It’s a windy cool day and everyone including us seems to be up early to enjoy the breeze and the holiday — today is Independence Day. Schools have special programs, flags are flying, and most of all, every loud speaker is belting out desher gan (patriotic songs).

Following independence from Britain in 1947, Pakistan was created with it’s east and west sections. Issues of state language and provincial autonomy soon became issues. After elections in 1970 which made Bangladesh leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman from the Awami league the majority leader of the Pakistan National Assembly, the conflict intensified as other West Pakistani leaders could not accept the Awami League’s demands for more autonomy. After negotiations failed, the Pakistan army attacked Dhaka University on the night of the 25th of March, 1971 and arrested Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. The following day, the war began and Bangladesh announced their independence.

During the war, the estimations are that between 1.5 million and 3 million people died. Millions of women were raped. The war continued till 16th December of 1971.

This year, it seems like one can’t say the word “independence” without saying “war crimes”. Going by international standards of the way a war should be fought, this war was particularly bloody, with civilians being targeted from the beginning. Many of the crimes committed were done by Bangladeshis who were on West Pakistan’s side. After the war, many of these people continued to live normal lives, even to the extent of being involved in politics. Trying people involved in war crimes is never simple: but Bangladesh has started the long process. Just recently, those charged with war crimes were banned from traveling overseas and many people are now talking about what the next step is.

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