Today Our Victory Day

0
64

Today marks the 49 years of our existence as a sovereign nation. On this day in 1971, our struggle for independence following a nine-month war was rewarded with a richly deserved victory that came at the cost of unimaginable loss of life and persecution. While we honour the memory of the fallen, we cannot but recall, with a deep sense of gratitude, the enormous contributions of the freedom fighters who fought and bled on the ground and the leading role of Bangabandhu and his four trusted lieutenants in steering us to this moment. Together, their efforts and sacrifices, as well as that of countless other individuals both at home and abroad, paved the way for the fulfilment of the Bengali dream for self-determination.

This is indeed the brightest moment in our history, one that we observe amidst a raging pandemic this year. Ironically, perhaps it is fitting that the run-up to the 50th year of our existence should coincide with the emergence of the biggest challenge we’ve ever faced—a litmus test, in other words, for how much we’ve grown as a nation over the past decades. Covid-19 continues to test our resilience and integrity in ways never seen before. Besides infecting nearly five lakh people, killing over 7,100, and exposing the dark underbelly of our economy and nearly all sectors, it has created an unprecedented crisis in our lives, the effects of which will be felt long after the pandemic is over. In a way, it is stress-testing our foundation as a nation, and how we respond to it will show how far we’ve progressed, or regressed.

Today, our society remains deeply divided, scarred by injustice, intolerance and extremism. The values and traditions that once held us together are being threatened. We no longer seek unity in diversity. Narrow nationalism and self-serving individualistic aspirations have replaced our dream for a fair, rights-based society where everyone is treated equally regardless of their gender, class and religious/political affiliation—a dream that was central to our struggle for independence. There is an abject lack of compassion manifesting itself through crimes and cruelties of all sorts, in greater number every day. The list of things going haywire is astounding, which calls for deep introspection and a renewed commitment if we want to see a reversal in the current trend.

That said, Bangladesh has also achieved a lot over the decades that we can be proud of. We’ve reached many milestones, especially in various socioeconomic sectors. But a true tribute to the Victory Day is not about uncritically romanticising the journey we’ve had as a nation, but about being reasonably proud of our achievements while making a conscious effort to understand and learn from our mistakes and failures. If the priority after December 16, 1971 was to start nation-building, the time has come to embark on a journey of nation-rebuilding in light of our founding principles, a fight made more urgent by the pandemic. Only then can we truly honour the legacy of all those who gave their lives for our freedom