THE VISION OF 1971 IS CLEAR NOW
The values of 1971 should be a guiding principle – a map which will help us navigate forward in this world
I was disappointed with the media coverage of our 44th Victory Day this year because of the lack of reflection on what our freedom means to us in today’s context. Then the morning of December 16 dawned, and journalists broke the news of the Peshawar school shooting in Pakistan.
Suddenly the vision of 1971 became crystal clear to me. It was not a coincidence that Pakistan was being forced to contend with its problems with fundamentalism on that day. The founding principles of our nation, which led to our war of independence from Pakistan, are as relevant today as they were 44 years ago.
I am so proud of my parents – martyred intellectual Dr Mohammed Fazle Rabbee and his wife, the late Dr Jahan Ara Rabbee – and many others who had the courage to have a different vision for Bangladesh.
They wanted to free our nation from fundamentalism and oppression. They believed in a nation where all religions would be treated equally. They played a prominent role in the war of 1971.
As a result, my father, an eminent cardiologist, perished in the intellectual extermination carried out by the Pakistani army. The killing of intellectuals was masterminded to leave the new nation absolutely handicapped to move forward after liberation.
The vindictive, evil plan did not work in the long run. After struggling for decades, we stand a victorious nation today, blessed by those who sacrificed themselves for our victory. Our principles are: Protection of human rights, democracy, secularism, economic empowerment, the right to vote, the right to speak our mother tongue, and maintain a progressive vision for our country.
It is a long journey for any nation, and we still have many struggles to overcome. We need to remain forever vigilant of Islamic fundamentalism, which is a threat to our well-being and stability. We need to conduct a health check as a nation each year on December 16.
We could continually improve if we are willing to honestly assess where we are and what we need to achieve with respect to these values. The values of 1971 should be a guiding principle – a map which will help us navigate forward in this world.
What can we do in our personal lives to help Bangladesh become a better country as defined by our founding principles?
We should stand in solidarity with the children who were killed in Peshawar. We can wipe out fundamentalist and terrorist mindsets and practices in our own country.
How can we protect the rights of the religious minorities in Bangladesh? How do we protect our environment? How do we protect the rights of working people in factories and fields?
The Peshawar school massacre was the lowest expression of violence in a long time in human history. Only recently has the world paid attention to the terrorists within Pakistan. It is in fact a chronic problem, which has taken millions of lives over more than 50 years in the region.
Some media highlights include recent travel advisories, the shooting of Malala for going to school, the harbouring of fugitive Bin Laden by the Pakistani army, the terrorist group that unleashed the heinous attacks in Mumbai in 2008, the mass genocide of Bengalis in 1971, and more.
Pakistan never acknowledged their role in perpetrating the genocide, and never investigated the leaders responsible for the atrocities.
Forty four years ago, we defeated this violent force of fundamentalism and welcomed our new nation. Almost three million Bangladeshis were killed in the war.
Let us forever be thankful to all the Bengali martyrs and freedom fighters of 1971, and let us never lose sight of the vision of independence for our nation. We owe it to them and to our future generations to keep steering our nation in the right direction of peace, freedom, integrity, empowerment, and prosperity.
DECEMBER 22, 2014