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.”

Karwan Bazar’s SAARC Fountain is covered with banners and festoons to commemorate 70th founding anniversary of the Awami League on Sunday. Photo: Mahmud Zaman Ovi

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.

Ahmede Hussainis a Bangladeshi author and journalist. He is the former Literary Editor of The Daily Star. He has also edited The New Anthem (Tranquebar; Delhi; 2009).

8 Responses to “Declare June 23 a public holiday”

  1. Hasan Mahmud

    BD is already overloaded with high number of holidays – each holiday cost the nation lots of production. I live in the west, we have only few holidays.

  2. Arshad Husain

    Dear Mr. Ahmede Hussain, Yours is a well written article. However your mention of: “Golden Bengal that we as a nation have been trying to materialize” seem to be ??? . Do you think India would allow (“nation called Bangladesh”) to form a “Golden Bengal” by annexing West Bengal, Bihar and Odisha ? Furthermore that would also mean that the northeastern portion of present day India would have no alternative but to join in with Golden Bengal. Better we continue building a prosperous Bangladesh, a nation that was born by the sacrifices of Bangabandhu and millions of Bangladeshi. In the meanwhile we should also endeavor to realize from our “selfish friend” called India to give us our rightful share of the water from rivers entering Bangladesh from India.

  3. Sattar

    That’s a big stretch to claim the bangla back then is the same as Bangladesh in spirit. Siraj and his compadres did not even speak the common folk’s language. The moghuls were as tyrannical as the British in many ways. The Hindus in the continent certainly do not see them as benevolent rulers.

  4. Sukhamaya Bain

    Nawab Mirza Muhammad Siraj-ud-Daulah was no Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. He was a ruthless ruler, and his subjects were hardly free. Sheikh Mujib was a people’s leader and quite soft on his people, even to the point of not punishing many that deserved it. It is really too emotional, as opposed to realistic, to think that before 1757 Bengal was free. The land just had a different ruler than the British.

  5. Syed Mehdi Momin

    Siraj was a nincompoop wastrel. Time has come to review his place in history

  6. Md. Sibgatullah

    We want a holiday for memorising historical big assult against us.


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