Let us join in fight against coronavirus

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Today is Bangladesh’s Independence Day. On this day in 1971, our war of freedom was initiated following the sudden attacks by the occupational forces of Pakistan. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had declared independence before being arrested by the Pakistan army. A wartime government was formed making Syed Nazrul Islam the temporary president and Tazuddin Ahmed the prime minister. The people of the country achieved their freedom through a nine-month liberation war. We solemnly remember the three million martyrs today, and the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the four national leaders.

The first target of independence was to free the country from the colonial rule of Pakistan which was achieved by their surrender on 16 December 1971. The next aim was to form a democratic, just and secular country where the basic needs are met and rights of the people are upheld.

As we retrospect after 49 years, we see many of the aims and aspirations are yet unfulfilled.

The country has advanced much in food production, education, health and so on. Much progress has been made in social structures and communications. After the Jamuna bridge, we are constructing Padma bridge, but the dream of independence could not be achieved yet. Basic needs of food, cloth, shelter, education and health could not yet be assured for each citizen.

In Pakistan era, the motto of our political struggles and movements was to end discrimination. The discrimination, however, has increased after the independence. A few own most of the wealth. One-fourth of the people live below poverty line despite high growth. This means the results of development have not reached all. If we actually want to establish a just society based on indiscrimination, development must reach all. The huge default loans, share market scams, government asset plunderage, and capital flight do not go with the spirit of independence.

The dream of independence was to establish Bangladesh as a democratic country. When democracy should have been reinforced, it has rather been constrained. The election system has collapsed. Freedom of speech has been cramped. Governments so far tried to curb the basic citizen rights and press freedom using black law despite our constitution stipulating these rights. When the BNP government passed the ICT act, the then opposition Awami League vehemently protested against it. But the law the Digital Security Act the Awami League government has passed when they were in power, was more repressive. The golden jubilee of Independence Day will be observed next year. Will Bangladesh be complacent with its progress in economic index alone or will it strive to advance in democracy, rule of law, human rights and freedom of expression, too?

During this Independence Day, our country is nearly locked down due to coronavirus. The government has cancelled all programmes. It would be the greatest achievement of this day if we had instilled the basic spirit of independence in us. On this Independence Day, we should pledge to fight coronavirus in an all-pervading manner. We must keep ourselves safe and help others keep safe too.