We observe today the forty-ninth anniversary of independence declared by the Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, in the early hours of 26 March 1971.
Every nation has some days which are inscribed in the pages of history in letters of gold. These days carry memories of the glorious events that inspire people, that make people feel proud. The people of Bangladesh by tradition love freedom, but successive Pakistani regimes kept us suppressed with the power of their guns and political machinations for a long period of 24 years. They deprived us of all that we deserved and aspired to. We wanted to speak our mother tongue, we wanted economic emancipation, we wanted our due share of the national wealth, we wanted proportionate participation of our people in the defense forces and civil administration, but everywhere we were treated as inferior. In our own land, we were rated as second class citizens.
Eventually, when we emerged triumphant at the general elections of December 1970 and achieved the legitimate right to form a government for the whole of Pakistan, it was the Pakistan army that was let loose on us. The election results were subverted, our undisputed leader was abducted and taken away to Pakistan to stand trial, three million of our compatriots were murdered in an organized programme of genocide, tens of thousands of Bengali women were raped, ten million of our people were compelled to take refuge in India and villages and towns were reduced to burning cinders in the nine-month occupation of Bangladesh.
All these unjust acts and behavior of the Pakistani establishment were inevitably to lead to circumstances where we would revolt and declare our independence as a nation. It was a time, between March and December 1971, when a whole country came together to resist the Pakistan occupation forces and their local collaborators. For nine months, even as the enemy laid the country waste, tens of thousands of our young men and women left their homes and made the long, arduous trip to the camps of the Mukti Bahini. They came back, once they had learnt the rudiments of battle, to confront the enemy. It was a job they did well and it was pride in us that told us that we could not lose. We did not lose. Despite the death and the destruction, we endured.
Let this lesson be our light unto the future.