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Pledge to build prosperous Bangladesh

Rayhan Ahmed Topader:

Bangladesh may only have existed as an independent state for 30 years but its cultural and linguistic roots go deep. The Bangla language (the term Bengali was just a British colonial rendering of this) was distinct by the 7th century and a literature written in it was emerging by the 11th century. Religion has also tended to set the Bangla-speaking people apart: for more than a millennium they bucked the Hindu trend by remaining Buddhist, while since the 12th century, when Muslims invaded from the northwest, Islam has won the loyalty of the majority.Though threatened by Indian expansion and Portuguese raiders, the land remained largely autonomous until June 1757 when the British sent soldiers under Robert Clive to defeat a force led by local ruler Nawab Siraj-ud-Dwola at the Battle of Plassey (known locally as Polashi). The colonial British were content to leave the zamindars owners of vast landed estates in control. Most of these were upper-caste Hindus, as were the agents who collected money from the mainly Muslim peasants; these city-dwelling agents became the core of a new middle class, the bhadralok. In 1905 the British divided what they called Bengal into two with Dhaka as capital of the east and Calcutta of the west. But they met with such fierce resistance led by, amongst others, the great Bangla poet Rabindranath Tagore that they had to reunite the province in 1912. By 1946 it was clear to the British that they were going to have to quit India and that a united India was going to be impossible to preserve. The Liberation War was confined to the territory of Bangladesh. But a battle was also fought in London to draw support for an independent Bangladesh. London played a big role for the cause of our liberation.These three photos are from a series of photos titled Project London 1971.The series, which was curated by Ujjal Das, capture the movement by the Bangladeshi expatriate community in London and Bangabandhu’s stay there, which helped bring global attention to Bangladesh’s call for independence. Photo: Project London 1971.Wasim Bin Habib and Tuhin Shubhra Adhikary.With each passing day in March of 1971, Bengali disobedience grew and the people of East Pakistan eventually erupted. The spirit also touched the Bangalee expatriates living far away. London was one such place where the Bangalees took to the streets for an independent Bangladesh. On March 5, Bangalees living in London burnt Pakistani flags at the Pakistan High Commission there. This was one of the many tumultuous events that took place in London during the Liberation War. In fact, London became the diplomatic front of Bangladesh, where funds were raised for the war effort. Nearly four decades later, a Bangladeshi young man pieced together the little-known episode of the history of expatriate Bangalees who fought their own battle to mobilise world opinion against genocide and for recognising Bangladesh as an independent country.Ujjal Das worked for a decade collecting and archiving rare records of the historical events in the UK. Titled Project London 1971, the 39-year-old brought together around 300 rare photographs, posters, leaflets, letters, clippings of Bangla and English newspapers, and the first postal stamp of Bangladesh. These three photos are from a series of photos titled Project London 1971.The series, which was curated by Ujjal Das, capture the movement by the Bangladeshi expatriate community in London and Bangabandhu’s stay there, which helped bring global attention to Bangladesh’s call for independence. Photo: Project London 1971.In 1971, he worked in favour of Bangladesh in London under the pseudonym Ahmed Hossain. Shashanka travelled with Bangabandhu during his homecoming via London in 1972. He had two photographs of the journey with Bangabandhu one inside the plane and another during a stopover in Cyprus.A large number of the photographs that he collected were taken by British photographer Roger Gwynn and Bangladeshi expatriate Yusuf Chowdhury. They gave him the copyrights of the photographs.He bought 25 photographs with the contribution from his relatives and well-wishers. One of the photographs is of a gathering of thousands of Bangalees and non-Bangalees at Trafalgar Square on August 1, 1971. He also collected a letter handwritten by Tajuddin Ahmed, the first prime minister of Bangladesh, in which he sought cooperation from Bangalees in London. In 2016, he returned to Bangladesh to write a book named London 1971. He organised several exhibitions featuring the photographs of his collection in Dhaka, Chittagong, Sylhet, and even Toronto.Also Mayor of Washington, DC, Muriel Bowser has declared the 48th Independence and National Day of Bangladesh celebrated on March 26 this year as Bangladesh Day.A representative of the mayor formally handed over the proclamation to Bangladesh Ambassador to the USA Mohammad Ziauddin at the Independence Day reception at the embassy last evening, said a press release of the embassy.The proclamation says on this day, people of Bangladesh, remember the leadership of the father of the nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, and the valor of the freedom fighters that led to the independence of their country, the press release said.The United States Department of State has cited Bangladesh as a global example of a democratic, tolerant, pluralistic, and moderate nation whose friendship matters to the United States. The links between the two wings of Pakistan were tenuous, however, and the East was threatened from the first by Pakistan leader Mohammed Ali Jinnah’s avid promotion of Urdu as the national language. Bangla discontent festered, particularly after the military took over in Pakistan in 1958. Resistance coalesced around Mujibur Rahman who was jailed repeatedly by the military while campaigning for autonomy. In 1971 Mujib’s Awami League won 167 of 169 seats in East Pakistan. Amid crisis talks aimed at preventing independence, West Pakistan’s army launched a genocidal attack, killing thousands and arresting Mujib. Around 10 million refugees fled to India, where Awami League leaders declared independence on 26 March. Dogged guerrilla resistance began until finally, in December 1971, the Indian army invaded and ejected Pakistani forces. The war had cost three million lives. Mujib became leader of an independent Bangladesh.By 1974, though, the Mujib Government was in trouble. A devastating famine killed 50,000, prompting a huge influx of foreign aid to a country perceived by the West as a ‘basket-case’. With the country spinning out of control, Mujib assumed dictatorial powers and banned all opposition. He was assassinated within months by right-wing army officers, allegedly with covert US backing. A series of further military coups ensued, which eventually saw General Hossain Mohammad Ershad emerge on top. He was to remain there through the 1980s, courtesy of phoney elections. Democracy as gang warfare.Opposition to the Ershad regime grew steadily in the late 1980s and he eventually resigned after weeks of violent demonstrations in December 1990. An election was contested between two parties headed by women: the Bangladesh Nationalist Party’s Khaleda Zia, widow of assassinated military leader Zia ur Rahman, and the Awami League’s Sheikh Hasina, daughter of Mujib. The 1990s have seen these two parties trade places while retaining the widespread corruption institutionalized during the Ershad regime. The nation’s politics are largely characterized by gang warfare between the two major parties: independent political activity is technically allowed but remains in practice a desperately dangerous business. Important buildings and establishments as well as city streets and islands were illuminated with the light of red and green — the colour of the national flag.Ruling Awami League and different other political parties as well as socio-cultural and professional organisations organised elaborate programmes.The day was also celebrated at all divisional cities, district towns, upazilas, and municipalities.The state-owned Bangladesh Betar and Bangladesh Television as well as private television channels broadcast special programmes and newspapers brought out special supplements, highlighting the significance of the day. Special prayers were offered at religious centres across the country for the eternal peace of the martyrs and seeking divine blessings for the country’s prosperity. Improved diets were served to the inmates of hospitals, jails, old homes and other public institutions marking the day.Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) and Indian Border Security Force (BSF) exchanged greetings and sweetmeat at the Hili border of Dinajpur. Meanwhile, Liberation War Museum and Ovhijaatri, a platform of travel enthusiasts, organised a procession from Central Shaheed Minar to National Memorial in Savar.                  Writer,Journalist and Columnist                        raihan567@yahoo.com