Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, people of all classes and professions gathered at the National Mausoleum in Savar early in the morning yesterday on Victory Day to pay homage to the martyrs of the War of Liberation. Some carried banners of political parties while some others were there with their family members.
Paying homage to the martyrs officially began at 6:30am. On behalf of President Abdul Hamid, his Military Secretary Major General SM Shamim-Uz-Zaman placed floral wreaths at the altar of the memorial to pay homage to the country’s valiant heroes.
Due to the pandemic, this year’s Victory Day programme, alongside other state programmes, was organised on a limited scale. This year the armed forces did not hold a joint military parade at the National Parade Square.
Families of the Bir Sreshthos, war wounded freedom fighters, the Chief Justice and the three forces also paid their respects at the memorial. Mayor Sheikh Fazle Nur Taposh paid tributes on behalf of Dhaka South City Corporation.
The War of Liberation, which commenced with the declaration of independence by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman moments before his arrest by the Pakistan army in the early hours of 26 March 1971, ended successfully with the surrender of Pakistani forces nine months later on 16 December.
On that day, Lieutenant General Amir Abdullah Khan Niazi, who led Pakistan’s forces in the war, surrendered to the Joint Command of the Mukti Bahini and the Indian army at the then Race Course ground in Dhaka.
The ruling Awami League hoisted the national flag and party flag at the party’s central office, Bangabandhu Bhaban and its different offices countrywide at sunrise. Senior party leaders laid wreaths at the Savar National Mausoleum at 9am.
Obaidul Quader said, “We are celebrating this Victory Day on the threshold of the golden jubilee of our independence. Yet a section, an evil force, is fighting the ideology of the independence of Bangladesh, the spirit of the liberation war.”
“Our promise on this Victory Day is: we will resist these communal forces with the spirit of the Liberation War,” he declared.
Leaders of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI), the country’s top business body, also paid homage to the martyrs at the memorial.
FBCCI President Sheikh Fazle Fahim said Bangladesh has achieved Millennium Development Goals. The poverty rate has come down from 48% to 21%. “We have many limitations, but we will move forward despite that.”
As the day advanced, the number of people coming from different political, social, cultural and professional organisations to pay their respects at the memorial went on increasing, flouting social distancing rules.
At around 9:30am, BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir paid tributes on behalf of the party.
He said, “The liberation war is our national heritage and pride. But it is sad to say the spirit with which our heroic fighters marched into the great War of Liberation at risk to their lives is almost extinct today. That is why we have taken this oath today on Victory Day.
“Of course, we will continue our struggle to liberate the people of this country. Of course, we will be able to turn Bangladesh into a beautiful state,” he added.
Among other political organisations and institutions, Communist Party of Bangladesh, Nagorik Oikya, Gana Sanghati Andolan, Gano Forum, Bikalpa Dhara Bangladesh, University Grants Commission, Jahangirnagar University, Bangladesh Sadharon Chhatra Odhikar Parishad, Bangladesh Dental Society, Red Crescent Bangladesh and others also paid homage to the martyrs.
Meanwhile, the National Memorial was adorned with red and green banners, posters and lighting. Men were seen selling red and green scarves, masks, bands and souvenirs.
Zeba Rahman, a student of Dhaka University and resident of Savar, came to pay homage at the memorial in the morning.
She said, “We have seen at various times that the fundamentalists in the country raise their heads whenever they get a chance. But after so many years of independence, why do we have to go through this situation? We need to be more careful.”
However, the time to resist them is not over yet, she also said, adding, “Otherwise, we will have to pay the ultimate price in the future. We will have to move forward with secularism if we want to see a Bangladesh we had dreamt of.”
Meanwhile, Information Minister and Joint General Secretary of Awami League Dr Hasan Mahmud, along with other party leaders, placed a wreath at the portrait of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on Dhanmondi Road No 32 in the capital.
He said Bangladesh’s success is the leadership of Sheikh Hasina moving on the path set by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who dreamt of a developed country but could not realise it because of his grisly assassination only three and a half years after independence.
“Today, we have surpassed Pakistan in all indicators, be it economic, human development or social. We have also surpassed India in many indicators. This is the success of Bangabandhu and his daughter.”