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    Volume 11 |Issue 50| December 21, 2012 |


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A celebration for all generations. Photo: AFP

Reflecting on Victory Day

Aly Zaker

Victory day as scheduled on the 16th of December, did come. But has not quite gone away. This most significant day, would have come and gone on any other year but not this time. It's been about six days but I am holding on to the spirit and it does seem quite possible that I shall hold onto it for the remainder of my life. Do I sound a little naive? Well, I might. But whatever I have just said is true just as the sun rises in the east.

Our nation is going through a lot of turmoil lately. These have been, in most cases, triggered by political chaos. We have seen offensive and counter-offensive being unleashed by foolhardy politicians with or without a reason. And for such evil activities our people are going through inhuman sufferings. The annoyance stemming out of this suffering has taken many people to the brink of utter cynicism. One of my acquaintances, on facebook, went as far as to say that he thinks it is ridiculous even to celebrate Victory Day under the present circumstances. I thought that this was going a bit too far but was failing to protest because I thought that perhaps there was not sufficient weapon in my armoury to shoot down such an argument.

And then came Victory Day and all my hesitation of protesting the gentleman's comment referred to above was swept away much to my utter delight. I really do not know if I have seen such celebrations on a victory day ever in the last 41 years except for the first few. What was remarkable was the spontaneous exuberance of the youth across the board all over the country. This gave me the hope to go back to my facebook friend and tell him off. But, of course, in telling him off I used an archetypical Bengali argument of pointing out that an American does not forget to celebrate 4th of July even if over a dozen children are mowed down by assassins' bullets in a school there.

So, I was whipped off my feet on the victory day this year. I was so happy that ignoring my physical exhaustion I must have been to a dozen places through the day just to be with the crowd and their spirit of a tumultuous joy of victory.

Two things that I sought to explain to myself were a) what was the special reason for such a celebration on this day this year? This was followed by the other thought b) did we know the difference between freedom and independence? We might try to explain such euphoria with various arguments. What, however, seems most pertinent is the fact that a nation that failed to bring the criminals against humanity and the perpetrators of war crimes in our country to book was able to begin a proper trial finally. This was able to arouse enthusiasm in full measure amongst the youth of our country. They have been demanding that such a trial should happen without any loss of time. Now, those very few people who were wishing to stall the judicial process or were cynical about it would have to reconcile with the inevitability.

The evening of Victory Day took me to a village across the river Buriganga where a celebration was organised by a cultural association. I was invited to speak there. This association was also honouring quite a few freedom fighters of the area on this occasion. I decided to dwell upon the subject of freedom encouraged by the fact that these fighters were thinking people. How easily we confuse freedom with independence and bring a word with a vast implication to denote a status with limited meaning.

That I can be independent not being free is something which perhaps skips our attention. But it is so true. I can be independent income-wise. I can be independent of worldly responsibilities. I can be independent of rearing a family. I can indeed be an independent citizen of an independent country. But do these mean that I am free?! Freedom is easier said than achieved. And I suppose the foremost freedom is the freedom of thought. Our war was not only a war of independence, it was a war to become free and hence we called it 'Muktijuddho' – The Freedom War as opposed to 'Shadhinota Juddho' – The War of Independence. In reality, though we have achieved independence from foreign rule in 1971, have we been able to free our thoughts? Have we been able to achieve the freedom of identity of a nation cherished in the thoughts of our forefathers for thousands of years? If we ever find an answer to the above question in the affirmative, then many chaos, confusion, hesitation and questions with regard to our identity would be taken care of. We would be able to rid ourselves then from maladies of communalism, greed, corrupt practices, and dictatorial attitudes. May be time has come for us to really begin an exercise of freeing our thoughts. Then only actions to the right direction can begin.


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