In a flurry of outrageous remarks, BNP leader Goyeshwar Chandra Roy on Friday described the 1971 martyred intellectuals as "anti-liberation elements" who "died like fools" and drew salaries and allowances from Pakistan till the end of the war.
"And foolish people like ourselves go to place wreaths [on their graves] every year … [And] not doing so would be tantamount to sin,” Goyeshwar said sarcastically.
The BNP standing committee member was speaking at a discussion in the capital's Jatiya Press Club. Rajshahi University Nationalist ex-Students Association organised the programme.
Speaking as the chief guest, Goyeshwar said, "If they [martyred intellectuals] were that intelligent, why did they stay in their homes in Bangladesh till 14 [of December 1971]? Tell me."
It is a historical truth that the Pakistan army and their collaborators carried out one of the world's most murderous attacks on the eve of Bangladesh's victory.
Sensing an imminent defeat, they on December 14 started abducting and killing teachers, writers, doctors, lawyers, journalists and other professionals to cripple the nation intellectually.
But the BNP leader thinks showing respect to the martyred intellectuals "who received salaries from Pakistan was nothing but foolish".
Goyeshwar, also former Jubo Dal chief, made the remarks three days after BNP chief Khaleda Zia raised questions over the authenticity of the number of the martyrs.
Supporting Khaleda, he called upon the government to determine the "real" number of the war martyrs using technology.
"I don't know whether the Awami League's intellectuals are foolish. I will tell them -- ask the prime minister to have a survey done on this through the Liberation War affairs ministry. Let's get the real history.
"As far as I know, there is a list of 2.76 lakh families of the martyred in the Liberation War affairs ministry. Then where did the rest 27 lakh come from?"
The official number of 1971 martyrs is 30 lakh (three million). During the nine-month war, about 2.5 lakh women were raped by the Pakistani forces and their local collaborators.
While some 10 million people fled the war to take shelter in India, millions more were internally displaced, historical documents show.
He said people died on the night of March 25, 1971, due to the ignorance of the leaders and due to the absence of advance warning. "But those who died on December 14 didn't die because they didn't know. They remained in their homes willingly; because till then they went to their offices regularly and drew salaries from the Pakistani government."
He added, "Those who drew salaries from Pakistan became freedom fighters and those who went unfed and fugitive became Razakars. These things should be made clear.
“I will also call on the journalist brothers: You carry out a survey. Ask people to send you through text messages the number of people killed in their areas in 1971. And you will get the statistics. There is no need to debate over it."
He said, "Khaleda Zia said there was controversy; she neither said the number was less nor said it was more. This was also discussed in parliament in 1991. Late MP Col Akbor Hossain had raised the issue."