It’s a day for joy; it’s a day for sorrow. It is also a day for renewed commitment and to take a new pledge. The country as a whole took a fresh pledge to ensure the trial of the notorious child of the nation, who fought against the birth of the country, the war criminals. The nation celebrated the 40th anniversary of independence on 16th December with utmost honour to the valiant sons of the soil who made the supreme sacrifice to liberate Bangladesh from the Pakistani occupation forces in 1971.
On December 16, 1971, Pakistani occupation forces chief Lt Gen AAK Niazi along with 93,000 troops surrendered to the joint forces of Mukti Bahini and Mitra Bahini at Suhrawardy Udyan in the capital. The nation, under the leadership of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, finally clinched independence on December 16 after the nine-month-long war that took the lives of 3 million people.
It was something different for the people to celebrate the victory day this year. Because they saw most of the top ranking war criminals not free to show their audacity in public, the day meant different thing to different people. Rather they are facing trial in an independent tribunal and except few most of the top leaders are facing legal consequences. The incident encouraged them to express their joy and amid enthusiasm and gaiety, thousands of people, who thronged the National Mausoleum to salute the martyred heroes, called for expediting the trial of war criminals and formation of political unity to protect national interest through the banners and posters they were carrying. Roads near the National Mausoleum were flooded with people carrying banners with patriotic slogans in their hands and chanting patriotic songs.
The capital had a festive look since early morning. Many buildings, vehicles, thoroughfares and median strips were decorated with the national flag and banners. The national flag was hoisted atop all government, semi-government and other important establishments.
Many demanding trial of war criminals carried effigies of Jamaat-e-Islami leaders Matiur Rahman Nizami and Ghulam Azam with shoes and noose around the necks. Students and teachers of different schools, colleges and universities brought out colorful precessions with patriotic lines written on festoons and banners. Dressed in red and green, men, women and children flocked various monuments, parks, the Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban, Dhaka University campus and other public places to celebrate the day. The celebrations of Victory Day, a public holiday, began with 31 gunshots at the National Parade Square in the capital at the break of dawn.
While the city streets seemed deserted in the early morning, later in the day heavy traffic was seen on many thoroughfares as enthusiastic people flooded the streets singing patriotic songs and carrying banners of different political, social, cultural and professional organizations.
Meanwhile, supporters of Awami League and BNP clashed in front of the National Mausoleum early yesterday over tearing of banners and festoons when the prime minister was in the mausoleum. The clash ensued when activists of pro-Awami League student body Chhatra League’s local unit chased rival Chhatra Dal accusing them of tearing off festoons and banners, some eyewitnesses said. There were some scattered clashes across the country too, mostly over placing wreaths at memorials.
Though the people across the country were in festive mode in celebrating the victory day, they had expressed their desire to see the faster completion of the ongoing trial of the war crime. The crowd outside the Savar National Mausoleum on the outskirts of capital Dhaka chanted ‘Try them, hang them,’ referring to seven alleged collaborators in the massacre of up to 3 million civilians and rape of 200,000 to 500,000 women during the nine-month conflict.
The Awami League-led coalition government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed has been prosecuting suspected war criminals since she assumed office in early 2009. Five of those facing charges are top members of the opposition Jamaat-e-Islami party, including its leader and former minister Matiur Rahman Nizami. The other two are leaders of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party. All were detained last year. Jamaat-e-Islami was opposed to secession, and assisted Pakistani forces during the war. An earlier initiative to prosecute war crimes was called off in 1975 when the independent country’s founding father and first Prime Minister, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, was assassinated, and his successor Khondaker Mostaq Ahmad took power with a more conservative Islamic agenda.
The ruling Awami League, it its election manifesto, during last national election committed to try the war criminals. People of Bangladesh gave their mandate to try the criminals and the Awami League came to the power with landslide victory. So, it has become a people’s demand to try the war criminals.
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