Facing backlash, Liberation War affairs minister says same name of different people are causing the confusion
The first instalment of the list of 10,789 people, who collaborated with the Pakistani occupation forces during the nine-month-long Liberation War in 1971, apparently includes names of several freedom fighters and pro-liberation individuals.
The matter came to light when members of some of these families, including one from the Hindu community, took to social media to vent anger and humiliation over the matter, a day after the Liberation War Affairs Ministry published the list.
Calling the inclusion of freedom fighters’ names on the Pakistan collaborators list “highly offensive,” these families have demanded that the government must clarify how names of such known and gazetted freedom fighters ended up in that list.
Wondering the same, Liberation War experts have also urged Liberation War Affairs Minister AKM Mozammel Haque to explain the confusion; while some even called for annulling the list.
However, the minister has said that different people can have the same name. Saying listed freedom fighters were not on the collaborators’ list, he has stressed that this list only contains the names of the collaborators mentioned in government records collected from across the country.
“No new names were included in this list. Don’t be confused by the same name of different people,” Mozammel said on Monday.
However, his argument appeared futile when Liberation War veterans of at least two districts, so far, confirmed that some names on the collaborators’ list are that of freedom fighters and pro-liberation people.
In the meantime, after the family members of Liberation War martyrs and veterans made posts on Facebook on the issue, netizens slammed the government and the Liberation War Affairs Ministry for making such mistakes.
News agency UNB also reported that at least 26 Hindu community members and six women were named in the collaborators’ list, which contains names of around 1,000 collaborators from Barisal district alone.
One of them was renowned 1952 Language Movement veteran Mihir Lal Dutta, who died on January 20, 2007. He had also sustained bullet wounds on his abdomen during the 1971 war. His father and one of his brothers were also martyred during the war.
The list’s first instalment is less than a third of fully exhaustive list, which the ministry expects to be ready by March 25 next year.
The ministry also plans to publish an updated complete list of freedom fighters on March 26.
Razakars from a Chakraborty family?
Bangladesh Samajtantrik Dal’s Barisal district unit Member Secretary Dr Manisha Chakraborty, on a Facebook post on Monday, said the names of her father Advocate Tapan Kumar Chakraborty and grandmother Usha Rani Chakraborty were among the collaborators of Barisal Division.
She said her father actively fought in the war and regularly draws allowance as a gazetted freedom fighter. “His name is in No 63 in the Razakar list.”
“Pakistani military personnel took my grandfather Sudhir Kumar Chakraborty from home and killed him for helping the freedom fighters. He is also a gazetted freedom fighter. Still, the name of his wife Usha Rani is in No 45 in the Razakar list,” she continued.
Regarding the minister’s rebuttal, she told Bangla Tribune: “It’s my father’s name [in the list], because the list also has his father’s name. There is no chance that both names were the same ones of different people.”
She added: “This is shocking and surprising, because my family has been in progressive politics long before the Liberation War.”
“Inclusion of a family like this in the Razakar list is highly condemnable and a conspiracy. Whoever was behind this, they must be identified and punished. This list should be annulled too,” she told Dhaka Tribune.
Local freedom fighters, who know the family, also expressed frustration.
Bir Pratik Mohiuddin Manik, former deputy commander of the district Muktijoddha Sangsad unit, said: “This matter has left us speechless. This list should be corrected immediately and the family’s honour restored.
“The authorities must apologize to this family too for disrespecting them.”
Wounded war veteran MG Bhulu also said that it was unfortunate that the names of a martyr’s wife and their freedom fighter son were in the list of collaborators of Pakistan.
Reached for comment, Barisal’s Deputy Commissioner (DC) SM Ajior Rahman said he had heard of the issue. “But the district administration did not provide this list. We’ll take initiative to evaluate and correct the reported mistake once we get the list.”
War crimes prosecutor on the list too
The names of three lawyers — Advocate Ghulam Arief Tipoo, Advocate Md Mohsin and Advocate Abdus Salam — of Rajshahi Division are also in the list of collaborators, which has left the locals dumbfounded, mainly because all of them are either freedom fighters or known Awami League leaders.
Tipoo, chief prosecutor at the country’s only war crimes tribunal, is a Rajshahi-based 1952 Language Movement veteran and wartime organizer of freedom fighters. The government also awarded him the Ekushey Padak earlier this year, for his contribution during the Language Movement.
Talking to Bangla Tribune, he said: “I am beyond shocked. How can such thing happen? Was there any other advocate with the same name in Rajshahi [during the war]?
“I’m also surprised to see the name of Advocate Mohsin and Advocate Salam. None of the three names have the fathers’ names beside them too [on the list].”
However, when asked, Liberation War Affairs Minister Mozammel stressed that the “Gholam Arif” from the collaborators’ list was not Tipoo.
“No, no. That’s a different Gholam Arif. Don’t be confused by seeing the same name,” he said.
Meanwhile, local freedom fighter Taiyebur Rahman said Mohsin was a known Awami League leader. “Both Mohsin and Salam were pro-liberation people. Everyone knows about their political lives.”
He added that names without fathers’ name on the collaborators’ list may also invite unwanted complications and crisis for these families.
Another confirmed mistake
Rhidy Ruby and Shyadul Islam Talat, family members of late freedom fighter Mojibul Haque, both took to Facebook on Monday to condemn the collaborators’ list that has Mojibul’s name in it.
Talat, a journalist, wrote that his grandfather Mojibul, who was also fondly known locally as “Noya Bhai” in Barguna’s Patharghata upazila, was an Awami League supporter till his last breath.
In 1971, he added, Mojibul was the Patharghata Thana Awami League president and the president of Patharghata Sangram Parishad and Barguna Mahakuma Mukti Sangram Committee during the war.
Mojibul even contested the 1986 national election as an Awami League candidate from the local constituency, Talat added.
“And his name ends up in the Razakar list? This is what he gets for sacrificing everything for the country and for his party?” he said.
Rhidy, who also made a similar Facebook post over her uncle’s name on the list, told Bangla Tribune: “It [list] even mentions his nickname [Noya Bhai]. There is no doubt that it’s his name. Everyone in Patharghata knows him.”
Swift corrections must
Liberation War researcher DR M Hasan said there was no way to think that any Hindu family collaborated with the Pakistani army during the 1971 war.
Regarding names of Dr Manisha Chakraborty’s family members on the collaborators’ list, he told Bangla Tribune that this issue would cause delay in readying the list and create controversy.
“If it’s a mistake, [authorities] should admit it and fix it immediately,” he stressed.
He continued: “In 2008, we had created a list of the [war] criminals from the War Crimes Fact Finding Committee. When this list was translated from English to Bangla by outsiders, they put in many names based on their enmity. They were not on the main list.
“The government is saying that the DCs were involved in [making] the list and the Home Minister has it. I met with them [officials concerned] at the last moment and had urged to add the names of those who were gazetted after the war. Then, they should publish the names which were published by Dainik Sangram and those who were in the Peace Committees.”
Ekattorer Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Committee President Shahriar Kabir also said: “We reject this list, which is bureaucrat-based.”
He also said they were working on collecting detailed information regarding this matter.
During the 1971 war, the collaborators had helped the Pakistani army kill nearly three million people and brutally rape, torture and kill over 200,000 girls and women of then East Pakistan.
There were several organizations who were partners in crime with the Pakistani occupation forces – Razakar, Peace Committee, Al-Badr and Al-Shams being among the prominent ones.
In the five decades that followed, none of the successive governments of the country succeeded in preparing a complete and verified list of the collaborators – something that the Liberation War researchers, human rights advocates, and people involved with the war crimes trial see as a failure.
Shortly after the war, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had enacted the Bangladesh Collaborators (Special Tribunals) Order, 1972 to try those who collaborated with Pakistan.
Until November 30, 1973, the government had arrested 37,471 collaborators under the 1972 order, but a general amnesty was declared for them in 1973.
The amnesty, however, was not applicable to those who committed criminal offences like murder, rape and arson.
Later, in 1975, the order was repealed and about 11,000 people, who were then in custody, were freed, according to Liberation Wars Affairs Ministry officials.
Dhaka Tribune’s Barisal Correspondent Anisur Rahman Swapan and Tanjir Rahman contributed to this report