Revised and complete version to be published on March 26
The government has withdrawn the recently published “infamous” list of Razakars, after it was severely criticized by all quarters for containing names of freedom fighters of 1971 and pro-liberation individuals.
“We have withdrawn the list and will publish a new and complete one on March 26, 2020,” Liberation War Affairs Minister AKM Mozammel Huq told this correspondent yesterday.
“We will need you [journalists] and everyone’s help,” he added.
Liberation War Affairs Secretary SM Arif-ur-Rahman also told Dhaka Tribune: “The list of Razakars was published without any scrutiny. It will be published again after scrutiny.”
The move came hours after Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader told reporters that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina instructed the ministries concerned to revise the entire list and make the necessary corrections.
Later in the evening, Hasina herself expressed frustration over the faulty list and urged the freedom fighters and their families to show restraint and patience, saying her government has moved to scrutinize and rectify the mistakes on the list.
At a meeting of Awami League’s Central Working Committee at Ganabhaban in Dhaka, she said: “I want to say unequivocally that no freedom fighter will be branded as Razakar. It cannot happen. It’s impossible, at least during my tenure. We will never allow this to happen.”
“It [list] is no way the list of Razakars,” she said, adding that there were separate lists of Razakars, Al-Badr and Al-Shams which had been published in separate gazettes.
She said it was a matter of regret that the names of freedom fighters came in the list of Razakars just before the 49th Victory Day, celebrated on December 16.
Hasina also said that the confusion was created as the Liberation War Affairs Ministry had hurried to release the list without properly scrutinising it or reviewing the footnotes, even though she had asked to not rush the process.
The Liberation War Affairs Ministry on Sunday had published the first instalment of the list containing names and addresses of 10,789 people, who it believed were Pakistan’s collaborators during the 1971 War of Independence.
But the list started drawing heavy criticism from the next day after it was found that names of a number of freedom fighters and pro-liberation individuals, including many from the Hindu community, were on it.
Freedom fighters and their families, family members of 1971 martyrs and general people have also been demonstrating in a number of districts across Bangladesh since Monday, calling for immediate correction; while some demanded the list’s annulment.
Yesterday, addressing an event in Manikganj, the liberation war affairs minister also said that other governments which were in power over the past 30 years might have intentionally added names of freedom fighters on the list of Pakistan collaborators list.
Expressing regret, he said: “We could have never imagined that they [other governments] could do something like this, which led to this mistake, and we apologise for this.”
Mozammel said: “Next time, the names will be collected from the offices of deputy commissioners of districts or upazila nirbahi officers. Before publishing it, we will scrutinise it extensively so that nothing goes wrong again.”
Controversy could’ve been avoided
Meanwhile, talking to reporters at his office in Dhaka in the afternoon, Home Minister Kamal said release of the Razakar list would not have created such controversy if the Liberation War Affairs Ministry had excluded some 996 names from it.
He said: “The Liberation War Affairs Ministry sought a list of Razakars, Al-Badr and Al-Shams from us. We told them that we had no such list.”
But, he said, his ministry had a list of over 10,000 people who were accused in cases filed under the Collaborators (Special Tribunals) Order between 1972 and 1974.
“However, some 996 individuals were excluded from the list as they were implicated in the cases mistakenly or out of enmity. And, we also gave a note about those names while sending the list to the Liberation War Affairs Ministry.
“But they still published the whole list,” added Kamal, who is also a freedom fighter.
However, he said: “If there is any mistake on our part, we will look into it and take action against whoever is responsible.”
The list along with the note from Home Ministry, according to Bangla Tribune, was sent to the Liberation War Affairs Ministry on December 2.
However, when asked, Liberation War Affairs Secretary Arif-ur-Rahman told Bangla Tribune that he neither saw the list nor the note after Minister Mozammel’s personal secretary brought them from the Home Ministry and handed them over to the minister.
“The minister kept them with him, until he released it at the press conference on the day [Sunday] he decided on. I only arrived and sat beside the minister near the end of the press conference, details regarding which I didn’t know,” he said.
Replying to a question, Arif added: “Had the list and the note from Home Ministry arrived at the secretary’s office following procedure, we would not have been in this situation; because, we would have read the note and taken steps in line with the directives.”
Earlier in the day, International Crimes Tribunal’s (ICT) Chief Prosecutor Ghulam Arieff Tipoo sent a letter to three ministries to have his name removed from the list of collaborators.
Copies of the letter were sent to the Liberation War Affairs Ministry, Law Ministry and the Home Ministry, ICT Prosecutor Sabina Yasmin Khan Munni told Dhaka Tribune.
A Rajshahi-based 1952 Language Movement veteran and 1971 wartime organizer of freedom fighters, Tipoo was awarded the Ekushey Padak earlier this year for his contributions during the Language Movement.
Talking to reporters on Tuesday, he also said: “The government must find out how the name of freedom fighters ended up on this list and take necessary actions immediately.