Who were the freedom fighters?
The spirit of 1971, the dreams and aspirations kindled in the heart of every surviving freedom fighter. They could make valuable and unique contributions for their motherland. They could get back the lost pride and honor for the nation.
Most of the youths who enrolled themselves as freedom fighters in 1971 were sons of the toiling masses. Peasants, Working class, students, professionals, sons and daughters of the middle class and lower middle class volunteered to join the liberation war. They had no other ulterior motives. There was one dream to establish exploitation free self respecting Bangladesh after liberating the country. This deep sense of patriotism was the moving spirit for their selfless sacrifice. Their sacrifice and bravery ammazed any one who saw them in the battle fields. Bangladesh got its independence due to their heroic sacrifice and courageous devotion. But the cherished society of the freedom fighters and the people was not established after the independence. Where as if the political leadership of Awami League instead of being suspicious of the freedom fighters would have trusted them and given them the opportunity to chanalize their abundant enthusiasm, ability and strength as a work force, the freedom fighters could make immense contribution in the national reconstruction. But this never happened. The then Awami League government not only suspected the freedom fighters but they were also placed under the steamroller of suppression. As the result of an armed struggle Bangladesh got its independence. A nation was born with new spirit and aspiration. But very quickly a sense of utter despair engulfed the nation. Poverty, frustration, hopelessness, anarchy, lack of direction, ideological defeat above and all negligence and hostility towards the freedom fighters dashed all hopes and aspirations of the liberation war. Perhaps nowhere in the world such a pathetic disrespect was ever shown to the blood of the martyrs and the freedom fighters. It was a war fought by the entire nation to get rid of the rotten past. But unfortunately much hated past once again reappeared. The people were denied the life they desired. It was again the traitors and the exploiting classes, which captured the state power. One who fought for freedom was known to be a freedom fighter. Freedom necessarily did not mean only the geographical independence. Freedom meant a just society where every individual could live with equal rights and obligations live with dignity and pride in peace and prosperity. Not like a slave or a beggar. A human being could be considered free when he got equal rights and opportunity to exploit his merits, knowledge and abilities to the maximum to make a future of his own. In a society riddled with economic and social disparities one was not considered free. In a country where more than two third people lived below the poverty line, did not get two squire meals, how could the leaders claim that the people were enjoying freedom and their dreams had come through? It was nothing but a crude mockery and comical pronouncement. Many still thought if India did not physically interfered there would have been no independence in 1971. I say not only Indian army if even the Soviet Red Army would have got involved they could not be victorious as the victory or defeat entirely depends on the support of the people and the cause of the war. Except a handful of people rest of the nation supported the freedom fighters and their cause. And that is why the country achieved its independence. But the Awami League government neglected these very people. The very first on slaught from the government was on the freedom fighters. Immediately after the surrender of the Pakistan army the order was issued to disarm the freedom fighters. The arms were to be surrendered to the Indian army. Once the arms were surrendered the camps were closed. The freedom fighters were given Tk 50 and were said good buy by the government. The government decided to issue certificates. The government also declared that those who would have certificate should be rehabilitated. Later these certificates were not distributed through proper channel. Instead the government decided to distribute the certificates through the Home Ministry, local district administration and the Awami League MPs and leaders to the people of their choice. Many of these MPs and the leaders had no direct connection with the freedom fighters. The Awami League government also declared general amnesty and thus pardoned all the anti liberation forces. As a result many of the Razzakars, Al-Shams, Al-Badars came out in open and started going around in the society with their heads high, some even claimed themselves to be freedom fighters after managing the certificates. The government did not declare general amnesty to prove its magnanimity, they did it to protect their class interest and to strengthen themselves with their support against the freedom fighters. The total number of the enrolled freedom fighters were around 2 hundred thousand. But 12- 20 lacs certificates were distributed. That means out of every dozen of freedom fighters eleven were imposters. It was a very cool and calculative move taken by the Awami League government to defame the freedom fighters at the same time to rehabilitate those anti national and anti liberation elements. At present there were hundreds and thousands of fake freedom fighters in the society engaged in various kind of anti social activities, high jacking, loot and robberies. But the genuine freedom fighters were being blamed for all those misdeeds. Their images were being tarnished and they were loosing respect in the society. The freedom fighters were disarmed but the Mujib Bahini did not surrender their arms. The government maintained a mysterious silence on the issue. Rather the government patronized these elements. Abandoned properties, businesses, licenses, permits were given to them generously. They became the protectors of all kind of illegal business, transactions and smuggling and the blame came to the freedom fighters. Due to this nefarious design gradually people at large became apathetic to the freedom fighters as it became very difficult to identify who was a genuine freedom fighter who was not. A large number of freedom fighters had to sacrifice their lives in independent Bangladesh. Many are still languishing in the jails. After getting the general amnesty the anti liberation forces and their collaborators started whitch hunting the freedom fighters at every place all over the country to take revenge. Most of the collaborators were the influential well to do people in their respective localities. They had immense hold on local administration and police. As the newly established government did not carryout any administrative reform there was no change in the power structure and thus these peoples power and positions also remained intact. In most of the countries, which got its independence through an armed struggle usually, the freedom fighters played the vanguard role in the reconstruction phase. The freedom fighters also participated in the policy making and implementation process shoulder to shoulder with the people. But in our case the situation was just the opposite. Attempts were deliberately made to segregate the freedom fighters from the people and the national activities.
The resolve and conscientiousness, which are most essential to carry forward national liberation movement to, their successes were lacking from the very beginning among the concerned people. We were caught unaware. The war infact was imposed on the nation. Therefore ideological moorings required preparedness for an armed struggle, creation of a national leadership, a war strategy, planning, organization of the masses etc. These essential factors some how were not here initially. As a result the supreme leader surrendered right at the beginning of the crack down and the other leaders ran for their lives and took refuge in India leaving behind the people in a helpless uncertainty. The resistance that had developed was an instant reaction in self defense organized locally by individuals or groups or the members in uniform. It all happened in an unplanned manner. But surly those who put up such resistance were courageous and devoted. However, the armed encounter was a surprise and the people gradually got involved. That was a reality. The ideological motivation that was necessary was denied to the people as the war was brought to an abrupt end. The people who usurped the leadership during the war also did not want that. People supported Awami League to get rid of economic and political exploitation. But for Awami League it was impossible to meet those aspirations against their own class interest. That was why basically the spirit of the liberation war turned into futility. But the people who fought or supported activily the liberation war were not aimless. A large section of the people who fought were non political. Sheer patriotism and burning desire to free the homeland inspired them to join the war or support it. Some also joined for self-defence. The young and old alike came from remotest regions to get enrolled as freedom fighters at their own accord. They got trained and then fought in various sectors. On the other hand the Awamileagures created their own force with the help of Indian government and the army and preserved them to be used to perpetuate their power in the post liberation period. Most of the freedom fighters came from the ordinary masses and they were non-ambitious and self-sacrificing. Because of their simplicity and self-sacrificing attitude they abided by the government order and surrendered their arms. As they did not get enough time to raise their political awareness and ideological motivation, their power could not become an organized force. Thus once the freedom fighters went back into the sea of people their strength also vanquished. Once the government unleased a reign of terror the freedom fighters felt the necessity to reorganize themselves. On 13th Feb. 1972 through a grand conference at the Dhaka Ladies Club the freedom fighters association, Bangladesh Mukti Joddha Shangsad was formed with an aim to rehabilitate the freedom fighters as well as to ensure the economic and social securities of the people. The Shangsad also succeeded to establish its branches at every Thana and union within a very short time. On 15th Sept. 1972 a ntional convention was called and a constitution was adopted. A National Executive Committee was also formed. The committee faced stiff challenges from the anti people government. Awami leaguers tried in every way to create hinderances for the committee to work. They even tried to allure the freedom fighters with various temptations. Some of the committee members fell into their hands and through them the government tried to establish its hold on the Shangsad. Accordingly on 28th Feb. 1975 those renegades under the protection of the government against the constitution formed a parallel National Executive Committee. This illegal committee later announced that the Mukti Joddha Shangsad decided to be a part of BKSAL.
Against this outrageous anti constitutional move Mr. Nayeem Jahangir, Mr. Mahfuzur Rahman and few other Mukti Joddhas took a courageous move to file a case is the Dhaka Munsif Court in March 1975. The Court issued an injunction against the usurpers and stopped their undemocratic and anti constitutional activities, however due to the fear of the wrath of the BKSAL regime the court refrained from giving the verdict and kept it in abeyance.
Mr. Badaruddin Omar a well-known politician and a leading intellectual of the country in his book Shadhinwatar Nepathya Kahini wrote about the freedom fighters:
"The young freedom fighters won the hearts of the people. Their sacrifices have become history. Their patriotism shall remain ever shinning. No one can say any member of the Mukti Bahini has looted, killed any one for personal enmity, any woman has been dishonored. To ternish that immage of the freedom fighters the youth leaders got into a conspiracy. They even did not thought for a while, where they were dragging the nation with their queer game to preserve their supremacy. Sheikh Moni, Tofayel, Razzak all got united with Gazi Golam Mustafa. Gazi was well known be a hot favourite of Sheikh Mujib and very trust worthy to the Sheikhs family. Outragious loot started. Relief goods, shops of the non-Bengalis, godowns, houses were all looted at the order of Gazi and the youth leaders. Loot and plunder spread like prairie fire all over the country. The Sixteen Division and the members of the Mujib Bahini were involved in open loots. Sheikh Mujib did not take any measure to stop such activities".