Multiple roles played by women in the Liberation War remained largely ignored mainly due to the tendency to consider the war only in terms of physical fighting or exchange of gunshots.
The contributions of women to the Liberation War were immense. They played various roles during the war. It would have been very tough to liberate Bangladesh without their contributions.In the absence of men, it was actually women who kept Bangladesh alive during the war. Freedom fighters could have never fought the war inside the country had they not got shelter and support from them.
Apart from fighting in the battle field, women had provided information, food, medicines and funds for freedom fighters, hid arms and ammunition and nursed the wounded freedom fighters.
They had also willingly allowed their sons and husbands to join the war despite knowing the probable consequences.
However, they have not got due recognition of their roles in the Liberation War for various reasons.
Liberation War researchers and historians think one of the major limitations of the perception that has developed over the years about the fight for independence is a constant fiasco to recognise the role of women in the war.
According to them, there is a failure to understand the totality and comprehensiveness of the war which was considered only in terms of physical fighting or exchange of gunshots.Besides, they believe the common tendency of seeing women as weaker than their male counterparts is responsible for this lineal portrayal.
Talking to the Daily Sun, eminent Liberation War researcher Afsan Chowdhury said, “We have a tendency to exclude the role of our marginalised population from the mainstream history of our Liberation War. The established depiction of the role of women in the war is no exception in this regard.”
He said the common presentation of women in the Liberation War is mainly based on the large number of women who got raped in the war by Pakistan occupation forces and their local collaborators, and statements made by the women freedom fighters of the urban areas.
“But we have to realise that it was the war that helped us emerge as a nation. In the absence of men, it’s actually women who kept Bangladesh alive during the war. Freedom fighters could have never fought the war inside the country had they not got shelter and support from them,” the researcher added.
He thinks there is no question of ignoring the women who became the victims of brutal torture and rape, but there are other roles that valiant women played during the war which are ignored, denied and misconstrued in the mainstream history of the war.
Afsan Chowdhury, also a journalist and teacher, said women made great sacrifice during the war as they willingly allowed their sons and husbands to join the war despite knowing the probable consequences. “This was a huge sacrifice.”
Women freedom fighter Shahida Begum said, “Many women had performed for Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra and Bangladesh Muktishongrami Shilpi Shongstha. Some of the female doctors and nurses had treated freedom fighters in Bangladesh Hospital in Agartala.”
Historians think the multi-dimensional role of women should be presented properly in the mainstream history so that the new generation can feel proud of them.
Renowned historian Prof Dr Syed Anwar Husain said, “Apart from the wartime contributions of our women, we have to recognise the women who played a significant role during all the mass movements before the war and the women who bore the burden of their whole families in post-Liberation War Bangladesh losing their loved ones.”
In reply to a query about only two gallantry awards, out of total 676, bestowed upon women for their roles in the Liberation War, Syed Anwar Husain, who is also Bangabandhu Professor of Bangladesh University of Professionals (BUP), said, “We have to repeatedly discuss the role of women in the Liberation War. Unless we discover and present what originally happened during that war to both men and women, we’ll only view women’s participation as victims and hapless dependents.”