As the country's Independence Day, March 26 surpasses in its poignant significance every other red letter day on the calendar. But the day evokes all the sinister and dark memories associated with brutal Pakistani military crackdown on the unarmed Bangalee civilian population. So, here is a mixed emotion and feeling with which the nation observes the day. Behind the celebration of the momentous event lurk the shadows of death and destruction, guiles, political deception, a regular army's cruelty, perversion and debasement tempered with courage, conviction and valiant resistance by an unprepared people and its freedom fighters.
Not many peoples in the world had to make sacrifices of the order this nation did. At dead of night of March 25, the Pakistani army unleashed a genocide that continued for long nine months. So, to this nation the value of independence is special --so special that the occasion could not be sanctified more. The ordeal the nation went through and the courage of conviction the civilians and the freedom fighters demonstrated during the liberation war should have given the generations to come to remain honest to the memory of the sacrifices made by freedom fighters -martyred and living -and the people in general. This would have inspired them to dedicate to the cause of collective welfare. But this, evidently, has not happened.
True, the nation now is in a jubilant mood, celebrating its forward movement for graduation from the LDC (least developed country) slot. This, no doubt, is a big achievement. But wouldn't it be even more relishing had the socio-economic discrimination been eliminated or even narrowed down to the minimum and official irregularities and social aberrations in their vicious forms done away with? Neither of these has been accomplished and the nation is paying for perverse politics, bureaucratic intrigue, commercial dishonesty, all-pervasive social avarice and moral degeneration. The privileged are eating the cake and having it too, whereas the poor and marginalised are eking out a subhuman life.
By all accounts, though, the movement against the Pakistani rulers was geared to establishing the rights of the Bangalees. What the people under subjugation preached could not practise when it emerged as a free nation. This is where things went awry and the political developments of the immediate post-independent Bangladesh were mainly responsible for this. Military takeover, coups and counter-coups led the country astray from its cherished goal. It took about two decades to bring in order the system of elected government. Even then the political divides between and among political parties still remain so wide that consolidation of democracy in the country proves to be a daunting task.
On paper, independence refers to liberation from bondage imposed by repressive rule -foreign or home-grown. Subjected to foreign rule, a people groans because the attack on language and culture is relentless to the point where it has either to stand defiant or make a compromise at the cost of both these vital assets of nationalism. The Bangalees had the advantage of a highly developed language and rich culture to back it up. Already a poet writing in Bangla had won a Nobel prize for literature. The Rohingya people now driven away from their soil are perhaps not fortunate enough on these counts. Also then East Pakistan was located at a distance of 1000 miles from the western wing of Pakistan.
Clearly, the people here have justified their claim that they had been unabashedly exploited by the ruling circle of West Pakistan of that time. Today, Bangladesh is ahead of Pakistan in terms of most of its socio-economic indicators. The message is clear: under Pakistani rule, the people here would have been far worse than today's Pakistanis. This gives people and political leadership here enough satisfaction, no doubt. But it is equally true that the dream of what is euphemistically called a golden Bangla still eludes it. The majority of the population have failed to reap the benefit of independence.
Under social safety network, the government still has to distribute foods among the country's most vulnerable groups. That the government has the ability to carry on such a programme is appreciable but conversely it is a poor commentary on the socio-economic order the country has got going. Education, the main fuel for human engine, has not been devised and systemised according to the need of the time. The underprivileged segments of society have hardly any access to quality and useful education. Thus they cannot break free from the poverty trap. With digitisation on a march in every sphere of life, the conventional education will soon find itself irrelevant. The underprivileged and vulnerable groups will be more at a disadvantage.
When the need was to reorganise education in the country, it is grappling with issues such as question-paper leaks and coaching business. It must be admitted that if the most appropriate system of education could be devised and made available to all -free of cost where needed, the nation would be able to catapult itself several notches upward with a single pull. Instead, chaos reigns supreme in the education sector. So education is one area that is crying for fixing it in order to bring in social sanity and equilibrium. Let the pledge of this year's Independence Day celebration be an all-out effort towards making education really meaningful in the nation's life.
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