Farhana Akhter belonged to no country.
She lived in an enclave, a pocket of land officially owned by India but geographically surrounded by Bangladesh.
So every year on December 16, her friends and classmates would celebrate the Victory Day while she remained pensive and engulfed by a sense of obscurity.
But this year, it was different.
Farhana now is a Bangladeshi citizen and she joined the Victory Day celebration for the first time in her life.
“I feel really proud as I can now celebrate the Victory Day like other students of my class,” said the eleventh-grader from Garati, a former enclave in Panchagarh Sadar.
Several thousand new Bangladeshis like her participated in the celebration on Mofizar Rahman College premises yesterday afternoon.
They for the first time sang the national anthem — Amar sonar Bangla ami tomay bhalobasi — and other patriotic songs at the programme organised by the cultural affairs ministry in association with Channel-i and Grameenphone, reports our Thakurgaon correspondent.
Bangladesh and India swapped 162 adversely possessed pieces of land in August, ending 68 years of statelessness and deprivation of the people living in those.
Some 52,000 people of 111 enclaves located in Lalmonirhat, Kurigram, Nilphamari and Panchagarh districts became Bangladeshis and this was the first Victory Day of Bangladesh they could celebrate.
Mofizar Rahman, chairman of Garati village, said, “This day will forever be written in history in golden letters. We are celebrating the Victory Day for the first time. We could not celebrate it earlier though we lived inside the country.”
Bashir Uddin was a freedom fighter.
Though it was for people like him that Bangladesh was liberated in 1971, he could not celebrate the Victory Day.
“It was very unfortunate for me. Living in an enclave was painful,” said the man, aged around 65.
Cultural Affairs Minister Asaduzzaman Noor recited a poem, “Amar Porichoy” written by Syed Samsul Haque, while State Minister for Posts and Telecommunications Tarana Halim inaugurated Grameenphone 3G service there.
Eminent singer Rezwana Chowdhury Bonya led a chorus performance of “Dhono dhanney pushpe bhora, amader ei Bashundhara” and “Purba digonte surjo uthechhe”, reigniting the spirits of patriotism among the audience.
In Lalmonirhat, former enclave-dwellers hoisted flags at their homes, held rallies, exchanged sweets, organised cultural programmes and offered special prayers to celebrate the occasion, reports our correspondent there.
Teenager Mousumi Akhter, who along with her younger brother Sifat attended the Victory Day programme at Bhitarkuti village, said it was an amazing experience for her.
“I have never felt so much joy,” she said as she was walking in a Victory Day procession.
Festivity and fanfare marked the Victory Day celebration in Dashiarchhara, a former enclave in Phulbari upazila of Kurigram.
People there placed flowers at the newly made memorial for the Liberation War martyrs at Kalirhat Bazar and offered special prayers for the freedom fighters who had laid down their life for independence.
Altaf Hossain, president of the Dashiarchhara unit of former India-Bangladesh Enclave Exchange Co-Ordination Committee, said, “It’s so amazing. We can taste the joy of liberation for the first time. It’s an experience that we never had before.”
Source: The Daily star