Triumph of Independence: Bangladesh Celebrates Victory Day on December 16

Published: 15 December 2023


ইমরান চৌধুরী

Imran Chowdhury BEM

On this day 52 years ago, the resilient spirit of the Bengali people reached its zenith as Bangladesh emerged victorious in its quest for independence from Pakistan. December 16 is celebrated annually as Victory Day in Bangladesh, commemorating the historic moment when the Bengali people secured their sovereignty after a nine-month-long struggle for freedom.

A Journey Through History: The Birth of Bangladesh

The roots of Bangladesh’s fight for independence trace back to the tumultuous period leading up to 1971. A sense of deprivation, economic disparity, and cultural differences fueled the discontent among the Bengali-speaking population in East Pakistan, leading to a demand for autonomy. The central government in West Pakistan responded with a brutal crackdown, triggering widespread atrocities against the Bengali population.

The tipping point came on March 25, 1971, when the Pakistani military launched Operation Searchlight, a brutal campaign aimed at suppressing the Bengali independence movement. The scale of violence and human rights abuses during this operation was staggering, pushing the Bengali people to the brink of desperation. In the face of such adversity, Bengali nationalists, intellectuals, and ordinary citizens rallied together to resist the oppression.

Amidst this turmoil, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the charismatic leader and the Father of the Nation, declared Bangladesh’s independence on March 26, 1971. This declaration marked the beginning of a protracted and arduous struggle for freedom, culminating in the formation of the Mukti Bahini (Liberation Army) and a full-scale war between the Pakistani military and the Bengali forces.

Over the next nine months, the Bengali people endured immense hardships, including displacement, loss of life, and systematic genocide. However, their resilience and determination never wavered. The Liberation War garnered international attention, with global support rallying behind the cause of the Bengali people.

December 16, 1971: The Day of Victory

The turning point in the war came on December 16, 1971, when the Pakistani military, battered and demoralised, surrendered to the joint forces of the Indian army and the Mukti Bahini. This historic moment marked the war’s end and signalled the birth of an independent Bangladesh.

The Instrument of Surrender was signed in Dhaka by Lieutenant General A. A. K. Niazi, the Pakistani military commander in East Pakistan, and Lieutenant General Jagjit Singh Aurora, the commander of the joint Indian and Mukti Bahini forces. The ceremony occurred at the Ramna Race Course, now known as the Suhrawardy Udyan, amidst the jubilation and euphoria of the Bengali people, who had long yearned for their sovereign nation.

The joy and relief that permeated the air on that day were indescribable. The streets of Dhaka, and indeed all of Bangladesh, were filled with the sounds of celebration. People from all walks of life joined the festivities, expressing their gratitude for the sacrifices made by the freedom fighters and the unwavering support from the international community.

Legacy of Liberation: Celebrating Independence

Today, December 16, is celebrated as Victory Day, a national holiday in Bangladesh. The day is marked by various events and activities that pay homage to the sacrifices made during the Liberation War and honour the spirit of the martyrs who laid down their lives for the cause of independence.

The main Victory Day celebrations occur in the capital city, Dhaka, with the National Parade Ground being the focal point of the festivities. The day typically begins with the hoisting of the national flag and the singing of the national anthem. The President, Prime Minister of Bangladesh, and other dignitaries pay their respects at the National Martyrs’ Memorial in Savar, a solemn tribute to those who sacrificed their lives for the nation.

The Victory Day parade showcases the country’s military prowess, featuring a display of weapons and equipment and a march past by contingents from the armed forces. The air resonates with patriotic fervour as fighter jets perform aerobatic displays, symbolising the strength and sovereignty of the nation.

Beyond the official ceremonies, the day is celebrated at the grassroots level. Schools, colleges, and local communities organise cultural events, parades, and discussions to educate the younger generation about the significance of Victory Day and the sacrifices made by their forebears.

The Joy of Independence: Reflections on 51 Years of Progress

As Bangladesh commemorates the 51st Victory Day, it is also an occasion to reflect on the remarkable progress and development the country has achieved since its independence. From the ashes of war and devastation, Bangladesh emerged as a resilient and dynamic nation, overcoming numerous challenges to establish itself as a key player on the global stage.

The economic strides made by Bangladesh in recent decades are particularly noteworthy. Once labelled as an impoverished nation, the country has experienced consistent economic growth driven by the resilience and perseverance of its people. The textile and garment industry, remittances from overseas workers, and advancements in the agriculture sector have played pivotal roles in shaping the economic landscape.

Moreover, Bangladesh has made significant progress in social indicators such as healthcare, education, and gender equality. Investments in education have resulted in an increasingly literate and skilled workforce, contributing to the country’s development in various sectors. Initiatives to improve healthcare services have led to advancements in public health, reducing mortality rates and improving overall well-being.

The spirit of independence is also evident in Bangladesh’s vibrant culture and arts. The country’s rich cultural heritage, expressed through music, dance, literature, and art, reflects the resilience and diversity of the Bengali people. Festivals like Pohela Boishakh, the Bengali New Year, and Language Movement Day further reinforce the cultural identity and pride of the nation.

Looking Forward: Challenges and Aspirations

While Bangladesh has made remarkable progress since its independence, the nation faces ongoing challenges and aspirations. Poverty, corruption, environmental sustainability, and political stability remain focal points for the government and citizens alike. However, the spirit of Victory Day serves as a reminder that overcoming adversity is ingrained in the DNA of the Bengali people.

As Bangladesh looks to the future, there is a collective determination to address these challenges and build a nation that continues to thrive and progress. The youth, inspired by the sacrifices of their forefathers, play a crucial role in shaping the nation’s destiny. Education, innovation, and a commitment to social justice are catalysts for Bangladesh’s continued growth.

A Personal Journey Through Struggle: From Refugee to Victory Day Celebrant

As we commemorate the 51st Victory Day, my reflections on this historic occasion are deeply intertwined with personal narratives of sacrifice, resilience, and loss. At the age of 11, my family and I found ourselves seeking refuge in India, a desperate move necessitated by the brutal crackdown on the Bengali people by the Pakistani military. My Father, a valiant leader in the Mukti Bahini, served as the first company commander of the East Pakistan Rifles, initiating the revolt at Shamshernagar Airport on March 27, 1971. His dedication to the cause of independence took him to the front lines as the sub-sector commander of the Koilasshahar sub-sector in Sector 4 of the Mukti Bahini.

During those tumultuous times, my eldest brother, a mere 17-year-old, joined the ranks of the guerrilla freedom fighters. Tragically, he fell into the clutches of the Pakistan Army, enduring brutal torture before being mercilessly killed on November 21, 1971, a heart-wrenching 17 days before the proclamation of independence in Brahmanbaria. The pain of losing a loved one in such a horrific manner is etched into the fabric of my family’s history.

These personal tribulations, however, are emblematic of the sacrifices made by countless families like mine. The call of duty compelled us to endure the hardships of displacement, separation, and the profound sorrow of losing a beloved family member. As I pen down this history, it is with a heavy heart and a deep sense of duty to the motherland that I recount the struggles and sacrifices that, in many ways, paved the way for the freedom we celebrate today.

Our refuge in India was not merely a tale of seeking shelter but a testament to the solidarity between nations during a crisis. The generous support of the Indian people and government provided a lifeline for many Bengali families, allowing us to weather the storm of uncertainty. My father’s role as a commander in the Mukti Bahini, fighting on a different front, embodied the collective spirit of resistance that defined the Liberation War.

As I stand here today, the past’s echoes resound with pain and pride. The journey from being a refugee to celebrating Victory Day is a testament to the indomitable spirit of the Bengali people and the sacrifices made by individuals like my father and brother. Their contributions and the collective sacrifice of countless others are the bedrock on which Bangladesh’s independent and sovereign nation stands today.

On this Victory Day, as we honour the heroes who fought for our freedom, my family’s story is but a microcosm of the larger tapestry of resilience woven by the Bengali people. The memories are poignant, the losses profound, but through these personal narratives, we pay homage to the countless unsung heroes who gave their all for the cause of independence. May their sacrifices never be forgotten, and may the spirit of Victory Day continue to inspire generations to come.


Gratitude to India: A Bond of Solidarity

On this auspicious occasion of Victory Day, it is paramount to acknowledge and express profound gratitude to India for its unwavering support during Bangladesh’s struggle for independence. In 1971, India played a pivotal role in aiding the Bengali people in their quest for freedom. The Indian military, in collaboration with the Mukti Bahini, stood shoulder to shoulder with the people of Bangladesh, contributing significantly to the ultimate victory on December 16. The friendship and solidarity between the two nations during those critical times fostered a deep bond that extends beyond diplomatic ties. On Victory Day, Bangladesh takes a moment to pay homage to the sacrifices made by the Indian armed forces and the leadership of then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, whose vision and courage played a crucial role in shaping the destiny of a new and independent Bangladesh. The enduring camaraderie between Bangladesh and India is a testament to the shared history of struggle and triumph, reminding the world of the strength of unity and cooperation.

Conclusion: A Nation’s Journey, A People’s Triumph

On this momentous occasion of Victory Day, Bangladesh reflects on its journey from the ravages of war to the triumph of independence. The Bengali people’s resilience, sacrifices, and determination have shaped the nation into what it is today—a proud, sovereign country that stands tall in the global community.

As the nation celebrates the 51st Victory Day, the echoes of the past resonate with a sense of pride and gratitude. The sacrifices made in 1971 paved the way for the birth of a nation that continues to inspire the world with its indomitable spirit. The joy of independence is not just a celebration of the past; it is a commitment to a future where the people of Bangladesh continue to overcome challenges, build a prosperous nation, and contribute.