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A day to rejoice, also to mourn and introspect

IT IS indeed a special day today, for on this day 42 years ago, Bangladesh emerged victorious, politically and militarily, against the occupation forces of Pakistan. It took thousands of lives, the lives of armed freedom fighters and unarmed civilians actively supporting the liberation struggle, let alone sufferings of millions during the nine months of war, to secure the emergence of Bangladesh. It is, therefore, also the day to mourn, with a sense of pride though, the martyrs of the liberation war. More importantly, it is the day to take a stock of the successes that the country has attained and the failures it has met since independence.
Bangladesh, obviously, has achievements in many sectors, such as garments industry, agriculture, foreign remittance earning, maternal health and female literacy, et cetera. However, it is equally true that it has not been able to achieve certain fundamental goals for which the people of the country had suffered deaths, tortures and displacements during the liberation war, a truly representative democracy with separation of power being the first among them. Evidently, the middle class, let alone the poor, can no longer afford to contest in the national polls, for the ruling-class political parties, the Awami League and the Bangladesh National Party, has made elections very expensive and thus reduced it to an affair of the rich, while the poor millions are left only to choose their representatives from among the rich candidates of the contesting parties. Lately, with more than 150 MPs of the 300-strong national parliament having been elected unopposed, thanks to the ruling Awami League’s undemocratic political manoeuvrings, more than half of the 100 million voters have been deprived of their right to choose their representatives.
The country’s second most important failure remains in that of introducing an egalitarian national economy. After all, thousands of poor people fought the liberation war removing economic discrimination among the citizens. But the successive governments of the ruling class have firmly established here an unbridled market economy, which inevitably advance through creating more and more economic inequalities. Not surprisingly, the garments workers, peasants and the foreign remittance earners, the main workforces of the three most important sectors which are keeping the national economy going, have the most miserable standard of living.
Religious equality was another important goal that the people of this country had fought the liberation war for. But 42 years after liberation, the ruling-class parties have reduced Bangladesh to a political organisation, with Islam its state religion, which clearly suggests that the state is constitutionally discriminatory against its non-Muslim citizens. Gender equality and the equality of nationalities, which are very important requisites for the democratisation of the state and society, also remain a far cry.
Clearly, Bangladesh has a long way to go before it can claim that it has attained the goals that the people sacrificed their lives for. For that to happen, the people truly committed to the spirit of the liberation war would require a decisive political victory against the ruling-class parties responsible for distorting the country’s political, economic and cultural process — no matter how many rhetorical slogans they chant every day in the name of liberation war or nationalism.

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