THE High Court’s order of November 24 for the government not to sell the arms and weapons that were used in Bangladesh’s liberation war in 1971 is welcome. The government is reported by a Bangla daily newspaper on October 5 to have taken a move to sell 27,662 arms and weapons to the United States and Switzerland, which showed interest in buying the weapons, on the grounds that the arms and weapons are ‘old, inactive and non-traditional.’ The court issued the order at hand on a public interest litigation writ petition filed on November 15. The move for the sales of the war-time weapons that the government, more so for the current one presided over by the Awami League that is a champion of the spirit of the liberation war, took appears to be a blatant disregard for historicity while the reasons given for the sales appear to be extremely illogical. No one would imagine that the arms and weapons that were used in the liberation war, which took place about five decades ago, would again be used in a real-life situation. But the state of the arms and weapons for not being fit for use now can never be a reason for their sales.
The court has also asked defence, home affairs, liberation war affairs, cultural affairs, finance and commerce secretaries to submit reports on the number of arms and weapons in question and their present condition in six months. The court has further asked the respondents to explain in four weeks why they would not be asked to preserve the arms and weapons and why they would not be directed to put the arms and weapons in the custody of the defence ministry and not sell them to a third party. The court has, most importantly, asked the respondents to explain why they would not be directed to make an arrangement for a periodical display of the arms and weapons in the Liberation War Museum to imbue the youth with national integrity. The government should preserve the arms and weapons and put them on display, even if periodically for now, for the people to better know of the history of the liberation war and for the next generations to learn of the war and be imbued with the national integrity. But then again, the government could found a museum for the display of the war-time arms and weapons. Government agencies are reported to have occupied land, even forested, for development projects and private entities are also reported to have laid their hands on such land with the connivance of government officials. It should, therefore, be no problem for the government to establish a war-time weapons museum somewhere convenient.
While the arms and weapons carry the legacy of the liberation war, the nation will have little to put on display for the next generations to teach them the history of the liberation war if the arms and weapons are sold out. Once such a disaster takes place, there will be no way for reparations. The government must, therefore, stand back on its decision on the sales of war-time arms and weapons, preserve them and put them on display to inculcate a sense of historicity in people.
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