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          Volume 11 |Issue 12| March 23, 2012 |


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The Fight for True Liberty

Aasha Mehreen Amin

It is hard to tell when one gets that inexplicable sense of belonging to one's motherland. Is it when one gets goose bumps upon hearing the national anthem? Is it when one's national cricket team unexpectedly wins a brilliant victory? Is it when one suddenly hears one's mother tongue in a foreign land?

For the people of this land the declaration of independence must have been one of those inexplicable moments when the pull of that umbilical chord was intense and overpowering.

Four decades later, it is hard to imagine those emotionally charged moments when one realised that one could finally claim to be a particular nationality, separate from a racist, oppressive, obdurate ruler, no matter what it took. Most of us after all, have been handed the priceless gem of citizenship of an independent country, for free. There are still so many millions of our fellow humankind who cannot claim to have such a fundamental right.

Photo: Amirul Rajiv

For us Bangladeshis we have the privilege of owning both the glory of resistance and the euphoria of victory. As the beneficiaries of such supreme sacrifice and courage, there must be something more than just a sense of belonging that we owe our country.

True, the dreams of our freedom fighters, are far out of reach of most of our people. Most of us are constantly pulled back to the end of the line by injustice, oppression, arrogance and corruption. Children still go hungry to bed. Men die early of exhaustion, frustration and disappointment. Women are still imprisoned and left to waste away within the walls of patriarchy. We no longer have foreign oppressors who look down upon us and deprive us of our basic rights. Now we have tyrants of our own – all home grown and in so many guises. They come in the form of a money-hungry politician, a self-centred business tycoon, a self-righteous, morally corrupt, religious leader, an unscrupulous intellectual or even an ordinary citizen who turns to crime to meet the insatiable desire for wealth and power.

We have been poisoned a slow poison, that sucks away all those noble virtues of our freedom fighters – honesty, integrity, altruism and honour.

Democracy cannot mean just the right to vote every four years for leaders who may or may not work for the good of the people. Nor does it mean having a glamorous parliament where Members either don't turn up or bicker and fight like goons happily aware that they will soon go home in their air-conditioned two point something crore taka vehicle. And definitely it does not mean violent butchering on the streets between leaders and their cronies leaving the ordinary person stranded, paralysed.

Yet it is futile to keep wailing about our sorry state. We need to remember the stories of courage and selflessness that gave us this beautiful land that we can call our own. We, the citizens of this country, need to put aside our material desires and pursue something a lot bigger than ourselves. There is a lot of work to be done by each and every citizen, to build this nation into one that can offer all its people the fundamental rights guaranteed by our constitution and dreamt by our freedom fighters.

The War of Independence may be over but the fight for true liberty is yet to be won.


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