December 16th is the Victory Day of Bangladesh. This day is the biggest achievement of the Bengali nation and the fulfillment of the dream of freedom from many bloodsheds. After the exploitation, persecution, and misrule of the Pakistani rulers, on this day of 1971, the dawn of the new Dhaka was shining.
The Great War of Liberation took three million souls and the honor of two lacs mothers and sisters. The maximum of these victims, who fell to East Pakistani forces, were the Hindus who were raped, murdered, and made refugees satisfy their bloodlust.
Although people of all communities participated in the war of great independence, irrespective of religion and caste, the loss of the Hindu community was, by every account, more than all other communities.
I won’t be wrong in saying that there was not one Hindu family whose property or family did not suffer some sort of harm in the war. Some families had multiple casualties, the properties were looted, or simply burnt down. That was what we bore.
But we bore it all to carve a non-communal independent Bangladesh which was impossible with a communal West Pakistan attached to us.
Let me give you an example of the Pakistani hate for Bengali freedom fighters in general and for Hindus in particular. During the searches, the West Pakistani soldiers used to shout ‘Malaun Kahha, Mukti Kahha’, while searching our homes. The word ‘Mukti Kahha’ means “where is the freedom fighter” and ‘Malaun Kahha’ means “where is the Hindu.”
Such was their hate that they equated freedom fighters with Hindus in their blind belief that Muslims do not wish to gain freedom.
But they were wrong.
Jinnah’s two-nation theory, which was instrumental in the creation of Pakistan, was proved wrong in 1971; Hindus and Muslims could co-exist in one nation, with equal rights. At least that’s what we Bengali Hindus thought then.
It pains me to say that after four decades of independence, the Hindu society of this country is extremely disappointed because the successive governments did nothing to establish an egalitarian Bangladesh. Today we see Bangladesh being projected as another Muslim country.
Such is the denialism in the society today, that the tremendous contribution of the Hindus in the 1971 Liberation War is being muted directly or indirectly by the state.
Hindus face discrimination and persecution. For example, if some politician wins an election, the losing side often attacks the Hindus to vent its anger. Hindus, in short, are like football in Bangladesh.
India’s role: Then and Now
India had an important role in the liberation war of Bangladesh. India has not only given moral support but provided shelter to the refugees, gave them food and clothing.
India also trained freedom fighters and gave them arms and ammunition.
The blood and martyrdom of Indian soldiers aided us in the great liberation war of Bangladesh. I have no hesitation in stating that without India’s help, Bangladesh would have faced worse from the Pakistani Army which went on a killing spree drunk on racial and religious hatred. But this history of our cooperation is often denied. And it is a fact that an anti-India attitude is seeing a sharp rise in Bangladesh.
Today animosity towards neighboring Hindus and hatred towards India is a common factor.
Not many know, but right after achieving independence, Bangladesh politics had become anti-India. For example, after independence, the BNP started the politics of opposing and ridiculing India at every given opportunity.
All those who came to power after the assassination of Bangabandhu in 1975, all indulged the anti-India organizations and this emboldened them. Most of the time this hate was due to Hinduism which was flourishing in India.
We can change this attitude by cooperating in every field possible.
To begin with, we must celebrate Victory Day on December 16 by also remembering the Indians who sacrificed their lives for our nation. Let this felicitation not only be done in closed-door meetings or seminars but be part of our celebration in schools, colleges, and other educational institutions all over the country.
Together we can grow stronger if only we remember our shared past!
By Arun Chandra Mojumder