Hundreds and thousands of protestors at the Projonmo Chattar.
The Thunder of Silence
Photos: Kazi Tahsin Agaz Apurbo
1971 STOP! Two hundred sixty six days STOP! Three million lives STOP! 7.83 lives per minute STOP! Ten million dislocated in neighbouring India STOP! Countless victims of rape, arson and loot; and countless more, traumatised by the brutality of war and genocide PAUSE …
This is just the human price a nation paid to put a ten letter word on the world map. It was a dream not of one or some, but a dream of every Hindu, Buddhist, Christian and Muslim in the land. All freedom loving people of the world joined in the just, justice. On December 16, 1971 Bangladesh emerged as the youngest nation in the world.
Whenever the existence or identity of this nation has been threatened, the nation has become one. A universal egalitarian spirit has always been inherent. Bangladesh was born out of this egalitarian spirit. In 1971 Bangladesh became one. There was no distinction between religions. There was no distinction between class and wealth. Woody Guthrie's 'This land is my land; this land is your land' could not have been more appropriate. All the songs of Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra and each and every slogan of 1971- from 'Joy Bangla' to 'Padma, Meghna, Jamuna- Tomar, Amar Thikana' upheld this universal spirit. Very few nations have had the privilege of fighting a liberation war. Fewer can show the magnanimity where the nation became one. 1971, the birth of Bangladesh, was such an achievement in the history of the Bengali nation. STOP REWIND PLAY!
'The story of Bangladesh is an ancient one again made fresh'. Joan Baez aptly summed the history of Bangladesh in a single verse. From the British period, and even before, the people of this land have revolted and united against injustice in whatever way they could. In the 214 years between 1757 and 1971, the Phoenix of Bangladesh rose from the ashes and appeared on its Magic Carpet whenever people called with their heart and soul. The youth have been a driving force in almost all major historical turning points. Titumir's Revolt in 1831; Master Da' Surya Sen's Chittagong Revolt in 1930; the Language Movement of Rafiq, Shafiq, Barkat and others in 1952; the Mass Uprising in 1969; the Liberation War in 1971; and the Restoration of Parliament Democracy in 1991- the youth have made their presence and influence felt. STOP FORWARD PLAY!
The youths speak out at the Friday Shomabesh.
The rise of the Phoenix of Bangladesh from the ashes once again and coming on its Magic Carpet to Shahbagh comes as no surprise to those who know the history of Bangladesh. This time it is the youth and the youth only who are guiding the Phoenix to ensure just, justice is established. A just, justice the 1971 generation themselves and those afterwards failed to establish. Seeing the youth, Fateh Ali Chowdhury of Crack Platoon- comrade of Rumi, Badi, Chullu and others- has Saluted and Declared the generation of Projonmo Chottor at Shahbagh, the Freedom Fighters of 2013. PAUSE ...
It is children, more often than not, who show their elders the just path to travel. Remember the little child who made it obvious to his previous generation that the Emperor had no clothes? That was a Hans Anderson fiction. The non-fiction: Projonmo- Freedom Fighters of 2013- have opened the eyes of the nation. They have awakened all generations from a Rip Van Winkle slumber. Projonmo 2013 has made it obvious 1971 was an unfinished war. 1971 gave a land for the Bengali nation. What 1971 and its generation failed to do is establish just, justice; a justice to establish the nationhood of Bangladesh. Projonmo 2013 has made things better.
Projonmo 2013 has once again restored faith in the historical lineage of the power and grace of youth in this nation. They have rekindled the spirit of 1971- the egalitarianism to establish a just society. At Projonmo Chottor, there are no distinctions between age; wealth; class or any other barriers. Projonmo 2013 has united the nation to one cause.
In 1971, the cause was to free the motherland from the yoke of domination. In 2013, the goal is to establish just, justice. Like 1971, this is the voice of the heart and soul of the nation. It is in the thunder of silence that Projonmo 2013 has captured the imagination of the nation. Three minutes of silence that shook the nation are the three most precious minutes in the existence of Bangladesh as a nation. Once again, Bangladesh finds itself at a crossroads of time. Once again, it is the youth at the forefront. A just, justice is needed to revitalise the spirit of 1971 for another generation to carry the mantle on their shoulders.
Projonmo 2013 has set the wheels of history into motion. Projonmo 1971 played their part. History now calls Projonmo 2013 to play their part. Highway '71 is Revisited for the taking. If the thunder of silence of Projonmo 2013 at Shahbagh did not touch your heart, should there be anything more to say? PAUSE THINK PLAY …
(The author teaches economic theory at Jahangirnagar University. Dedicated to the author's mother, Benu, who left the material world this day, February 17, 2007)