Nearly half a century after the war, a complete list of martyrs is yet to be compiled
December. The month of victory. After a long and bloody nine-month war, the Pakistani aggressors were finally forced to surrender on December 16, 1971, in the face of a joint operation by the freedom fighters and the allied forces. Many nations of the world have shed blood year after year, but have not been able to break the shackles of subjugation.
In history, you will not find more examples of the way the heroic fighters of Bengal snatched victory by defeating the immensely powerful Pakistani army in just nine months of armed struggle. You may find another example of declaring independence and getting liberation through armed struggle: The United States of America. But it took them seven long years. And the final resolution was made at the negotiating table through the Paris Treaty, not on the battlefield.
An unparalleled success
What was the underlying reason for such an unparalleled success of Bangladesh on the battlefield? Many might want to magnify the active participation of a large neighbour like India. Some may opine that, due to the geographical distance between and isolation of the two parts of then Pakistan, the situation was unfavourable for sending troops and supplies to the Pakistani forces here.
However, if you think a little deeper, you will be forced to accept that neither of these was the actual reason. Rather, the overwhelming support and cooperation of the people of this country to the freedom fighters played the major role in this success.
Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, through his unparalleled organizational skills and hypnotic speech, created steel-hard unity among the people of this land against the political and social inequalities of the West, and in demanding their right to self-rule.
When the Pakistani aggressors arrested Bangabandhu and started cracking down on the unarmed masses on March 25, disregarding the absolute mass verdict that the people of this land gave to him in the election of 70, every word, every sentence, and every instruction of his inflammatory speech on March 7 was still echoing in their eardrums.
As a result, the mass resistance began; the Bengali members of the Pakistan Armed Forces, the Police Forces, and the Border Guards started armed resistance in solidarity with the masses. The war soon turned into a people’s war.
Although everyone was not on the field with arms, every individual of the land joined the battle by sheltering the freedom fighters fighting on the battlefield, providing information to them on the movements of the Pakistani army and raising his hands in the court of the Creator to plead their success. It was at that point when the Pakistani invaders were beaten. A force detached from the mass engaged in battle against them.
A debt that cannot be repaid
The War of Liberation is the most glorious chapter of this nation. Bangabandhu united the nation to demand liberation, and the war built that unity on an inflexible and solid foundation. The fearless youths who went down to the battlefield in one cloth and took up arms; responding to Bangabandhu’s call, what were their desires? Money, fame, position? Certainly not.
With a completely uncertain future ahead, what could have been the aspirations of those who took up arms that day, other than sacrificing themselves for their own country and nation? Was it not their intense desire to devote themselves to the love of the land and the people who had been the key to their success that day?
In the final stages, by the time the Indian forces directly joined the war in December, the freedom fighters had already cornered the Pakistani army inside Bangladesh by November. Thus, the participation of the Indian forces undoubtedly hastened the final resolution, but the major work was certainly done by the children of this soil.
The freedom fighters are the sun-like children of this country. From the above discussion, I hope it has become clear that the only source of inspiration for them that day was the desire to devote themselves to patriotism in response to Bangabandhu’s call, not any material demands. Can there be any reward for this selfless sacrifice other than respect, love, and prayers for them? Certainly not.
It would be a gross injustice to them if someone thinks that such a desire is working in their minds even today as they did not go to war with any material demands. Isn’t it right that, by honouring them with some privileges or positions, in accordance with their needs or qualifications, in this country earned by their blood and sweat, we can only try to alleviate the burden of debt on our shoulders?
49 years on, no definite list
It is a pity that, according to newspaper reports, we have not yet been able to finalize the list of freedom fighters even after 49 years of independence. The War of Liberation was no secret!
When each and every individual of this nation was, directly or indirectly, a part of this war, everybody in a locality was supposed to know those in the area who had jumped into the battlefield with arms.
So, there should not be any problem at all in identifying the real freedom fighters. And why do the freedom fighters have to apply for enlistment? If we want to honour them with some opportunity or allowance according to our ability, isn’t it our responsibility to find them? Wouldn’t it be a great pity if you heard that a true freedom fighter has not yet been enlisted, even though he applied with relevant documents about a decade ago?
It is true that some opportunists may try to get enlisted with fake certificates as the government has announced some facilities for the freedom fighters, but it would be extremely unfortunate if a real freedom fighter were deprived of the announced benefits due to delays in enlistment in the name of verification.
Basically, I wanted to write today about the martyred freedom fighters. They fought to liberate this country until the last drop of their blood remained, but they could not see the country become independent.
It seems very unfortunate when people raise controversy over the number of martyrs. Often, the issue comes to the fore in such a way that as if how many martyrs were killed -- one, one hundred, one thousand, one hundred thousand, a million, or three million -- this number is the big deal! Why? Why does even a single member of a community have to give his life to realize their fair share?
Unless you consider human life to be cheap, the number will not appear to you to be any big issue. Doesn’t Allah say in the Holy Qur’an that killing a human being unjustly is tantamount to killing the whole of humanity?
However, the question that remains here is: How successful have we been in compiling a complete list of known martyred freedom fighters? I have to make the same argument again. Those who were martyred in the Liberation War in an area did not return after joining the Liberation War, or went missing from the area suspiciously, should be known to more or less everyone in that area.
Many of the generation who took part in the Liberation War that day are still with us. So, if we are serious, it should not take long to make a complete list. Those who have sacrificed their lives for the country have gone far beyond these things long ago.
However, if we as a nation want to move forward, we should remember the heroic fighters who sacrificed their lives for this nation. Because, from generation to generation, they will be our pioneers, our source of inspiration. So, why the delay? Now is the time to actively consider setting up an honours board at the UP office or elsewhere in each area by compiling a complete list of known martyrs in the area through area-wise investigations.
Dr Mohammad Didare Alam Muhsin is Professor of Pharmacy, Jahangirnagar University.