Never before had the Bangalees so great an occasion as the decisive victory in a war against the marauding Pakistani occupation army on this day 45 years ago. The history of this land and the subcontinent was rewritten with the culmination of a nine-month war in the triumph of a new nation. A nation was born. To borrow Robert Browning, "How sad and bad and mad it was - But then how it was sweet!
In the known history of the Bangalees roughly covering 1,000 years, the people had hardly an opportunity to make them count as an independent and sovereign nation. Few peoples in the history of the world have made as much sacrifice in terms of death, destruction and sufferings as the Bangalees did in the liberation war of 1971. No wonder, the celebration of the occasion is restrained by the gory memory of the 3.0 million martyrs and 0.3 million dishonoured women. All who have survived the war then in this land are haunted by the genocide and brutality carried out by a regular army of Pakistan.
Yet after the mass decimation of the nation, its emergence as a victorious nation is the sweetest ever feeling. Not all wars are worth fighting but when a people is subjugated on the pretext of religious misinterpretation and economic exploitation the war has to be fought religiously in order to break the shackle. The Bangalees did exactly this in 1971 in order to break free from an oppressive colonial rule.
No wonder on its journey since independence, Bangladesh has posted remarkable achievements -far better on almost all counts of social indicators than those of Pakistan. The country has pleasantly surprised the rest of the world by ranking the 10th position among the world's food producers. Its spirit of invincibility is derived from 1971 victory or else it could not make the miracle happen. The country has been setting such milestones in food production, health, sanitation, child mortality, longevity of life etc., defying imperfection and weaknesses in many areas.
Wars bring the best and worst in people. In 1971, barring a few the Bangalees invoked the virtues in order to sustain themselves. Resilience is what the nation has received as a legacy. This is contributing to the nation's struggles against all odds now. In the war, the fight was against a formidable enemy; now the fight is within. It is a war against poverty, hunger malnutrition, illiteracy, social taboos, superstitions, cultural conundrums, religious dogmas, socio-economic discrimination and polarisation.
Victory in that bloody war has made the nation confident of its own power and ability to go beyond artificially drawn 'Laxman Rekha', the so-called protection boundary or line. Today this nation has been achieving extraordinary feats in science, technology, innovative business and advanced agriculture -some of their gifted sons leading from the front. This is where victory in a different context of time and reality ought to be.
This nation has emerged from a scorched-earth policy followed by the Pakistani army and has no intention of waging any more armed conflict with any other nation. Its land and resources are limited. So it is incumbent on itself to economically utilise every bit of its land and resources in order to sustain its progress. For the major part of the journey, it has been tortuous. But still it has been progressing remarkably well.
Yet society is falling prey to alien influences hostile to the country's tradition and culture in many cases. Some of these would not have posed a great challenge if only the local intellectual output, particularly in the area of education, sports, entertainment and culture in terms of creativity would have maintained a steady progress and set a benchmark for the aspiring scholars, writers and artists. Politics which sets the tone for all such endeavours and pursuits had to be clean enough to create an ambience of good governance. In the war against corruption, the nation is yet to score enough credit.
Thus the gains made so far are appreciable but those could prove enviable to nations across the world if in the unconquered areas, victory could be posted. The nation also could walk taller than now. People are waiting for a final victory over all these negative forces in action. The seed of discontent lies in an imperfect system unable to do justice to the down-trodden and the backward communities. Maldistribution of wealth has its backlash from unexpected corners. The rise of extremism in society with disillusioned young people forsaking their luxurious life for jihad explains the point so eloquently.
Clearly, there are fronts on which the war has to be waged judiciously and smartly. The dangers posed to the country's integrity may not look great at this point but a small beginning can explode into a huge fireball if the related issues of enlightenment of soul are not taken well care of. Marx's remark on religion that it is the opium of the people proves true for the misguided. It is the duty of the saner section of people to postulate the corollary of the famous saying where his heart melts to observe that it (religion) is the cry of the soul in a soulless world. Bangladesh needs to have its heart in the right place to earn the ultimate victory against injustice and all things negative.