While I have always been fascinated by the red and green flare of our flag, the power of its spirit struck me as suddenly every one stood up, and hundreds of us were covered by the shelter of our beloved flag passing hand to hand over our head. I felt a distinct sense of pride as I felt as though it was my motherland sheltering me in its cocoon. They say flags are a symbol of nationhood, a symbol of unity, but I would say I was quite unprepared to have foreseen the powerful serene peace I felt over my head as we all stood in silence. And such began my journey to rediscover Bangladesh, to rediscover the spirit of our independence.
Everyday I keep getting drawn back to Shahbagh, a place where people from all walks of life converge with deep emotions at bay. Sometimes as the slogans chant on, I feel the pain of the millions dead during the war of our independence. As I come back home from Shahbagh everyday, my father, a Bir Bikrom freedom fighter, never fails to ask me, “So, how did it feel to be there?” and I never know what to say. United under one umbrella to seek justice against all war criminals, it’s as if someone has suddenly set a spark that has rekindled the spirit of our independence among all of us, especially youth like me. And thus we walk on, enchanted by the songs of our nation, the songs of freedom, and the heartbeats of our once envisioned secular Bangladesh, free from all forms of oppression and exploitation.
And then someone from abroad asks me, “Why death penalty? Capital punishment is not the answer.” And I say, “Will you be able to come down here and ensure that the war criminals given life sentence would not get out through political amnesty as soon as the power revolves?” Who is going to dry the tears of the mother who has lost her child? Who is going to appease the beautiful lady who was raped in the rivers of the bloodshed of our war? Are we supposed to turn a blind eye to the wrongs done in the past and tell them that “justice delayed is justice denied”? Or are we too worried about the heads of the disgraced?
And then again, there are others who harshly move on, and say the nation has more important things to deal with in its present than cry over the lost past, while they forget the roots they came from, while they forget the sacrifices because of which they stand where they stand today, while they forget that if you dishonour the past, someone will dishonour you in the future some day. But hope still remains in the undying spirit of the hundreds of thousands across the nation that keep rising up against our war criminals with every new day that begins.
They say that in a functional democracy, participation, accountability, and rule of law come hand in hand. And I do hope that the recent spirit of people’s participation to seek justice would reinforce the others, and once again reinforce our belief in the power of the people, and the power of our voices, that deserve to be heard. And let the love of our nation never deter us astray.
“At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love.” – Che Guevara
Mehzabin Ahmed is a development practitioner.