Some thoughts on the Day

Brig Gen Shahedul Anam Khan, ndc, psc, (retd)

The Victory Day this year comes amidst an unmistakable sense of some dismal portends for us. Our land, hallowed by the blood of thousand of our martyrs and consecrated by the sacrifices of the many unknown mothers and sisters, is being defiled, once again, by the vile acts of violence perpetrated by equally vile people.

There is a distinct similarity that one notices in the ideological moorings of those that are spilling bloods of harmless people and the ones that conspired with the occupation forces in 1971. Both appear to be 'motivated' by the spirit of Islam. In 1971, our blood was spilled for the sake of 'saving Islam.' Thirty years later harmless people are falling victims of these rabid maniacs for the sake of 'establishing Islam' in Bangladesh. What distorted mind, what convoluted people!

Our Victory was achieved at huge cost in blood. As very aptly said by an observer, “If blood is the price of victory then Bangladesh has overpaid for it.” But, was the price worth it? One is distressed when one launches into introspection. We need to ask ourselves whether we have been able to recompense the sacrifices of the thousands of freedom fighters, most of whom have remained unknown and unsung; whether we have been able to repay the sacrifices of our mothers and sisters but for whose personal valour and gallantry our Victory Day may not have come so soon if not remained a distant dream altogether?

While we rejoice at our victory we must not hesitate to delve deep into our hearts for some contemplation. It is important that we ask ourselves whether, while we the Bengalis, who were a nation long before we got a country, have been able to coagulate as a nation, having got it? Whether, after long thirty-five years as a free nation and a country, we have been able to fulfill the dreams of the people of Bangladesh? It is also natural to ask whether we, as a nation, have been provided with the right direction and motivation that was so very necessary for a nascent state, not only to survive the seminal stages of its existence but also to endure as a vibrant entity in the committee of nations?

Our victory was attained through the combined efforts and struggle of the entire nation. No one party or group can claim exclusive rights or appropriate our Liberation War and the credit and glory of the eventual victory as theirs only, to revel and uphold. It was time that we as a nation purged the divisive and discordant thoughts and actions that have driven a wedge between various segments of our society. It is hardly possible for us as a nation to attain any degree of success in any field in a truncated and weak psychological state.

A question that comes spontaneously to mind is, have the people got their due?

Despite a long and ardent desire of the people of Bangladesh to exist within a democratic ambience, democracy in the real terms has remained elusive. No other nation perhaps in recent times has witnessed so many upheavals in the most crucial and formative stages of its existence as had Bangladesh. Time and again we emerged from difficulty, not entirely unscathed but not completely wrecked either, only to be plunged again in the morass.

It would be an easy escape to put the blame on the politicians for things going wrong. But it would be unfair. No one man or one party could have steered the country through the hazards that confronted us, single-handedly, try as one might. The process of nation and state building required the participation of all. And, if anti democratic dispensation had caused aberrations in our political firmament, much of the blame has to be shared by our polity that was unable to attenuate the fissiparous tendencies and arrest the divisive proclivity that existed.

We also seem to have been overcome by a culture of intolerance and lack of patience, not only unwilling but also unprepared to accommodate others' views and opinions.

Thanks to the continued impecunious state of the people, it has made a handful in Bangladesh rich. The Prophet (Pbh) had said, 'my poverty is my pride'. It appears that some agencies and organisations have decided to keep the indigents of Bangladesh perpetually 'proud'. Our poverty has become a trading commodity, and whatever may have been done so far to alleviate it, poverty in Bangladesh have been a boon to many development agencies in Bangladesh, both government and non government.

We have had to suffer the ignominy of being branded as the most corrupt nation in the world. One may differ with the mechanism of arriving at such conclusions but the fact is that the brand will stick with us, and all this for the deeds and misdeeds and acts of omissions and commissions of a handful of people.

It is unfortunate that while we have politicians of repute whose credentials are above board we seem to have run out of statesmen capable of looking into the future and be a beacon for the nation.

There is nothing worse for a nation than a situation where there are leaders but no leadership, where democracy is observed only in its name and not substance, and where individual interest takes precedence to party interests and where national interest is relegated to the back by petty party or group interest.

The people deserve better than what they have got so far.

Let us therefore dedicate ourselves to the memory of those to whose sacrifices we owe our existence. Let us remember those that gave up their most valued possession, not for any tangible return but to see that our dignity and honour as a nation is restored. It is their memory that we must perpetuate and acknowledge in our hearts at all times, it is their dreams that we must strive to fulfill. We have to do this, we must do this.

Much of our woes are due to lack of consensus of the major parties on major national issue. The nation expects its leaders to identify the national interests and concerns and follow a common policy to uphold those. No party can claim sole agency of patriotism, and insofar as the pursuit of major goals that involve international formulations, it would be wise to seek cooperation of all.

If ever our safety was at stake in the last thirty five years it is now. It is time to rise above party politics and address the threat in unison. Otherwise, it is our existence that will be at stake, the supreme sacrifices of the martyrs desecrated, and our Victory will turn out to be merely a pyrrhic one.

The author is Editor, Defense and Strategic Affairs, the Daily Star.

Copyright 2004 The Daily Star. All Rights Reserved.