On this day 262 years ago, Bengalis plunged into an abyss of darkness, something the Palestinians call nakba— a catastrophe. Robert Clive, along with a motley group of English mercenaries, in connivance with local collaborators, defeated the last independent ruler of Bengal, Bihar and Odisha (formerly called Orissa).
Before the Battle of Plassey and subsequent execution of Siraj-ud-Daulah on July 2, this part of the world would contribute to 20 percent of the world’s Gross Domestic Product with its currency valued third in global financial market.
So traumatic has it been on the nation’s collective consciousness that for over two and a half centuries, even now, the name Mir Zafar, the local henchman of the marauding British East India Company, has been synonymous with treachery in our language.
Fate however had plans. And it shows its colour in different hues and that too at different times. Seventy years ago, on the day of our nakba, the Awami League, a party that spearheaded our independence, was born.
It led the nation to freedom and our blood-soaked loss in 1757 was finally redeemed.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has rightly said today, “Awami League was formed on this day in 1949 to bring back the independence of Bangladesh which was lost in Amrakanon on June 23, 1757 through the defeat of the last independent Nawab of Bengal.”
Figuratively speaking she is right. This day indeed has a spiritual significance for the nation’s soul. The years 1757, 1949 and the day June 23 are milestones in our great leap forward towards the Golden Bengal that we as a nation have been trying to materialise.
So much so that it needs to be officially celebrated as a public holiday. School textbooks should include events of the Battle of Plassey along with the history of the birth of the Awami League and the latter’s evolution in our politics.
It is high time we owned our past and took pride in it. A nation that does not know itself is no nation at all.