In his reaction on the 50 years of Independence, professor Serajul Islam Choudhury in a special interview with Prothom Alo said, “On 16 December 1971, my feeling was that we have just got rid of a deadly disease. Later, the question raised in my mind that we have got rid of the disease, but did we recover? On the eve of the golden jubilee of independence, it seems we have not completely recovered.” [Prothom Alo, 13 February]
If one does not become healthy after recovering from a deadly disease, there is no glory in surviving with a weak existence. Leaders and activists of one generation have liberated the country by waging a war and the next generation has different kinds of duties to fulfill. If they do not perform those duties properly, the nation cannot recover and go smoothly. There is a growing interest in patriotism and free thinking among many of the new generation. In the same way, backward thinking has also been observed among many of them.
When asked about this, professor Choudhury said, “The truth is people are divided. Many of them are frustrated. Surrender comes from despair. The surrenderers either become frustrated or run towards darkness. Socially there is no exercise of culture, discussion and debate. The freedom of expression is being curtailed gradually. Thinking power does not develop unless there is freedom of expression.”
The political leaders play an important role in national interest whether in a democratic or non-democratic environment. Apart from taking part in the parliamentarian debate in people’s interest, the speeches they deliver in different meetings also carry many issues for learning. Their speeches contain the history, heritage and political and economic conditions of the country. People, especially those who have not had the fortune to know about the history and heritage of the country from books and newspapers, can learn many things from the speeches of the leaders.
During the campaigns of national elections, our political leaders often make irrelevant comments by mixing true and false information to defeat the opponents. The voters do not pay close attention to this. However, in a stable condition, when a leader talks about important issues of the history of the country from a higher position of the state, he cannot be ignored.
History cannot be changed, but can be interpreted in many ways. There has been a demand for removing the statue of Gandhi in Britain amidst the pandemic. In this regard, British prime minister Boris Johnson said, “History is a continuity, we cannot censor history. We can no longer denounce Gandhiji for whatever he said in any context.”
Ziaur Rahman was a professional soldier. People of the country did not know him before 26 March of 1971. Such was his destiny that his name was known to all in the country by 27 March. Although the liberation war was a people’s war, the enemy was well equipped with advanced weapons and they were fierce in nature. The civilians needed the cooperation from the military officers and soldiers to face this fierce enemy. Our patriotic Bengali soldiers and officers performed this great duty with dignity.
The government of prime minister Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman conferred titles to the people for their heroic contributions in the liberation war. All the freedom fighters who received the highest honour -‘Birshreshtha’ — were members of the armed forces and all of them died in combat.
Most of the people who were awarded with the second highest honour — ‘Bir Uttam’ – were the members of the armed forces. Some of them were in service and some of them were retired.
Ziaur Rahman received the ‘Bir Uttam’ title along with others.
Different people had different roles in the liberation war. The question about the roles of different people in the liberation war was resolved by the government of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman by discussing with the leaders of the expatriate government. To run a pen over it or to challenge it is highly indecent.
Several ministers often say that they have the proof of Ziaur Rahman being involved in the killing of Bangabandhu. It is possible that the higher officials of the army were involved in the killing of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Without higher official’s consent or approval, at least the coup would not be successful despite killing Bangabandhu.
Ziaur Rahman destroyed the non-communal constitution of Bangladesh. Many of his decisions can be criticised too.
Now-a-days, many of the leaders say that Ziaur Rahman was not a freedom fighter. In addition to this, many of the leaders are even saying that he was a “Pakistani agent”. The people, who are saying this, have not thought that how harmful is the meaning of this for the history of the liberation war. It would be a huge failure of the expatriate government and the government led by Bangabandhu to be ignorant about the role of Ziaur Rahman and others in the liberation war. If the allegation that ‘Ziaur Rahman worked as a Pakistani agent in the Liberation War’ is true, then the history of the liberation war will need to be re-written.
A ‘Pakistani spy’ (Ziaur Rahman) worked with the expatriate government for nine months and none of them noticed that. That spy was even given one of the two top posts in the army after the independence. No one could realise that he was a Pakistani agent.
There is a limitation of language to condemn the enemy too. When we exceed that, the loss is greater than the profit. Not everyone in the Awami League is doing that. Initiatives have been taken to withdraw Ziaur Rahman’s gallantry award. It will not cause any harm to Zia, who died long ago. Regardless of the intention, it will not be wise to set an example which will encourage the future governments using this trend as a weapon to withdraw the titles of the persons they do not like.
On the eve of golden jubilee of independence, the nation needs to be united like in 1971. If an attempt to divide the nation is being made instead, nothing could be more unfortunate than this in our national life.