Promises of ’71 kept in New Bangladesh


Before 2013, I used to write every year in the newspapers asking that the killers of my father, martyred intellectual Dr. Fazle Rabbee. be brought to justice. Prior to 2000, it was my mother, late Dr. Mrs. Jahan A Rabbee, who used to pen such columns. We did not want to lose the memory or the vision – the blood sacrifices made by the intellectuals to fade away.

In August 2013, when I testified in the war criminals’ trials in Dhaka at the International Court Tribunals (ICT-2) – I felt a huge burden lift off my shoulders. I did not even know how much pain I had been carrying for the murder of my father since 1971 when I was a child. Even though the accused, alleged Al-Badr leaders Chowdhury Mueen Uddin and Ashrafuzzaman Khan - are hiding in the US and UK respectively, they have been found guilty and given the death penalty in Dhaka for, along with Pakistani army, exterminating our prominent intellectuals. It was the common Bangladeshi people who rose up in Shahbagh Square to demand justice, as well as our compassionate, brave leader, Sheikh Hasina, who made it happen. This is one of the biggest promises fulfilled by Bangladesh to its people – and to the devastated families of the martyrs of 1971.

The economic growth – fueled by advancement in overall literacy and health, in particular of women and girls – is the second promise fulfilled by our people and leaders to the 1971 vision. Our departed martyrs, intellectuals and early leaders envisioned a society that would rise above discrimination and abuse. Today we are in the territory of prosperity, better health and wellbeing than any of the preceding decades in our history. In many dimensions, we have left our counterparts in South Asia behind – but we have to rise much, much higher.

The intellectuals, like my father who was a humanist, cardiologist, and a progressive thinker, held a view that Bangladesh would achieve prosperity and an oppression-free society. We are well on our way to a healthy, happy and free society along that vision.

The cultural heritage of Bangladesh thrives against the backdrop of religious tolerance and multi-faith communities living peacefully together. We have a country where cities light up in celebration of Bengali music, plays and traditions so many times a year. We have established 21st February as a day internationally recognised by the UN. This is the day we honour our language martyrs of 1952 who fought for our rights to speak our mother language. The cultural critics of India have heralded Dhaka as the center of Bengali cultural activities today! Every year on Pahela Baishak people leave their worries behind and crowd the vibrant streets of our cities. Art, crafts, sculpture and entertainment solidify us as a nation. The third promise is fulfilled.

Our country – while struggling with human rights abuse and fighting crimes within our borders – has shown an extremely humane side of being Muslim by opening our doors to Rohingyas from neighboring Myanmar. While Aung San Suu Kyi seems to be leaving a negative legacy as a Nobel prize winner – our prime minister Sheikh Hasina and our people – have left a noble legacy in the world by opening our doors to 750,000 desperate and vulnerable Rohingya Muslims brothers and sisters. A national debt fully repaid to the Almighty.

As the daughter of Dr. Mohammad Fazle Rabbee, I honestly feel this is the dawn of a New Bangladesh. We are a country, which has pulled itself out of the curse of its enemies – and embraced the blessings of its martyrs and freedom fighters. Today we are proud whether it is our achievement in Cricket in the World Cup – or finding some of the best clothing in the world made in Bangladesh in a store anywhere in the world – or witnessing the rapid development of our cities or something else. Though it has taken almost 50 years, Bangladesh is a new country where freedom, equality and prosperity are present and achievable goals. The country has taken a dramatic and unexpected turn towards becoming a success story in all of Asia. I am grateful to the 1971 sacrifices of millions of men and women who have perished in our war of liberation, to the deep patriotic commitment towards development and growth by Sheikh Hasina and to the ordinary men and women who believed the vision of 1971 and kept working for its fulfillment.

Truly, this is a time to celebrate New Bangladesh.

* Nusrat Rabbee is an author, data scientist and statistician who lives and works in New York.