The issue of freedom fighter quotas has been at the forefront for some time now. What is your view on this?
It is our misfortune that the spirit that should be our strength has turned into a tool for dividing us. Since the birth of the country many opportunists have used the Liberation War and freedom fighters for their own gain and many these days abuse the spirit of the war as part of a divide and rule policy.
In the beginning, some people tried to divide us into the Bangladesh Liberation Force (Mujib Bahini) and freedom fighters. But we declined and said we might have different political leanings but all are freedom fighters. We should all be known by one name only.
The youths are agitating for quota reform. The government has used the system to create a politically loyal force in the bureaucracy and discourage youths from fighting for government jobs.
I would not say that reducing or eliminating the quota would ensure 100% honest officers, but it would remove the pessimism from young people and encourage them to fight, to rely on their merits to the jobs. Reform is needed and I support reform rather than removal of quota. A reasonable quota for freedom fighters’ children, minorities, women from remote areas, and people with disabilities should be in place. But it would be better if the quota can become effective at the education level and then used only once in the whole professional life. I think quotas for grandchildren and a high number of quotas are unnecessary.
Is this government doing good things for the freedom fighters?
Freedom fighter certificates have now become tools for personal gain. So many people who were not even born during the war are getting certificates. This is dishonouring the fighters and creating controversy around them. But the government has been adamant about its decision.
Maulana Bhasani once asked Bangabandhu to stop talking and start fighting for independence. But it was Bangabadhu’s vision that he realized what was at stake, so he went for the talks, which eventually opened up our path to rightful independence. Talks are the most effective path to solutions in the political arena. The prime minister has to play the key role in improving the situation and to be a great leader like her father. What could it cost? At best, losing her power. But it would give her a place in the history forever.
What does the Bangladesh Jatiyatabadi Muktijoddha Sangsad do for young people, and for preservation of history?
The political wings of several parties are working for freedom fighter welfare. This is inappropriate and so the some opportunists are taking the chance to spread hatred against freedom fighters. Besides, the spirit and the philosophy of the Liberation War is not being passed onto our next generation properly. So through the BJMS I want to build a youth force who will understand the spirit and work to carry it forward in the proper direction.
You were very young when you participated in the war. Tell us about that.
I was born in 1951 and was only 20 years old during the Liberation War. But I was fortunate enough to meet politicians like Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Siraj Shikder, Moni Singh, Ali Ahmed, Sirajul Hossain, and Kazi Zafar Ahmed. I was also involved in the Mao Research Centre under Siraj Shikder and participated in relief missions after the ‘70’s storm surge with Maulana Bhashani. So when Bangabandhu called us to arms on March 7, 1971, I along with some of our friends did not hesitate to join the war.
But when the Father of the Nation was detained by Pakistani army we became directionless. At that hour we heard the voice of Major Ziaur Rahman on the radio declare, “On behalf of our great leader Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, I Major Zia hereby declare independence…”
We rushed to the border and met with many of the senior leaders and army officials. These army officials gave us training and took us to a base force. We came into the country and continued the war in Dhaka City and its surroundings mostly, as the Bengal Platoon.