions of hapless millions who are regarded as "hardcore poor." On this auspicious occasion, everyone does need to make a pledge to work seriously to materialise the people's aspirations today, which was the basic objective of the War of Liberation.

So one always goes back to March 26, 1971, and all of the year 1971, to remember what we were then and are now. And that is the only bit of hindsight we need and that we should cherish. We can only look to the fore, when we look back on 1971, time and again, for its lessons.

Mohammad Shahidul Islam, Faculty, NHTTI. Govt. Tourism Organization.

[Source: The Daily Star]

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