A COMPREHENSIVE list of freedom fighters still remaining elusive, 47 years after Bangladesh’s independence, as the government has suspended the latest move in this direction citing irregularities in the process is worrisome on a couple of counts. While the nation needs to know who fought in the war for the national independence of Bangladesh, in matters of paying them due respect, such a list is also of utmost importance in the interest of historical records. Besides, being freedom fighters entails some benefits in recognition of their sacrifice, or the supreme sacrifice who laid down their lives. With a flawed list being in place, it is highly unlikely for the government to properly afford them the honour that they deserve. The number of freedom fighters enlisted by successive governments in five lists vary greatly. In order to attend to the issue, the Awami League-led government in October 2014 took up an initiative to prepare the ‘authentic list of freedom fighters.’ The upazila-level scrutiny began in January 2017 but the government on March 11 this year suspended for an indefinite period the scrutiny of new names that came up for inclusion as freedom fighters over irregularities and guidelines not being properly followed.
The situation has only made the hopes for a comprehensive list of freedom fighters uncertain. The liberation war affairs minister is reported to have said that upazila scrutiny committees forwarding recommendations without following guidelines and without providing reasons for the inclusion of the names in the list of freedom fighters led to the suspension of the entire scrutiny process and argued that there have been some irregularities in the scrutiny process. Irregularities in scrutiny and no adherence to the guideline by the committees cannot be a basis for the suspension of the process for an indefinite period. The nation needs the list and the government should have no reason to delay the process. Jatiya Muktijoddha Council, which is supposed to complete the scrutiny at 472 upazilas and at eight cities by May 20, is yet to receive scrutiny reports from 116 upazilas for cases against the scrutiny process. Besides, the government on January 17 lowered the age to twelve years and a half at the time of war for freedom fighters to be enlisted. The age limit had been 13 before that, since June 19, 2017 when the government reduced the age limit to 13 years from 15 years, which had been in place since 2014.
The uncertainty that looms large over the comprehensive list of freedom fighters, the suspension of the scrutiny process, delay in preparing the scrutiny report by a large number of upazila committees and the change in the definition of war-time age for freedom fighters to be included in the list have all left scope for further irregularities in other spheres of national life. People not taking part in the war but being listed could get entitlements that are solely meant for people who actually fought the war. The government must immediately look into the issues.
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