Efforts are on in Dhaka and elsewhere in Bangladesh to mar celebrations during the country’s Bijoya Mash (Month of Victory) but we shall not buckle under pressure,” a Mukti Joddha, now aged nearly 80, said from Dhaka.
Bangladesh celebrates December as the Month of Victory and the 16th day of the month as Bijoy Dibosh (Victory Day). It was on December 16, 1971 that the Pakistan Army surrendered to Indian forces in Dhaka. Nearly 93,000 Pakistani soldiers and militiamen were taken Prisoners of War. On that day, the Bangladesh government that had operated in exile from Kolkata, formally shifted to Dhaka.
Bangladesh has been in a state of turmoil for the last few months with the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) – the main Opposition in the country – demanding resignation of the Awami League government and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, daughter of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the founding father of Bangladesh.
Sk Hasina, on her part, has accused the BNP of anti-national activities and maintaining ties with Pakistan. Earlier this year, she claimed that the BNP continues to follow the principles of ‘Pyare Pakistan’, a tune set by party founder and former Bangladesh president Ziaur Rahman. BNP president and Ziaur Rahman’s widow Khaleda Zia is presently serving a five-year jail term and is expected to be released in 2023.
Khaleda Zia was Bangladesh prime minister for two terms and many suspect that the agitations in the country are in anticipation of her release to ensure a comeback. Bangladesh goes to the polls in 2023.
“Ziaur Rahman may have fought in the Liberation War of Bangladesh but his role during his presidency wasn’t appreciated. He attempted to mend ties with Pakistan and move Bangladesh away from India. Pakistan has not yet acknowledged the genocide that was perpetrated by its Army in Bangladesh in 1971. Neither has it punished anybody for the genocide in which nearly half a million people were butchered. A true Bangladeshi will never forgive Pakistan,” another Mukti Joddha said.
In a few days from now, the Indian Army’s Eastern Command will be hosting Mukti Joddhas as well as serving military officers from Bangladesh. Indian Army veterans from the 1971 Indo-Pak War will also travel to Bangladesh.
“We have strong ties with India and our bonds will only grow stronger in the days to come. In 2021, both the Indian Prime Minister and President visited Bangladesh. This has never happened for any other country,” said Andalib Elias, Deputy High Commissioner of Bangladesh in Kolkata.
On December 16, several Bangladeshi musicians, including Runa Laila will be performing in Kolkata during the Indian Army’s Vijay Diwas celebrations.