The last minute scrutiny of the freedom fighters at Jatiya Muktijoddha Council to weed out the fake freedom fighters from the list has created an opportunity for some freedom fighters to make money by testifying for and against those who are under scanner, some freedom fighters said.
They alleged that while the liberation war affairs ministry placed the freedom fighters’ list under the scanner to determine the fake freedom fighters from the real, some freedom fighters are taking this opportunity to exploit the situation.
Among the opportunists, some were threatening to lodge complaints against the freedom fighters whose status needed to be reconfirmed through a review petition at the Jatiya Muktijoddha Council, or JMC, while others were taking money for testifying in favour of those who fear being proven fake freedom fighters at JMC hearing.
There were also complaints against many individuals, Pakistani collaborators and bureaucrats to be precise, who could manage to get freedom fighter certificates between 2002 and 2014, bypassing JMC procedure, they said.
The liberation war affairs minister AKM Mozammel Haque, also ex-officio chairman of JMC, was taking interviews of the accused freedom fighters at the JMC with a target of finalising the list of the freedom fighters before the upcoming Independence Day on March 26.
The minister took interviews of around 43 accused at review petition hearing at JMC on Thursday. The petitioners were from Rangpur, Rajshahi, Dhaka, Chittagong and Sylhet divisions.
One such accused was M Rab, who claimed that his name existed on the list of the freedom fighters sent by the Indian government at serial 2497, which was available on the liberation war affairs ministry’s website.
Rab along with 178 others from Sonargaon were undergoing the last minute screening by JMC as freedom fighter M Altaf Hossain complained against them to the ministry alleging that they were fake freedom fighters.
Altaf, claiming to be the war time group commander, told New Age that they took certificates of freedom fighters between 2002 and 2014 bypassing JMC procedures.
‘The leaders of the Bangladesh Muktijoddha Sangsad’s Sonargaon unit command at that time helped them to get freedom fighter certificates in exchange of bribe,’ Altaf told New Age.
Freedom fighter Abdus Sobhan Bhuiyan, former member secretary of Bangladesh Muktijoddha Sangsad’s (DNC) command unit, who came to JMC to testify for Rob and several others said, ‘Lodging complaints against freedom fighter Rob is ridiculous and is done with ill motive.’
‘Since the screening of the freedom fighters began in 2014, some freedom fighters tried to capitalise on it. They asked money from freedom fighters whose claim is comparatively weaker. And later they filed complaints against those who refused to give money. The trend is still ongoing and Rab is one of the victims of a ill-motivated scheme,’ Sobhan said.
Of the complaints made by Altaf, perhaps only 10 per cent of the freedom fighters are not real, Sobhan added, saying that the rest were accused as part of his scheme to extract money.
‘I know a few people in Sonargaon who were bargaining with such accused for testifying in favour of them in front of the minister so that they win back their status as freedom fighters,’ he said.
‘There is no fixed rate’ for bailing someone out, he said.
Another freedom fighter M Kamal Hossain from Sonargaon said, ‘Different news reports show commanders and UNOs took over Tk 200 crore as bribes from the applicants for becoming enlisted as freedom fighters in 2017.’
On Thursday, Shamsuddin from Jashore said another freedom fighter named Haider from the same locality complained against him with ill motive after he forcibly recovered dividend of their joint business venture.
Another freedom fighter Shawkat Ali from Chowgachha Jeshore said he came to tell the liberation war affairs minister that he and 35 others were victims of retribution — they are being harassed for opposing a local leader in the last Chaogachha Pourasava election.
‘They complained against 36 of us and the ministry cancelled our certificate upon receipt of the complaint. Then we went to the High Court for remedy. Some 23 of us got verdicts in our favour,’ he said.
Shahidul Alam Majumder from Barguna said he came to complaint against Abdul Mannan Howlader to the minister alleging that the man was a collaborator but later became Bangladesh Muktijoddha Council Patharghata unit command president.
‘An inquiry was now on against him by war crime investigation agency,’ said Shahidul, who is also a retired headmaster.
Mannan, however, could not be reached for his comment.
The government has so far listed 2,30,458 freedom fighters in the country of whom over 1,87,000 are currently receiving monthly allowance of Tk 10,000 and three festival bonuses.
Liberation war affairs minister Mozammel said aggrieved people may say many things but the goal is to assure justice for all.
‘We will publish a fresh list of the freedom fighters soon,’ the minister said.
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