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|Volume 11 |Issue 01| January 06, 2012 ||
Fort William Celebrates Victory Day
Raisul Huq Bahar
It was sometime in mid October that I got an unexpected call from Defence Attaché of High Commission of India (HCI), Dhaka, Brigadier RN Nair. I had been chosen as a member of the delegation to be invited to participate in the 40th Victory Day celebration of Liberation War of Bangladesh. The four-day long celebration was held at Fort William, headquarters of the Eastern Command of Indian Army, from December 14 to 17. We left for Kolkata in the morning of December 14, by Maitree Express, a friendship train that runs between the two countries.
As our delegation reached Kolkata Station, a contingent of Indian Army under the leadership of Brigadier Borothakur gave us a warm welcome with flower sticks and hot and cold drinks. We were driven to the Grand Oberoi Hotel at the heart of the 400-year-old Kolkata city. After having an hour in the hotel to change and refresh ourselves we were taken to Floatel, a unique five star hotel and restaurant floating on the river Hoogly overseeing the magnificent Vidyasagar Setu with its nighttime illumination. There we were formally introduced. We exchanged greetings and mementos of friendship marking the 40th anniversary of our Victory and shared a delicious meal together. We left Floatel at about 12.15am.
The official celebration of Victory Day began on December 15 with the reminiscences of the 1971 war commanders in a big auditorium at Fort William. Three army commanders from the Bangladesh delegation and three field commanders from India participated in the deliberation. They recalled their battlefield experiences depicting the details of encounters with Pakistani occupation forces in their respective sectors. As the discussion came to near closing, a member of Bangladesh delegation got up to say that the war that we fought together in 1971 was not a conventional warfare between two countries. It was a war of liberation and the people of Bangladesh had to traverse a long way beginning from the language movement, through struggle for autonomy, to the 1970 general elections, to engage in armed combat with the brutal Pak military and their cohorts. Unarmed common people of besieged Bangladesh-students, workers, peasants, women and people from all walks of life of the society- jumped into an uneven battle without any previous training. So the war on the Eastern theatre was a peoples' war.
Lt General Bir Bikram Sing, GOC of Eastern Command of Indian Army, agreed with this contention. Lt General Jacob(retd), then CAS of Eastern Command, whose role was instrumental in preparing the unconditional surrender of Pakistani General Niazi and his 93 thousand troops, in his closing speech, lauded the role of the Mukti Bahini. He said that without the guerrilla fighting inside Bangladesh beginning from late May to early December it would have been impossible for the regular forces to win the war so easily. His speech was so lively that everyone was moved and charged with emotion by his arguments.
On December 15, we were treated to a lively cultural programme. It included dance, dance-drama, patriotic songs and other songs reflecting rich Indian cultural variety from north to south and east to west, presented by renowned artistes. In the evening, members of our delegation sang and danced to the tune of Rabindranath, Hemanta, Mohammad Rafi and many more popular singers of this subcontinent.
On the morning of December 16, the 40th anniversary of our Victory Day, we rose early from bed. By 7am we were escorted to the Victory Memorial at Fort William. The ceremony began with the laying of floral wreaths in the altar of the Memorial by the senior commanding officers of Indian Armed Forces and war veterans. Deputy Speaker Col Shawkat Ali (retd) and Major General Mahfuzur Rahman, who was a member of our delegation, laid floral wreaths on behalf of Bangladesh. Once the ceremony was over, we were taken to the Army museum in the Fort. At noon, Boro Khana (The Big Feast) was arranged. Before that the members of the Bangladesh delegation were introduced one by one to the congregation of around 600 officers of Eastern Command. The presenter highlighting the gallantry and war field chivalry read out a brief sketch of each member. Each member of the delegation were presented with crests and gifts.
In the evening a concert of a fusion of western and eastern music was held with Paschimbanga state governor RK Narayanan as chief guest.
On the 17th the Bangladesh delegation was given a farewell lunch at the Territory Officers' Mess.
The Victory Day celebration for me this year will remain a memorable event of my life. As a freedom fighter I feel proud that I had the golden opportunity to participate in our Liberation War. At the same time, I also feel that our liberation struggle is still not over. So many of our people are living in extreme poverty. They are deprived of basic human rights like food, clothes, shelter, healthcare, education and job. Women are victims of violence and discrimination; indigenous and minority communities are treated as second-class citizens and their fundamental rights are denied. The core aspiration of our Liberation War was economic emancipation of all people by eliminating exploitation, inequality and deprivation from society.
My honest feeling is that the liberation struggle is an endless process. We have just achieved a sovereign territory which is also not sovereign in the complete sense. We need true freedom, egalitarian democracy, equal rights in every sphere of life, a just society where no discrimination between man and man, man and woman will prevail on the basis of caste, creed, colour and gender. So the fight continues.
The writer is Chittagong Bureau Chief, The Daily Star.
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