Was Our Independence a Game of Chance?

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Published on January 23, 2023
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Dr. Rashid Askari:

One of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) top brass and its standing committee members--Babu Gayeshwar Chandra Roy recently passed a comment in public that has stirred up a real hornet’s nest. While addressing a gathering of reporters in the capital, he opined that Bangladesh gained independence from Pakistan by chance or by a stroke of luck. It is not a slip of the tongue. Shrugging aside the supreme sacrifice of 3 million people Mr. Roy tried to prove that the birth of Bangladesh was a game of chance. He treated the matter so lightly as if our independence was a piece of cake handed to us on a silver platter. What could be a more grotesque distortion of the truth than this?

It is however not unbecoming of a person like Gayeshwar who belongs to a rare species of rouge politicians who are held in contempt by pro-liberation people. He is much given to making complete nonsense of the history of independence. At all times, this BNP oracle spins yarns against the proven facts of history and raises a storm in a teacup in order to cash in on the anti-liberation sentiment. As a matter of fact, he has made a nuisance of himself several times before by calling the number of our liberation war martyrs into question and dubbing our martyred intellectuals “anti-liberation elements that died like fools.” And consequence upon this, he faced many lawsuits for defamation of the history of independence and was hugely hauled over the coals by people. But black took no other hue.

Babu Goyeshwar is not the only BNP henchman who tries to distort liberation war facts. There are many others who also try to twist the facts to throw the nation’s youth into confusion and fish in troubled waters.

The party’s former chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia also unfolded several times her version of the Liberation War history by doubting the number of martyrs which put the whole nation to a crying shame. It is really disgraceful that the chief of a major political party in the country, which lays claim to being the party of a freedom fighter, has cast aspersions on the number of the martyrs of the Liberation War.

However, the point is why the Begum takes an anti-liberation stance and how far her version of our independence history is reliable. She seems to have echoed the views of the Bangladesh-based British journalist, David Bergman, who has been highly controversial for his campaigns against war crimes trials in Bangladesh. Mrs. Zia speaks in the same voice with Bergman who found the charges against the notorious war criminal Delwar Hossain Sayeedi 'baseless'. This is the same Bergman who also tried to disprove the tribunals’ indictment that claimed 3 million deaths, 2 million rapes and about 10 million deportees during the 1971 Liberation War.

The Begum’s last surviving son, absconding BNP leader, Tarique Rahman is also a pathological doubter of the Liberation War facts and a perennial Mujib hater. Like his mother, he too had cooked up new stories to malign Mujib as much as he could. In fact, he outdid her mom in the art of slander. Power-hungry Tarique and his fiercely ambitious mother always tend to distort the Liberation War facts and launch verbal attacks on Bangabandhu. They are the ringleaders of a clique of rotten politicians that have been cooking the books for quite a long time now. They not only try to defame the historic image of the Founding Father of the country but also belittle the importance of his role in the Liberation War and cunningly glamourize the role of Major Zia, the Begum's husband. The Mom-Son and henchmen versions of our Liberation War history are nothing but a publicity stunt.

But the mother and the son do not seem to realize the whole truth of the matter. They must have been disgruntled and crazy to pass derogatory comments about Mujib and other sensitive issues of our national history. Their arrogance knows no bounds when they compare Mujib with the ones, who cannot hold a candle to him. Suffice it to say that it is not merely a slip of the tongue, but a crime against our national history. So, quite naturally, the Begum came in for a lot of flak from all quarters for her weird views on the number of Liberation War martyrs and on Bangabandhu. We should condemn her side of the story of our Liberation War.

These bizarre stories are no laughing matter. They should not go unchallenged. The freedom fighters, war crimes researchers, martyrs' families and different pro-liberation organizations have blasted the Begum, her son and the hangers-on for passing such derogatory comments. The pro-liberation people have also urged the government to introduce tough law(s) on the protection of Liberation War facts and figures, like the European countries' Holocaust Denial Laws, containing detailed provisions for punishment for the denial /distortion of historically established facts and settled issues. Experts are of the opinion that headcount cannot be the basis for determining the number of causalities in a war that involves atrocities committed over a considerably long period of time. The figure of genocide victims is always determined by the victims' country. Though the number of casualties inflicted on the Jews in World War II had been questioned by the lawyers for the Nazi war criminals at the Nuremberg Tribunal and their sympathizers, the official figure was determined by the allied government. To prevent the distortion of history, more than a dozen of European countries have enacted the Holocaust Denial Laws (1985).

The number of casualties in the Bangladesh Liberation War (1971) had been determined by the Mujib Government and gained credence from the international media. It was also vindicated by the War Crimes Facts Finding Committee and other related organizations. Besides, it is one of the major national issues that have been settled beyond dispute. Therefore, to prevent any distortion of it or of other settled issues, the government should formulate a law so as not to allow anybody to distort the historically established facts of the Liberation War. If these facts are not protected by the law, they might be hugely distorted upon BNP's return to power as its henchmen are threatening.

Law should not be broken with impunity, especially in regard to independence issues. The disgruntled Begum, her crazy son, their irate fans and followers and above all the detractors of our independence ideals like Gayeshwar Chandra Roy are enjoying all the facilities the state can offer, but are refusing to recognize the truths about its independence. They are really the limit! There is no scope for evasion of their responsibility. Our independence has cost us very dearly. It was not a game of chance. So, it needs to be protected and fostered from all possible angles--individual, social, political, cultural, and legal. It is the responsibility of the pro-liberation government to ensure this. The supreme sacrifice of millions of people may not go in vain.

Writer: Freethinking writer, academic and translator

Courtesy: Daily Sun