They bravely fought in the Liberation War and one of them laid down his life to free the motherland from the clutches of the Pakistan army. They have been honoured by all as heroes since then.
Forty-eight years later, on this Victory Day, the families of the freedom fighters got the shocking news that the government of Bangladesh has put their names on the list of Razakars who collaborated with the Pakistan army in carrying out mass killings and atrocities against the Bangalees during the war.
The names of at least seven freedom fighters are on the list. One of them was tortured to death by the Pakistan army and four of them have passed away.
Even more astonishing is the fact that one of the seven freedom fighters is Ghulam Arieff Tipoo, the chief prosecutor of the International Crimes Tribunal, whose job is to prosecute war criminals of 1971.
The tribunals have so far delivered 41 verdicts against 95 people. Of them, 69 have been sentenced to death. None had been acquitted.
This year, Tipoo, a language movement activist, was conferred with the Ekushey Padak, a highly prestigious civilian award of the state.
“I’m astonished to see my name on the Razakar list,” Tipoo said, adding, “It’s a humiliation and I will take measures in this regard.”
Apart from Tipoo, freedom fighters Abdus Salam and Mohsin Ali of Rajshahi, and Tapan Kumar Chakraborty, Mihir Lal Dutt, and Jitendra Lal Dutta of Barishal, and Majibul Haq (Naya Bhai) of Barguna were on Razakars list unveiled by the Liberation War affairs ministry on Sunday.
Families of the freedom fighters said they were stunned to see the names of their loved ones on the list.
They said they would contact the authorities concerned and take further measures if the names were not dropped.
Asked, Liberation War Affairs Minister AKM Mozammel Haque said, “We didn’t prepare a new list. We just published the one prepared in 1971.”
The minister advised the aggrieved freedom fighters or their families to visit the ministry to learn how the list was prepared and how their names got on it.
“The ministry can take initiatives to correct the list if their claims are found true,” he added.
Pressed further, he said those who prepared the list would be able to give a proper answer.
At an event late last night, the minister regretted that names of freedom fighters were in the Razakars list.
The government on Sunday published the names of 10,789 Razakars.
Mozammel, while unveiling the list at a press briefing, said the list was based on records preserved at the home ministry and the publication was first of many.
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan yesterday told The Daily Star, “We sent the names of the people who were accused under the collaborators act [now defunct] back then for the Liberation War affairs ministry to update.
“I do not know how the freedom fighters’ names got in there.”
In May, the Liberation War affairs ministry started the process of preparing the list of Razakars as per the recommendations of the parliamentary standing committee on the ministry.
The ministry asked the home ministry and the deputy commissioners of all 64 districts for names of Razakars who had been on the pay roll of the Pakistan government.
The home ministry sent a list in the first week of this month.
Mozzamel on Sunday told this newspaper that they had published the home ministry list as it is.
Tapan, a freedom fighter recognised in a gazette notification, took part in the Liberation War under Sector-5. He receives the freedom fighter’s allowance from the government.
His name was on the list of Razakars.
Tapan’s father Sudhir Kumar Chakraborty was also a freedom fighter and the government gives his family the allowance. He was killed by the Pakistan army in August 1971.
Shockingly, Usha Rani Chakraborty, wife of martyr Sudhir and mother of freedom fighter Tapan, is on the Razakar list.
Talking to The Daily Star yesterday, Tapan said, “We are astonished and saddened to see the names on the list.
“We got the news when we were celebrating Bangladesh’s 49th Victory Day ... What a gift and honour the nation has given me and my father. We are extremely humiliated ... I have no words to express it.
“We demand that the government carry out proper investigation and correct the list immediately.
“If the government does not take immediate measures to correct the list, we will take our next course of action.”
Tapan’s daughter and Bangladesher Samajtantrik Dal Barisal unit leader Manisha Chakraborty in a Facebook post criticised the government over the matter. Her post went viral.
“It is disgraceful for the whole nation that the country labelled its best sons Razakars,” she said, adding that they would formally file a protest with the Liberation War affairs ministry.
Names of Mihir Lal Dutt, who was injured during the war, and his father Jitendra Lal Dutt, who was killed by the Pakistan army in November 1971, were included in the list of Razakars of Barishal division.
Subhabrata Dutt, son of Mihir, yesterday said his father was a listed freedom fighter and they receive regular allowances from the government.
He also said five of their family members took part in the Liberation war and two of them were killed by the Pakistan army.
“We are in fear, we are outraged, we are humiliated. We strongly condemn this,” he said.
He demanded that the government correct the list immediately.
Noted freedom fighter and lawyer Mohsin Ali, and well-known Liberation War organiser and lawyer Abdus Salam were included in the Razakar list of Rajshahi division.
The Pakistan army had killed five members of Salam’s family, including two of his sons on March 25, 1971, said Ariful Haq, son-in-law of Salam.
“Every year, freedom fighters pay rich tribute to my father-in-law on Victory Day. But this year, Victory Day was an utter humiliation.
“This didn’t happen inadvertently. It was part of a conspiracy. The government took a good initiative to publish the names of Razakars. But this deliberate act tainted the initiative.”
Freedom fighter Majibul Haq (Naya Bhai), who was president of Barguna Mukti Sangram Parishad in 1971, was also named as a Razakar on the list.
Nurjahan Begum, wife of the late freedom fighter, said her husband was a close aide to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and was never a collaborator.
Barguna district Muktijodhha Sangsad Deputy Commander Abdul Motaleb Mridha said the freedom fighter had also been the president of the Awami League’s Patharghata unit for 40 years.
“There is information that Naya Bhai was not a Razakar. We will take necessary steps soon,” Mustain Billah, deputy commissioner of Barguna told reporters.
Historian and prominent Liberation War researcher Muntassir Mamoon said the step for listing the Razakars was a good one but the outcome was unclear.
“We are hearing that this list has many who, as far as we know, are not anti-liberation elements. As a result, the list is going to stir a controversy. This is unexpected,” he said
“This list was prepared bureaucratically and it is high time to understand that this type of work is not possible to complete in a bureaucratic way,” he added.
Liberation War researcher ASM Shamsul Arefin said the government has created a confusion.
“I have not seen the list. So it will not be wise to make any comment. But a person informed me about Ghulam Arieff Tipoo’s name on the list … There is a chance that people will lose their trust in the list if this kind of incidents happen.
“A proper scrutiny was needed before publishing the names. It is a sensitive issue.”
Our Rajshahi, Pirojpur, and Barisal correspondents contributed in this report.