In face of protests and criticism from many quarters, the Bangladesh government on Wednesday withheld the list of Razakars – local collaborators with the Pakistani occupation forces before the war of liberation in 1971.
Published on December 16, Bangladesh’s 49th Victory Day, the list contained gross anomalies as it named some of the renowned freedom fighters of the country.
The list also reportedly contained the names of many individuals multiple times. War crimes and collaborators continue to be politically sensitive in Bangladesh, even decades after the liberation war.
Admitting the mistakes, Liberation War Affairs Minister AKM Mozammel Huq on Wednesday said his ministry would withhold the list and publish a new list next year on March 26 – celebrated as Bangladesh’s Independence Day.
On Monday, Minister Haq told reporters his ministry did not prepare the list, but had published a list provided by the home ministry.
However, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal vehemently denied Haq’s claim and said his ministry had not provided any list of Razakars to the Liberation War Affairs Ministry.
“Our ministry provided a list of those who were accused under the Collaborators Act,” Kamal told the media.
Kamal also publicly admitted that the list of Razakars was not scrutinized “properly” before its preparation.
Both ministers’ statements, meanwhile, clearly indicate that no “actual development” or work regarding the list took place in the last 48 years. Shortly after the 1971 war, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman – Bangladesh’s founding father – enacted the Bangladesh Collaborators (Special Tribunals) Order, 1972, to prosecute those who collaborated with Pakistan.
By November 30, 1973, the government had arrested 37,471 collaborators under the order, but a general amnesty was declared for them in the same year. The amnesty, however, was not applicable to those who committed criminal offenses like murder, rape and arson.
Later, in 1975, the order was repealed and about 11,000 people, who were in custody at the time, were freed, according to Liberation War Affairs Ministry officials.
Freedom fighters in the list
Nearly five decades after Bangladesh gained its independence through a bloody nine-month war in 1971, there has not been a comprehensive list with specific data on exactly how many Bangladeshis collaborators worked with the Pakistani occupation forces – until December 16 this year.
Bangladesh published a list for the first time containing the names of 10,789 Razakars, who collaborated with the Pakistani occupation army in carrying out mass killings and atrocities during the 1971 Liberation War.
Bangladeshis were looking forward to seeing the long-overdue list, but the list was riddled with errors and that has led to criticism from all around.
The Daily Star reported that the names of at least seven freedom fighters were on the list. One was tortured to death by the Pakistan army and four have passed away. The list includes the name of Golam Arif Tipu, a seasoned prosecutor at the International War Crimes Tribunal, who was a renowned coordinator of the 1971 war.
Tipu was also part of a five-member steering committee that was formed to conduct the War of Liberation in Chapainababganj district in 1971. The Banglaedsh government bestowed Tipu with the Ekushe Padak – the second-highest civilian award – in 2019 for his contribution to the language movement of 1952.
Tipu has expressed his resentment over the inclusion of his name on the list of Razakars. He also threatened to take legal action against those who were responsible for the mistake.
The name of advocate Tapan Kumar Chakraborty, a listed freedom fighter, also appeared in the list of Razakars. Chakraborty fought against the Pakistani Army on the frontline of the battlefield under the leadership of Major Abdul Jalil of the Liberation War Sector No 9.
The Pakistani forces killed his father Sudhir Kumar Chakraborty after detaining him at his home. Chakraborty is a gazetted freedom fighter who regularly receives allowances for his valiant role in the independence of Bangladesh.
Chakraborty told the media on Tuesday that it would have been better for him to die than see his name on the list of Razakars. The name of late Majibul Haq who was the president of the Barguna district unit of Mukti Sangram Parishad (Liberation War Council) during the Liberation War in 1971, also appears in the Razakars’ list.
Condemning the inclusion of Haq’s name, several hundred people in Haq’s home town of Barguna on Tuesday formed a human chain, held a procession and rally.
They demanded the immediate exclusion of Haq’s name. The name of Mirza Abdul Latif, a listed freedom fighter from Sirajganj district, also appeared on the list. A two-time member of parliament, Latif was infamous among the Pakistani army and its collaboration forces for leading a group of freedom fighters called Palashdanga Jubo Shibir during the war.
Urging the government to find out whether there was any conspiracy, Latif’s daughter Selina Mirza Mukti told reporters that it was not only humiliating for her father, but for all freedom fighters.