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Somber silence as Bangladesh celebrates Independence Day

The day marks the beginning of the fight by Bengalis in erstwhile East Pakistan for freedom.  On the night of Mar 25, 1971, the Pakistan Army launched “Operation Searchlight”, a brutal and barbaric military assault on an unsuspecting population to crush the Bengali movement for rights and justice that had turned to a fight for freedom in the face of persistent denials. The nation’s founding father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was detained that night. Before he was picked up, he had proclaimed independence.

The undisputed leader of the Bengalis had effectively announced the nation’s independence at the historic Mar 7 rally at the Racecourse grounds, when he thundered: “Ebarer sangram amader muktir sangram, ebarer sangram swadhinatar sangram (This time the struggle is for our freedom. This time the struggle for our independence).”  After nine months of bloody war, Bangladesh emerged on the world map on Dec 16, surfing through an ‘ocean of blood’.

Nearly three million people, mostly Bengali civilians, died in these nine months, more than a quarter of a million Bengali women were dishonoured – something that makes Bangladesh’s freedom a very hard-earned one.  President Md Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will lead the nation in commemorating the day by placing wreaths on the National Memorial in Savar early on Thursday. The commemoration is set to begin with 31 gun salutes tearing through the skies at the National Parade Ground at dawn.

President Hamid will visit the parade and Bangladesh Military Hardware Display – 2015 at10:30am. He will host a reception at the Bangabhaban in the afternoon. Prime Minister Hasina will join the reception along with people from all walks of life. National flag will be hoisted at all government and semi-government offices, and all important buildings and streets will be decorated with lights. The government has published posters to mark the day.

Newspapers will publish supplementary issues to mark the day, while state-run Bangladesh Television and Bangladesh Betar, and private radio and TV channels will broadcast special programmes marking the day.  Shilpakala Academy, Shishu Academy and other socio-cultural organisations will organise special programmes.   All places of worship will hold special prayers, and prisoners, patients at hospitals, orphans and students will be served special diet. The Bangladesh embassies abroad will also organise Independence Day programmes.  Before his arrest on the night of Mar 25, 1971, independence leader Sheikh Mujib proclaimed Bangladesh free after the Pakistani military rulers refused to honour a popular vote in December 1970.

Messages

The president and prime minister have issued messages marking the day. President Hamid in his message greeted the people of Bangladesh and paid respects to the martyrs.  He also emphasised strengthening democracy for national development. “We have to go a long way to achieve the desired goals of independence and build a happy and prosperous Bangladesh,” he said. In her message, Prime Minister Hasina urged all to tackle any sort of activity against independence and democracy.

She alleged the BNP and Jamaat-e-Islami were conducting covert attacks like those done during the Liberation War. She said the communal force against independence was still conspiring to thwart democracy. The BNP-led alliance is enforcing a blockade for around three months. Over 120 people have been killed in violence during the programme. In her Independence Day message to the nation, BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia said that the day came at a time “when democracy has been banished from the country”.   “The citizens have lost their freedom, their right to vote,” she said in the message, appealing for people to join the struggle for ‘restoration of democracy’.

It is not yet clear whether she will turn up at the National Memorial on Thursday.

‘400,000 for Bangla’

The government will also add 400,000 new Bangla words to Google Translate on Thursday to mark the Independence Day in a bid to enrich the language on the internet. The initiative, jointly organised by the Information and Communication Technology Division, Bangladesh Computer Council and Google Developer Group Bangla, has been christened ‘Banglar Jonnyo Char Lakh’ (400,000 for Bangla).  About 4,000 people will directly work at more than 50 points across Bangladesh to add the Bangla words to Google Translate.
Volunteers from Australia, Portugal, US, UK and other countries across the globe will also join the effort.

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