Bangladesh Begins Celebrations for Upcoming 50th Anniversary of Independence

Pulack Ghatack
Dhaka
2021-03-17
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Bangladesh Begins Celebrations for Upcoming 50th Anniversary of Independence A woman walks past a large cutout of Bangladesh's founder Sheikh Mujibur Rahman as the nation marks his 101th birthday in Dhaka, March 17, 2021.
[AFP]

Bangladesh kicked off a ten-day countdown to the 50th anniversary of the country’s independence on Wednesday, while also marking the birth anniversary of the nation’s founder, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

Mujib declared independence from what was then known as West Pakistan on March 26, 1971, following which the country won freedom in December that year.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who is Mujib’s daughter, virtually addressed a children’s rally on the occasion of his birthday, which is celebrated as National Children’s Day in Bangladesh.

“We want to make the lives of children more colorful, beautiful, successful and fruitful - this is our aim,” Hasina said, according to Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS), the state news service.

The country marked the centenary of Mujib’s birth on March 17, 2020. A year-long celebration of “Mujib Year” was extended to December 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih arrived in Dhaka for the opening day of independence celebrations, and laid wreaths at the National Martyrs’ Memorial to honor Mujib and Bangladesh’s freedom fighters.

“He is one of the giants of South Asian history, whose actions were pivotal in securing an independent destiny for the people of Bangladesh,” Solih said in a speech on the occasion, BSS reported.

“Hero for all Indians”

On Wednesday, Mujib, who is affectionately called “Bangabandhu,” or “Friend of Bangladesh,” was hailed as a “hero” by Narendra Modi, prime minister of neighboring India.

“My heartfelt homage to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, a champion of human rights and freedom, on his birth anniversary,” Modi said on Twitter.

“He is a hero for all Indians too. It will be my honor to visit Bangladesh later this month for the historic celebrations.”

Modi is expected to visit Bangladesh on March 26-27, in what will be his first visit to a foreign nation since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa will be the guest on March 19, Nepalese President Bidya Devi Bhandari on March 22, and Bhutanese Prime Minister Lotay Tshering on March 24.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have all delivered video messages congratulating Bangladesh on the 50th anniversary of its independence.

Mujib’s dream of a “Sonar Bangla,” or “Golden Bangladesh,” was still galvanizing the country’s citizens, Xi said in his video message, according to BSS.

Shadow of the pandemic

Ten days of events at the National Parade Ground will highlight Bangladesh’s economic and social development since independence, according to organizers.

Celebratory activities have been held under the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kamal Abdul Naser Chowdhury, the chief coordinator of the committee overseeing activities marking “Mujib Year,” said all “events are being held following all health guidelines.”

“A maximum of 500 invitees are allowed to attend each day of the festivities for five days at the National Parade Ground in Dhaka. Attendees must get a negative COVID-19 test result before attending,” Naser told BenarNews.

“At least 5,000 artists and artisans from home and abroad are participating in the cultural events in Dhaka,” Asaduzzaman Noor, another committee member, told BenarNews.

While social distancing regulations have meant limited gatherings, they have also spurred artists and citizens around the country to design unusual tributes to the country’s founder.

For instance, Md. Hirok Ahmed, a differently-abled teenager in the northern Pabna district, baked a 120-foot cake weighing 800 pounds to honor Mujib.

“I am a poor tea-seller and I have spent whatever I could. This is my pleasure that I have done something for my beloved Bangabandhu,” Hirok told BenarNews over the phone.

In the northern Bogra district, an agricultural company crafted a 400-meter long portrait of Mujib, by planting purple and green rice over 13 hectares (33 acres) of land.

“People from all over the country have been visiting since the portrait became visible last month - every day we get hundreds of visitors,” Mohammad Asaduzzaman, a manager of National AgriCare, the company behind the giant portrait, told AFP news agency.

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