As we step into December, a year is on its way out and another is being ushered in. The feelings are of nostalgia for a year slipping into history and fresh hope at the approaching dawn of another year for better future.
Such natural sentiments, somewhat customary as well, are overpowered by an extraordinary emotion centring around the final sequel to our war of independence in 1971. The progressive attrition of Pakistan army through the nine-month long people's armed struggle aided by Mitra Bahini culminated in the surrender of occupying Pak forces on December 16, leading to emergence of free Bangladesh.
In hindsight, after the brutal crackdown on March 25 and continuing genocide those who stayed back were fugitives in their own land haunted by traumatic tales of their own. Apart from this internally displaced people, some 10 million crossed over to neighbouring India to seek refuge.
The refugee issue helped the cause of Bangladesh's liberation in four distinct ways: One, it spread a humanitarian message and got the word around to galvanize people abroad behind the cause of Bangladesh's freedom. Two, among the refugees, young men and women joined the Muktibahini. Three, an urgency to the cause was lent by India's responsibility to shelter the refugees, feed them, and provide them with healthcare. Last but not least, by the very nature of things, India could ill-afford a protracted war, and was eager to find a quick and effective solution to the humanitarian crisis and respond to the quest for freedom of the Bangalees. Hence, Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's resolution in Lok Sabha promptly assuring sympathy and support to the just struggle of the people of Bangladesh. It was as much a glorious achievement on our part as it was on India's with its military and diplomatic prowess coming into play.
A very moving sequel scripted by an Indian journalist speaks of 'missed euphoria' in the 16th December celebrations on both sides of the border. The Vijay Dibash in India and Bijoy Dibosh in Bangladesh should put on the one side the negativities, and concentrate instead on the positive sentiments generated by the holding of hands between two peoples during our liberation war. 'Clichéd as it sounds, perhaps the route is to think about their personal stories and build people-to-people contacts'. Though belatedly, the AL government has, by honouring the foreign friends of Bangladesh for their role in our freedom struggle, placed on record the country's gratitude to them. This has endeared the spirit of our liberation war to the present generations who could feel what went into the making of the country that is Bangladesh.
As we draw inspiration from the past, India can help us by going the extra mile in resolving some much-vaunted issues with Bangladesh.
In the article "Proud to Kill" published in the November issue of Forum, the photograph on page 27 was taken by Jessica Islam Lia. We regret the inadvertent omission of the photo credit.