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OP-ED: Fifty years of the Bangladeshi flag

  • Published at 02:07 am March 29th, 2021
What does the Bangladeshi flag mean to you? UNB

A symbol of sacrifice and love, of nature and youth, of passion and harmony

The national flag of Bangladesh was adopted officially on January 17, 1972. It consists of a red disc on top of a dark green banner. The red disc is offset slightly toward the hoist so that it appears centered when the flag is flying. The disc represents the sun rising over Bengal, and also the blood of those who died for the independence of Bangladesh. The green banner stands for the lushness of the land of Bangladesh and the eternal youth of its people.

The flag is based on a similar flag used during the Liberation War of 1971, which had a yellow map of the country inside the red disc. In 1972, this map was removed from the flag. One reason given was the difficulty to render the map correctly on both sides of the flag. The civil ensign and naval ensign place it in the canton of a red or white field, respectively.

The origins of the flag

The first version of the flag was designed and made by a section of student leaders and activists of Swadheen Bangla Nucleus on June 6, 1970, in room 108 of Iqbal Hall (now Sergeant Zahurul Haq Hall), Dhaka University; students involved with the design were Kazi Aref Ahmed, ASM Abdur Rab, Shahjahan Siraj, Manirul Islam (Marshal Moni), Swapan Kumar Choudhury, Quamrul Alam Khan Khasru, Hasanul Haq Inu, and Yousuf Salahuddin Ahmed. The flag was made from clothes donated by Bazlur Rahman Lasker, the owner of Apollo Tailors in Dhaka's New Market.

A map of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) was first traced on tracing paper -- taken from an atlas -- by Hasanul Haq Inu, Yousuf Salahuddin Ahmed, and Enamul Haq, in Enamul’s room (312) in Quaid-I Azam Hall (now Sher-E-Bangla Hall), EPUET (now BUET). Later the map was painted in the red circle by Shib Narayan Das.

On March 2, 1971, this initial version of the flag was hoisted in Bangladesh for the first time at Dhaka University, by student leader ASM Abdur Rab, then vice-president of the Dhaka University Students’ Union (DUCSU). The flag was conceived so as to exclude the star and crescent considered to be symbols of West Pakistan (now Pakistan). According to the CIA World Factbook, the green used in the flag represents the lushness of the green landscape of the country.

Modifications and the modern flag

On January 13, 1972, the flag was modified. The map from the center was removed, and the red disk moved towards the hoist.

According to Bangladeshi government specifications, the following are the specifications of the national flag:

l The flag will be bottle green and rectangular in size, with the proportion of length to width being 10:6, with a red circle near the middle

l The red circle will have a radius one-fifth of the length of the flag. Its centre will be placed on the intersection point of the perpendicular drawn from the nine-twentieth part of the length of the flag, and the horizontal line drawn through the middle of its width

l The green base of the flag will be of Procyon Brilliant Green H-2RS 50 parts per 1000. The red circular part will be of Procyon Brilliant Orange H-2RS 60 parts per 1000.

l Depending on the size of the building, the flag sizes will be 10ft × 6ft (3.0m × 1.8m); 5ft × 3ft (1.52m × 0.91m); 2 1⁄2ft × 1 1⁄2ft (760mm × 460mm). The size of the flag for cars is 12 1⁄2in × 7 1⁄2in (320mm × 190mm), and the size of the table flag for bilateral conferences is 10in × 6in (250mm × 150mm).

The flag was raised for the first time in the Dhaka University campus on March 2, 1971.

The national flag of Bangladesh is flown on all working days on important government buildings and offices.. These include all ministries and secretariat buildings of Bangladesh, offices of the high court, courts of district and session judges, offices of the commissioners of divisions, deputy commissioners/collectors, chairmen, upazila parishads, central and district jails, police stations; primary, secondary, and higher secondary level educational institutions; and other buildings notified by the government from time to time.

Ministers of state and persons accorded the status of a minister of state, deputy ministers, and persons accorded the status of a deputy minister while on tour outside the capital within the country or abroad are entitled to fly the flag on their motor vehicles and vessels.

The national flag of Bangladesh is flown on public and private buildings throughout Bangladesh and the office premises of Bangladeshi diplomatic missions and consular posts on the following days and occasions: Independence Day on March 26, Victory Day on December 16, and any other day notified by the government of Bangladesh.

The national flag of Bangladesh is flown at half-mast on the following days: National Shaheed Day, now International Mother Language Day, on February 21, National Mourning Day of Bangladesh on August 15, and all other days notified by the government of Bangladesh.

Celebrations and colours

On December 16, 2013, the 42nd Victory Day of Bangladesh, 27,117 people gathered at the National Parade Ground in Dhaka’s Sher-e-Bangla Nagar and created a “human flag” which was recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s largest human national flag. 

Thanks to its long wavelength, red is one of the most visible colours in the colour spectrum (second only to yellow). Its ability to instantly grab people’s attention is the reason why it’s often used to warn people of impending danger. Think: Stop signs, sirens, fire engines, and red traffic lights.

Red is also used to convey danger in a non-literal way. Some examples include using the phrase “in the red” to describe financial loss or “red flag” to indicate when something is wrong with a person or situation. People tend to associate red with negative, danger-bearing emotions. This could be because it is the colour of fire, blood, and sometimes of poisonous or dangerous animals. This stimulating colour is also associated with excitement.

But red does not always signal danger and aggression. Perhaps not surprisingly, red is also linked to passion, love, and desire. These associations could explain why people wearing red are consistently rated as being more attractive by the opposite sex.

Red can also represent power, a relationship that can be found all over modern-day society. The “power tie” worn by businessmen across the globe is, traditionally, red. And don’t forget the hallowed “red carpet” that is only rolled out for the most prestigious celebrities and dignitaries.

Where do you look to find the meaning of green? Is it in the pale yellow-green of newly sprouted blades of grass? Can it be found in the dazzling sparkle of an emerald? Or does green’s meaning reside in the aromatic depth of a drizzly pine forest? Green inspires and vitalizes us in all its hues. 

Green with envy. Love is evergreen. It’s not easy being green.

Green is everywhere. It is the most common colour in the natural world, and it is second only to blue as the most common favourite colour. It’s the colour we associate with money, the environment, and aliens, and it’s the colour of revitalization and rebirth. Green is calming, stress-relieving, and -- a bit paradoxically -- invigorating.

We associate green with vitality, freshness, growth, and wealth. We generally think of it as balanced, healthy, and youthful. We use green in design for spaces intended to foster creativity and productivity, and we associate green with progress -- think about giving a project the “green light.”

There are more shades of green than any other colour. The inability to distinguish between red and green is the most common form of colour blindness.

Such is the flag of Bangladesh -- the green being the field and the red being the blood.

Anwar A Khan is an independent political analyst who writes on politics, political and human-centred figures, and current and international affairs.

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