bangladesh was born on 26 march, not 16 december

It was surprising how people all of a sudden greeted “Happy Birthday Bangladesh” this year!

From facebook status to SMS to emails and personal conversations, people began to greet each other on “Bangladesh’s Birthday” this year. A real-estate agent even had a big commercial printed on Prothom Alo (page 9, 16 Dec) where the headline says “today is Bangladesh’s Birthday”.

Perhaps, having a birthday for a nation adds fun to the celebration, and is catchy for the young generations. May be it is good for Azad Products, Archie’s and Hallmarks as well.

But calling 16 December the “Birthday of Bangladesh”—innocently, emotionally or unknowingly— can have a far reaching negative consequence for our history! At a time when Bangladesh is getting prepared to try the war criminals, this confusion can be detrimental to the trial of War Criminals. This post will try to answer some misconceptions about the birth of Bangladesh.

Let’s assume that there is no conspiracy theory behind this “Birthday fiasco”. Probably it’s an emotional and innocent inaccuracy. However, there is an organized effort to downplay the liberation war and those people may get benefited if this error gets widespread.

In personal conversations and in online forums, people reported a number of questions that they came across from the proponents of this Birthday fiasco. Some witty comments can also be found in Sachalayatan.

Following are some of those questions with brief answers:

Q1. Why Bangladesh’s birth is dated as 26 March, not 16 December?

A: Bangladesh was born on 26 March 1971 through the declaration of the independence of Bangladesh. That is why we call the 1971 war the liberation war or the war for national independence. After 38 years, if we now begin to call 16 December the “Birthday” of Bangladesh, we will be admitting the claims of War Criminals (Razakars) that the 1971 war was just a “Civil War” or “rebellion of separatists” in the united Pakistan, not a liberation war (more in the following answers).

Q2. Isn’t Victory Day the real Birth of a nation?

A: No. Around the world, Declaration of Independence is treated as the actual birth of a nation and is not related to the final victory. For instance, USA celebrated its “Birthday” on 4th of July, the Independence Day

Q3. Doesn’t the Constitution say that we established the nation through the war, not before the war?

A: The Preamble of Bangladesh’s Constitution starts with these words:

We, the people of Bangladesh, having proclaimed our Independence on the 26th day of March, 1971 and through a historic war for national independence, established the independent, sovereign People’s Republic of Bangladesh

The actual independence was declared on 26 March. But the process of recognition as a sovereign “People’s Republic of Bangladesh” was very lengthy and did not occur on 16 December (see next answer).

Q4. Since no countries recognized Bangladesh on 26 March, how can this be the birth of a country?

A: Some idiot also added this paragraph at the end of the wiki post on Bangladesh’s Liberation War:

“The proponents of this terminology also question validity of the declaration of Bangladeshi independence since there was no foreign government that acknowledged the independence; thus the war was effectively between Indian Army and Pakistan Army”

When a country is born, it goes through a prolonged process of external recognitions which is not related to its birth. For instance, Great Britain recognized the independence of USA on 3 September, 1783 through Paris Treaty 7 years after the original declaration of US independence.

Similarly, Pakistan admitted defeat on 16 December, but it did not recognize Bangladesh as a nation before 1974. It took Bangladesh until the March of 1973 to get the recognition of 98 countries.  On the other hand, India gave its recognition on 6 December 1971. Initially, a nation is recognized by different nations on different days. But the nation itself has a different Independence Day which is not dependent on other’s recognition.

While important for external sovereignty and international relations, these recognitions are not essential for the birth of a nation. It’s rather a post-birth process.

Q5: Wasn’t Bangladesh conceived on 26 March, and was born on 16 December after the 9 months pregnancy period?

A: Using human-lifecycle as the rhetoric for a nation is comical. Then we will have to find parents of the country, their love, marriage. More ironically, we are assuming that Bangladesh is mortal and will have a “death day” too!

(But still if one can’t think outside the human-lifecycle, well, then Bangladesh was conceived well before 1971. Some argues it happened soon after 1946, some argues it happened through the language movement of 1952, or through the 6 point movement. Through a painful labor on 25 March (1971) night, Bangladesh was born after the midnight, i.e. on 26 March. Soon after that, a disease or a monster (i.e. Pakistan army) attacked Bangladesh and through a nine-month struggle, Bangladesh was cured on 16 December.)

Q6: When the 9 months struggle is ahead, how come one celebrates birthday on 26 March before the victory?

A: Many nations went through bloody war and struggle and never made it to freedom before. So post-birth struggle shouldn’t hold back anyone from celebrating his or her life! In a world where hundreds of children die soon after their birth, a successful post-birth struggle and survival should be honored and celebrated (there, another human-lifecycle rhetoric).

Q7: Why then we celebrate 16 December in a more joyful manner compared to 26 March?

A: We celebrate the birth with joy, but more importantly, with respect and recognition. Respect for the martyrs, respect for freedom fighters and victims. And in recognition of the nine-months struggle. On the other hand, our victory was achieved through these sacrifices, not just through an administrative treaty.

Since we had to endure the brutal bloodshed after the independence, our celebration of independence and victory days are different than those who got their independence/victory through bloodless treaties.

We have these unique Independence Day and Victory Day, and there is no need to replace them with silly terminologies.

Let’s stop this fiasco now before it gets out of hand next year.

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