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Thursday, February 14, 2013
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News Analysis

Joy Bangla & BNP's worry

The BNP is today in the unenviable position of not having any clear perspectives on the youth movement at Projonmo Chottor. It is patently taken aback by the intensity of the pro-Liberation spirit demonstrated by tens of thousands of young men and women, in whose support broad sections of society have come forward in these past many days.

For the BNP, whose record on the war crimes trial has remained shrouded in mystery, for reasons of its political alliance with the very men now on trial for crimes against humanity, it is a matter of damned if it does and damned if it doesn't. It cannot express solidarity with the young because that would mean repudiating its fanatical allies the Jamaat. And if it disowns the Jamaat, a big chunk of its politics will simply cave in.

Interestingly, the BNP appears driven by a need for a face-saving way out of its dilemma. Its leaders say they understand the grievances being voiced at Projonmo Chottor, but they are worried by the repeated chanting of Joy Bangla by the young. They smell something of the partisan in that chanting of the Bangalee nationalist slogan.

The BNP, either through a deliberate negation of history or a plain demonstration of pique, has suggested that questions and confusion have arisen around Joy Bangla, a slogan which, in its view, lost general acceptability in post-Liberation times owing to what it calls the partisan nature of the government in power after 1971.

For the BNP and for everyone uncomfortable with Joy Bangla, these are the facts behind a slogan that carried us through our War of Liberation and still underpins our sovereign status as a nation:

The Joy Bangla slogan first acquired currency following the successful mass upsurge against the Ayub Khan regime in 1969. In the following year, when Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman made it known that the general elections scheduled for the end of 1970 would be a referendum on the Six-Point Programme of the Awami League, Joy Bangla took on a wider dimension as a Bangla slogan.

The intensity of Joy Bangla went up by leaps and bounds in March 1971 when the Yahya-Bhutto conspiracy to prevent power from being handed over to the Awami League first became obvious. Joy Bangla became a militant Bengali slogan chanted across the length and breadth of the province. And in the nine months of the war, Bangladesh's freedom fighters went into battle raising full-throated Joy Bangla slogans. The record, in printed documents and video footage, is out there.

Joy Bangla, therefore, has been giving a distinctive non-partisan and nationalistic flavour to the Bangalee ethos since the late 1960s and is an unmistakable symbol of Bangalee nationalism. Contrary to the BNP's argument that it lost general acceptability in post-liberation times, Joy Bangla was first undermined by the murderous regime which brought Khondokar Moshtaque and the assassins of Bangabandhu to power in August 1975.

Moshtaque used the old, Pakistan-style slogan "Bangladesh Zindabad" in his very first broadcast as usurper-president. The "zindabad" idea was then picked up by the nation's first military ruler Ziaur Rahman, who also made sure, as martial law administrator, that the secular spirit of the constitution was removed and replaced by invocations of a communal nature. General Ershad and then Khaleda Zia and their political friends upheld "zindabad" despite the fact that it was Joy Bangla which continued to exercise a hold on the public imagination.

The conclusion is simple and crystal clear. Joy Bangla, first raised as a slogan by the Awami League, went on to acquire absolute public acceptability through the crucible of mass movements against Pakistani political machinations and then through the fire and fury of war in 1971.

"Zindabad", on the other hand, has been a calculated move by men seizing power by extra-constitutional means and their camp followers to dilute the significance of the Bangalee nationalist struggle. Many of these camp followers, by the way, took part in the war singing the Joy Bangla slogan.

The BNP would do well to acknowledge the message coming out of Projonmo Chottor -- that when the young men and women gathered there rend the air with chants of Joy Bangla, they are not thinking of partisan politics but only reliving those great historical emotions which defined, and still define, our place in the world.

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You can write a teenage novel without romance or explicit love. But you cannot think of Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark. When we talk about our Liberation War 1971, we have to go back to Bangabondhu and Joy Bangla. We may criticize his post 1971 role, but can’t deny or replace him or the slogan that inspired us to win against Pakistan. Problem with BNP and its allies is that all the years they are trying to re-write Hamlet centering a very minor character. Unfortunately Hamlet has only one Prince. If BNP or AL believes that Bangabondhu and Joy Bangla slogan only belong to AL- this is wrong. When a person and a slogan inspire the entire nation- becomes national; it’s above party. The youth uprising in Shahbagh has reminded us this again. Though it’s very inconvenient truth for BNP and its allies- please show the courage; accept the history. History is a one way process.

: Tarik Zaman

I am absolutely in disagreement with the contents put into this write up vis a vis joy bangla and zindabad.Joy Bangla had lost its all credibility immediately after the victory day by the manipulation and distortion by the party in power after liberation to benefit its own selfish political interest.

: Shamim faruk


  • Harun Rashid
    Thursday, February 14, 2013 09:50 AM GMT+06:00 (156 weeks ago)

    BNP worries not only Joy Bangla,

    they worry about our true liberation war history that's why they rewrote our history. During liberation wars freedom fighter belongs to BNP also did slogan Joy Bangla but now they are doing dirty politics about enthusiastic nationalist slogan. Once they gave our national flags to the razakars now they are telling if they will return to power will arrange transparent and free ICT for razakars this youths are not that much foolish to believe in.

    They were in power more than decades did not arrange trial for Siraj Sikder now they are demanding to do so these all are bogus just staging another drama to confuse and divide the nation.

  • Mohammad Jasim
    Thursday, February 14, 2013 10:12 AM GMT+06:00 (156 weeks ago)

    Lack of idealism and complete absences of bangali spirit help BNP to come into a position to be uneasy with joy bangla chanting.

  • Robin
    Thursday, February 14, 2013 11:15 AM GMT+06:00 (156 weeks ago)

    I have a feeling that Bangladeshis will soon see the ghost of Shahabag. All political parties' spin doctors are trying to spin the goal of Sahabagians. It has been 10 days and it seems that gathering is losing its steam.

  • I.Ahmed
    Thursday, February 14, 2013 11:18 AM GMT+06:00 (156 weeks ago)

    With due respect, what is wrong with shouting 'Joy Bangladesh'? After all, that is the official name of the country and should hopefully convey a strong sense of nationalism.

  • nds
    Thursday, February 14, 2013 11:19 AM GMT+06:00 (156 weeks ago)

    BNP's discomfort with the Joy Bangla slogan is quite understandable. It strikes deep at one of its fundamental ideological components on the basis of which the party got originated. They can not but feel threatened by the slogan that they find getting new life with renewed vigor in the minds of the youths that have successfully demonstrated that the emotion and sentiment that the slogan symbolizes is embedded in our national psyche not an artificial construction like BNP's corresponding slogan Bangladesh Zindabad.

  • Hafeejul Alam
    Thursday, February 14, 2013 11:26 AM GMT+06:00 (156 weeks ago)

    BNP, with it's long association with Jamaat-Shibir, has simply been outwitted by the present political pulse. As a matter of fact, BNP needs a total political renovation for it's very existence as a thriving opposition party, let alone the race for power.

  • S K
    Thursday, February 14, 2013 11:27 AM GMT+06:00 (156 weeks ago)

    It appears to be an apparent sign of cowardice of BNP, the main opposition of the parliament that had led the Govt three times earlier. The question is why are they afraid of just a slogan comprising only two words? Is this slogan threatening their existence? It is unbelievable to see how such a big political party backed by a good portion of voters are choking in fear of just a slogan 'Joy Bangla' which was unquestionably the heartiest and most favourite slogan of all the freedom fighters and mass people in 1971. Even those BNP veterans, who are now against this slogan, had spontaneously chanted this slogan during the 1971 liberation war. Now by shunning this liberation war slogan, BNP are humiliating our holy war in 1971 and our valiant freedom fighters and martyred people including those women raped by Razakars and Pakistani military. BNP has to come out of this narrow thinking to remain vocal in line with the Shahbagh protesters.

  • Asad Zaman
    Thursday, February 14, 2013 11:40 AM GMT+06:00 (156 weeks ago)

    Excellent article. Even school kids or youths understand the meaning of Joy-Bangla slogan. But I don't understand

    why those BNP leaders fear the slogan.

  • plaintalker
    Thursday, February 14, 2013 01:01 PM GMT+06:00 (156 weeks ago)

    Joy Bangla! And Joy Hasina, because she revived the slogan.!

    Thursday, February 14, 2013 03:47 PM GMT+06:00 (156 weeks ago)

    BNP's worry is justified.

  • Mohammed Shafiqul Islam
    Thursday, February 14, 2013 04:09 PM GMT+06:00 (156 weeks ago)

    It should not be coming as any surprise that BNP in its root is a union of mostly anti-liberation forces. Some of its members may have fought with the Mukti Bahini but they have shown that they did so not as Bengal Nationalists but as opportunists. By joining the killer Razakars in politics they clearly showed that they were in 1971 and now are narrow minded opportunists with no core value or conviction. They only care about their personal gains. Unfortunately, many pro-liberation men and women in other political parties including Awami League have proven themselves to be no different than those belongs to the BNP in this regard by being corrupt and caring only for their personal gains.

    Thursday, February 14, 2013 04:14 PM GMT+06:00 (156 weeks ago)

    'Joy Bangla' Slogan is the Symbol of our liberation war. It is not for only AL.

  • Masudur Rahman
    Thursday, February 14, 2013 05:00 PM GMT+06:00 (156 weeks ago)

    S.B: Ahsan deserves more than just a thanks- this writing explains why the anti-Bangladesh people dislike the slogan JoyBangla. Those reactionary anti-Bangladeshi forces always sensed Hinduism or Indian conspiracy whenever there was any pro-Bangladeshi progressive movement, the language movement a clear evidence. Even the Pakistani mineded politicians wanted to ban Tagore Songs. Joy Bangla is Bengali language and it is the slogan of each and every Bangladeshi- those who doubt this comment is a challenge to them.

  • Dr. Mizanur Rahman
    Thursday, February 14, 2013 03:27 AM GMT+06:00 (156 weeks ago)

    My heartiest gratitude goes to Badrul Ahsan and The Daily Star for this deep and truthful analysis of slogans background in Bangladesh. Although these historical information are true. Once again thanks for publishing this for our younger generation.

  • Mohammed Shah Alam Khan from Ottawa
    Thursday, February 14, 2013 03:16 AM GMT+06:00 (156 weeks ago)

    It is a good analysis by Syed Badrul Ahsan, thank you for your effort. I would like to add one word with you that is Zindabad is not Bangla word, it means Joy in Bangla. It is the slogan of Freedom Fighter in 1971 war. This is the slogan against the anti-liberation force in 1971; it is the slogan against west paki brutal govt. It is our slogan it is not the property of AL, they are just keeping the sentiment of liberation so they are clamming them as pro-liberation force.

  • Labu Khan
    Thursday, February 14, 2013 01:31 AM GMT+06:00 (156 weeks ago)

    Going to Shahbagh to chant slogans together with the demonstrators, has now become a new trend. Joining the movement now means that you are also a part of the revolution. I wish this movement also makes a vow to free the country from corruption, misdeeds by the government and all political parties..

  • K.M. Alamgi Kabir
    Thursday, February 14, 2013 12:59 AM GMT+06:00 (156 weeks ago)

    The BNP stance on war crimes will define the future of the political party.

  • Reaz Hassan
    Thursday, February 14, 2013 12:07 AM GMT+06:00 (156 weeks ago)

    The accused standing trial before the ICT must face their consequences even if four decades have elapsed since their complicity in crimes against humanity. But I am definitely against banning Jamaat from doing politics and ‘am alarmed for unleashing violence against their commercial entities. It is no less baffling as to why the AL-led government which constituted the ICT in the first place should publicly challenge the verdict arrived at independently and thereby showing utter disrespect and contempt for the court. A situation has now been created whereby the ICT will be forced to pronounce death sentences to the accused due to public demand rather than on the basis of merits of cases (mind you, our PM urged for such verdicts showing deference to public opinion in JS). Would it not be far better if we allow supremacy of rule of law and good governance for the sake of our nascent democracy?

  • Muktadir Hossain
    Thursday, February 14, 2013 01:04 AM GMT+06:00 (156 weeks ago)

    Wonderfully written. BNP supporters do not have to say Joy Bangla but they have to get rid off Jamaat. BNP cannot even think about winning the next election with Jamaat on board after what happened in Shahbagh.

  • rch
    Thursday, February 14, 2013 01:39 AM GMT+06:00 (156 weeks ago)

    How about Joy Bangladesh and move on!

  • shahab faruque
    Thursday, February 14, 2013 06:10 AM GMT+06:00 (156 weeks ago)

    Excellent analysis on our deep emotion associated with Joy Bangla slogan. These words just connect the hearts of all Bangladeshis. It will be absolutely wrong to make any distorted interpretations of its true meanings of this slogan for any political reasons.

  • A Choudhury
    Thursday, February 14, 2013 02:21 AM GMT+06:00 (156 weeks ago)

    Many many thanks to you Ahsan for telling the truth of our cry for freedom with this slogan Joy Bangla... I wish to shout it out a thousand times. Don't care if it hurts the BNP or anybody.

  • An Observer
    Thursday, February 14, 2013 02:36 AM GMT+06:00 (156 weeks ago)

    May I quote the following Ahsan, for your kind attention?

    'Shiekh Mujibur Rahman revived the Islamic Academy (which was banned in 1972) and upgraded it to a Foundation in March 1975 and increasingly attended Islamic gatherings. He also banned sale and consumption of liquor, though production of liquor continued and betting in horse-race. He sought membership of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) in February 1974, attended the OIC conference at Lahore the same year, established diplomatic ties with Pakistan after granting unconditional pardon of the occupational forces of Pakistan involved in war crimes on innocent people, especially women, and allowed their subsequent safe repatriation, and secured the founder membership of the Islamic Development Bank in 1975.

    Towards the end of his rule, Mujib made frequent references to Islam in his speeches and public utterances by using terms and idioms which were peculiar mainly to the Islam-oriented Bangladeshi - like Allah (the Almighty God), Insha Allah (God willing), Bismillah (in the name of God), Tawaba (Penitence) and Imam (religious leader). He even dropped his symbolic valedictory expression Joy Bangla (Glory to Bengal) and ended his speeches with Khuda Hafez (May God protect you), the traditional Indo-Islamic phrase for bidding farewell. In his later day speeches, he also highlighted his efforts to establish cordial relations with the Muslim countries in the Middle East.

    Sadly, in Indian sub-continent, you are either a Hindu or a Muslim and so was Nehru, Jinnah, Mujib and rest of the former politicians. Nothing is different even today.

  • Amin
    Thursday, February 14, 2013 04:32 AM GMT+06:00 (156 weeks ago)

    Ahsan, your argument about 'Joy Bangla' slogan is right. But, could you please tell us, why not 'Joy Bangladesh' after '71? We are not part of purbo or pashchim bangla any more. In my opinion, it is not nationalist parties only who is responsible for this controversy, AL is also similarly responsible. As much as AL tried to coin it as their own slogan, other parties distant themselves form it. I do not belong to any political party, but, still I feel 'joy bangla' slogan reminds of '71 and, sometimes, it reminds me we are still in pre '71 era. It just undermines the sovereignty of independent Bangladesh.

    I prefer to say I am Bangladeshi, not Bangalee. I am from Bangladesh not from Bangla. 'Joy Bnagladesh' is my slogan.

  • Abdullah
    Thursday, February 14, 2013 06:51 AM GMT+06:00 (156 weeks ago)

    Joy Bangla should be a national slogan, rather than a party slogan. Our politics has been polluted by the anti-liberation forces such as Jamaat, Shibir.

  • paplu
    Thursday, February 14, 2013 04:33 AM GMT+06:00 (156 weeks ago)

    You may not support BNP, does not mean to hate BNP, you may not support AL does not mean to hate AL. But it is every one’s desire to punish all Razakars.

  • Citizen
    Thursday, February 14, 2013 04:39 AM GMT+06:00 (156 weeks ago)

    BNP, you have seen Rajakar as minister, but you haven't seen the hanged Rajakars' face yet. BNP, you have heard the voice of youth, but you haven't seen the fireball of youth which can burn down Jamaat,Shibir and others.

  • An Observer
    Thursday, February 14, 2013 05:47 AM GMT+06:00 (156 weeks ago)

    BNP should and must read the pulses of the youths. Joy Bangla is not a party slogan but a history, it was BNP who make parallel slogan (Zindabad) to oppose AL, here is the great error that should be corrected by now by BNP , otherwise BNP can be Muslim league for their contradictory stance if it fail to match with the youth renaissance at Shahbagh.

  • Syed Karim
    Thursday, February 14, 2013 07:08 AM GMT+06:00 (156 weeks ago)

    BNP must repudiate its association with Jamaat or face extinction. BNP can always rebuild its party; a strong viable opposition is necessary for democracy to succeed.





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