We Salute Our Independence
Tazmia Islam Nion
If you ever visit the Dhaka University campus, some magnificent sculptures will draw your attention and make you nostalgic even if only for a while. Among all the sculptures built in Bangladesh on the theme of Independence, perhaps the most famous is 'Oporajeyo Bangla', which translated means 'Invincible Bengal'. It is located in front of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities.
In 1973, Dhaka University Central Students Union (DUCSU) took the first initiative to establish this sculpture as a tribute to our independence. Mr. M. Hamid, the then cultural secretary, took the initiative and contacted with Syed Abdullah Khalid, an artist. After initial discussion and measurements, they decided to make a 3 feet Model. After 3 months of daily hard work, the model was finally completed.
Three people were selected as models for the sculpture: Badrul Alam Benu, Syed Hamid Moksud Fozle and Hasina Ahmed.
A three member committee with Mr. A.K.M Sad Uddin, Associate Professor of Sociology, Dr. Belayet Hossain of the Physics Department and Mr. M. Hamid was formed to manage and conduct the process. The final construction plan came from poet Robiul Hossain. A firm headed by Engineer Shahidullah provided all necessary technical support free of charge.
The monument, made from iron and pole, is strong enough that it can resist even a 1400 miles per hour storm. The height of the figure is 12 feet and its width is eight feet. The sculpture was given its final touch after 36 construction attempts of each 4-inch layer.
Although work on the sculpture started in 1973, it took a long time to wrap it all up. Work was disrupted several times due to financial, political and other problems. Syed Abdullah Khalid went to London for his higher studies. However, he could not stay there for long. His commitment towards his unfinished brought him back in 1978.
Most of the credit for completing this wonderful creation goes to Syed Abdullah Khalid and M. Hamid, who were actively involved with the work. They had to face several challenges, even in their personal and social life, during the work.
On 28 August, 1977, some people tried to damage the sculpture. Naturally, the general students protected it. Thirty students were injured and four arrested. They demanded completion of the work. The teachers supported their students and finally the work reached its destination.
The sculpture stands on a triangular base. Two of the figures are freedom fighters with arms, and the third one is standing with a first aid box.
This sculpture represents the glorious history of Bangladesh to the young generation, but unfortunately it is not given the honor that it deserves. Students and general people treat it as a place of entertainment. They have their addas, take food and drinks and spoil the sanctity of this great sculpture.
In this month of independence, let us take an oath- "We will try to uphold the true spirit of our independence and pay tribute to these sculptures as best as we can."
Sajeda Tamanna Hussain
26th March- the day when we were blessed with a gift, an honor! It was bestowed on us through the sacrifices of millions. The twenty-sixth day of the month of March gave us the immense pride of being able to call our land Bangladesh!
Rummaging through the pages of history, we see how the sinister face of war had engulfed our nation for nine whole months. Mothers lost their sons, wives lost their husbands; sisters lost their brothers and this land lost millions of its children for one cause, independence! All those who made these sacrifices just so we can call ourselves Bangladeshis, only so that generations of Bangladeshis to come after them can taste freedom, can hold their heads high and stand united under one flag! But the questions that are crowding my mind right now are- what messages do the Independence Day convey to the generation of today? Does the sacrifice of so many lives make a difference towards what they feel about their responsibilities towards this nation?
The very thought of getting negative answers to those questions make my skin crawl! But for the sake of knowing exactly where my contemporaries stand, I decided to talk to a few of my peers from various academic institutions. When asked about what feeling the words '26th March, 1971' create in them, a common reply was, 'I have never really thought about it!' Surprising as it may sound, most youngsters today are indifferent about the fact that the land they live in, belongs to them and would one day need their hands to build it into a better place for their children. Isn't that why Beer Sreshtho Matiur Rahman left the warmth of his home and the company of his family to set out on a journey towards the unknown; towards a fate that he knew might rip him away from his family forever? What youngsters today do not realize is that one does not necessarily need to go to war to do something for his motherland. However I did run into a certain number of rare people in our generation who think, 'Independence is my pride. The colors of my flag make me feel proud of the land where greenery stretches beyond horizons and for the blood my forefathers shed to give me “The People's Republic of Bangladesh”'.
An even more surprising reply that I was faced with, when asked about the significance of the 26th of March, was 'Since it's a public holiday, and a weekday this year, I will definitely be happy to oversleep.
' As awkward as it may have looked, the answer left me awestruck, standing with my mouth wide open. I can guarantee that's the way a lot of readers are going to react- people who have either been first hand victims of the hideous war in 1971 or those who genuinely understand the meaning of the word 'independence'. The most revolting reaction that my question brought me was, 'I will definitely go shopping before the 26th! All the big fashion houses in the city are bound to come up with their own new clothing range in accordance to the event.' Ladies and gentlemen, doesn't this really call for some introspection? Is that what independence means today- an occasion to make a fashion statement? Is independence really all about decorating the country in green, red and all other vibrant colors, like a pretty little Christmas tree? Is it about making a fatua out of my flag? My very own flag?
Amongst all this, patriotism still lives on in the hearts of a few who made my questions worth asking. They feel like first class citizens for being able to dwell in a liberated nation. They are aware of their responsibilities towards this nation and are willing to lend a hand- in fact, both hands! Somebody even refreshed me with a reference from Kazi Nazrul's composition, ' O amar Bangladesher mati, tumi amar dhular shorgo, shyam boroner lokhhi mati'.
Ever since my 'survey' came to an end, I have not been able to spend a day when my mind has been at rest. The ignorant and often negative answers that the majority of my respondents flooded me with give me a hollow feeling. What will happen to Bangladesh twenty years from now? Will this generation be able to look after the land that has provided them with every grain that they consume? Before all these thoughts could eat me away from the inside, I had the good fortune of watching the movie 'Rang De Basanti'. It opened a door to fresh thoughts and new questions, although a lot less disturbing! We probably do have the patriotism and charisma to enrich our nation with our efforts. It is probably the matter of necessity or a booster that may one day create freedom fighters inside us- like it did 36 years ago in 1971, when motherland cried for freedom, when East Pakistan fought to become Bangladesh!
(Student of NSU)
Syeda Sabita Amin
Independence Day is right ahead of us and when the day finally arrives, flags and patriotism of many kinds can be seen all around Bangladesh, a nation filled with freedom and pride in its atmosphere. However, before the glorious day that we celebrate today, genocide was observed during the fight for Independence. The number of dead in Bangladesh in 1971 was almost certainly well into seven figures. It was one of the worst genocides of the World War II era, outstripping Rwanda (800,000 killed in 1994) and probably surpassing even Indonesia (1 million to 1.5 million killed in 1965-66).
Genocide has been defined as the deliberate killing of people based on their ethnicity, nationality, race or religion. The dead bodies which were seen everywhere are still carved into the memories of the people who witnessed it all.
The main targets during the genocide in Bangladesh were:
1) The Bengali military men of the East Bengal Regiment, the East Pakistan Rifles, police and Para-military Ansars and Mujahids;
2) The Hindus;
3) The Awami Leaguers - all office bearers and volunteers down to the lowest link in the chain of command;
4) The students - college and university boys and some of the more militant girls;
5) Bengali intellectuals such as professors and teachers whenever damned by the army as "militant."
Thirty-six years have passed as we celebrate Independence Day. But the death anniversaries of the departed ones are tied to the day. So many lives were lost, some homes were destroyed by the West Pakistan Army. My own Grandfather was taken away and killed, and my mother always reminded me about the hardships, fear and feeling of loss. There are so many families who share the same experience. We should thank God that it has been so long and something that horrible hasn't happened since then and that our lives aren't filled with the horrors that took place in 1971.
Although Bangladesh hasn't witnessed Genocide since Independence doesn't mean that it doesn't exist anymore. We are so concerned and engulfed in our own lives and daily problems that we fail to see how lucky we truly are sometimes. Yes we watch on the news as many car bombs explode in the streets of Baghdad because of the Sunni and Shia division (while other factors also contribute towards the War in Iraq) or the genocide going on in Darfur. But after watching it we just get back on the tracks of our lives and continue moving only to stop for a few seconds after watching the news again. All we offer to those who continue suffering is a moment of grief, a small prayer sometimes and the thought of actions which should be taken only not to perform them. We also forget about the horrors of the other genocides that took place in other parts of the world in the past. History will bound to repeat itself if we forget the past or simply don't take actions against the current tragedies. It might not directly affect your life now but you never know one day it just might. An action doesn't always have to be something big right from the start, but can be something small. Many small actions eventually turn out to be big when put altogether.