ON THE eve of the golden jubilee of independence, Bangladesh still lacks a complete and credible list of freedom fighters. The government earlier had a plan to publish the list on December 16, 2020, but having failed to meet the deadline the ministry of liberation war affairs, as well as the Jatiya Muktijoddha Council, said that they would complete the task by February 15. They failed again. The liberation war affairs minister on Sunday said that they would publish a list of freedom fighters that is not ‘debatable’ on Independence Day and that it had asked the deputy commissioners of all districts and upazila nirbahi officers to update information made available on the ministry website. The ministry has also asked the officials to conduct further verification of 36,650 freedom fighters whose names were included in the list without JMC verification. Now, the district level officials are uncertain whether they will be able to do it before March 26 as the work in 240 upazilas is still pending. It is rather unfortunate that the political party in power, that pledged to protect the real and authentic history of 1971, has failed to provide the country with the names of people who braved the bullet for our liberation.
Many historians in Bangladesh consider a credible list of freedom fighters to be a stepping stone for writing a comprehensive history of the liberation war. However, the process of making the list appears to have always been mired in controversy. There are allegations against the ruling quarters of manipulating and falsifying the list. In 2018, it was revealed that there were at least 33,500 freedom fighters in the official list who may have falsified information to get their names included. In 2019, some freedom fighters complained that, during scrutiny, they were harassed and subjected to humiliation. It is alleged that mainstream political parties have always been involved in manipulating the list to include party loyalists so that they could access the benefits allocated for the freedom fighters. It is this tendency that has made the task of making a credible list difficult hurting the sentiment of real freedom fighters and diminishing the possibility of a comprehensive history. The government should act at the earliest knowing that the task will progressively become difficult as the generation that witnessed the war and have the experience to help to make an authentic list is dying.
The protracted controversy over the freedom fighters’ list is a betrayal to the martyrs of 1971 and is a failure of successive governments. It is particularly deplorable under the current government that preaches the spirit of the liberation war. It is time the government abandoned its tendency to make the history of the liberation war a site of political controversy and provided the country with a credible list of freedom fighters.
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