Monday, 16 May, 2022

Respect our veteran freedom fighters

I am not a freedom fighter nor have I seen the liberation war. When we read or listen to the history of the liberation war or associate with freedom fighters, tears of pride come to our eyes. I feel proud to think that our freedom fighters went to war to liberate the country even though they knew that they could be killed. I was born in a free country because of our valiant freedom fighters. So, when our freedom fighters are disrespected, it pains me greatly.

In fact, we never wanted a debate on the liberation war or the freedom fighters. After 50 years of independence, the freedom fighters list has been updated by verification. The war of liberation is a chapter in the life of Bengalis which cannot be separated from our history. The war of liberation is the inspiration of every Bengali. The victorious liberation war is the name of self-discovery of our downtrodden people. The struggles and dreams of the young were at the root of victory in the war of liberation. The main objective of this victory was to uplift the spirit of the Bengalis, establish secularism, socialism and democracy.

Bangladesh has been independent for 50 years; we have achieved a lot; but more has to be done, as the real objectives of independence have not yet been achieved. We wanted liberation and equality of all people, a society without discrimination. Although some have benefited but society at large did not. Discrimination and inequality have increased. Inequality is also with the heroic freedom fighters, the spirit of socialism and the spirit of democracy. When it comes to the war of liberation, these thoughts come to mind.

The people of this country participated in the great liberation war of 1971 with a strong urge to survive. The participation of people of different professions and classes, their patriotism and inflexible attitude accelerated the victory in the liberation war. In this inevitable journey of history, artists, writers, journalists and intellectuals of the country joined in spontaneous awakening. The genocide, the point of no return for the Bengalis, began on the night of March 25, 1971. Bangabandhu declared the independence of Bangladesh and called for war of liberation. On March 26, the Pakistani aggressors arrested Bangabandhu but the war of liberation was already underway. After a nine-month war of liberation, the Pakistani occupiers were forced to surrender. The country achieved independence in the shortest war of liberation in the history of the world.

The freedom fighters joined the liberation war at the call of Bangabandhu and sacrificed their lives for the country. After independence, the Bangabandhu government took various steps for the welfare of the freedom fighters. Two decades after the assassination of Bangabandhu, when his daughter Sheikh Hasina came to power, she introduced honorarium for the freedom fighters, which was increased from 12,000 to 20,000. The freedom fighters hoped that when the party leading the liberation war came to power, the freedom fighters would be accorded due status, honoured and be able to keep their head high in the state and society.

50 years have passed, but some freedom fighters still remain neglected. Although they have been properly evaluated during the tenure of Sheikh Hasina, some quarters still underestimate them. The present government has given respect to the freedom fighters in many ways. The number of ‘Bir Nibash’ has been more than doubled from 14,000 to 30,000 to implement the government’s promise that ‘no one will be homeless in the last Mujib year’ under the project titled ‘Housing for Indigent Freedom Fighters’ at an estimated cost of Tk 4,122.99 crore.

After the country became independent, many days are celebrated nationally. But even after so many years, no day has been designated to the memory of the heroic freedom fighters. At a meeting in Paltan on 12 January 2004, the Sector Commanders Forum demanded that the first day of December be declared ‘Freedom Fighters’ Day’. Since then, they have been celebrating Muktijoddha Day on December 1, although there is no official announcement. They have proposed to officially observe the Freedom Fighters’ Day to commemorate the freedom fighters. Sadly, on 16th October 2020 and 16th November 2021, the Standing Committee on the Ministry of Liberation War Affairs of the Jatiya Sangsad had recommended for observation of Freedom Fighters’ Day but it has not yet seen the light of day. Freedom Fighters’ Day is not yet observed nationally. The ministry will have to take this proposal to the cabinet for a decision in this regard.

We must cherish the history of our liberation war, appreciate the sacrifice and respect the contribution of the heroic freedom fighters in the country’s independence. Honouring heroes is not just a matter of allowances and accommodation. It is not just a matter of the government, but each independent citizen must be accountable to their conscience and work from their own place with a sense of responsibility and duty to love, respect and evaluate the freedom fighters. There are many ways to remember and honour them. One day there will be no freedom fighters left, only their memories. In conclusion, though there is no lack of commitment to the welfare of the freedom fighters, effectiveness is limited. Freedom fighters may be poor but they are self-respecting people and did not wage the war of liberation for opportunities. If you can’t give them respect, please don’t disrespect them – that’s a prayer!


Shafiqul Islam Khokon, a researcher