List of freedom fighters: Complexities appear over age limit

Wazuddin from Mymensingh is an enlisted freedom fighter, who was born on 1 January in 1945 as per his national identity card. Wazuddin’s elder brother is Shahabuddin, who was born on 1 March in 1966, says the NID card.

Wazuddin’s elder brother has become his “younger brother” as he changed his birth date through a correction application to include his name in the list of freedom fighters, alleged local freedom fighters.

SM Sazzad Hossain from Kalia in Narail has a different “problem”. That is why he has appealed to lower the age-limit of the freedom fighters.

Sazzad said his father and four brothers are gazetted freedom fighters. But he has been facing a problem as the government has fixed the lowest age limit of a freedom fighter at 12 years and 6 months. He claimed he was 14 years old during the liberation war but the headmaster of his school lowered his age. According to the NID card, his birth date is 14 July 1959. As per that he is younger by one year to be considered as a freedom fighter as per the minimum age requirement fixed by the government. This has resulted in the stoppage of his monthly allowance to freedom fighters. That is why he is in favour of lowering the minimum age limit.

The liberation war affairs ministry on 17 January in 2018 issued a notification fixing the minimum age at 12 years and 6 months during the time of liberation war, on 30 November in 1971, for any person to be considered as freedom fighter in keeping with the recommendations of Jatiya Muktijoddha Council, JAMUKA (National Freedom Fighter Council).

Many applications over age-related complexities for inclusion in the list of freedom fighters have been made to JAMUKA, reveals an analysis of documents from the last eight meetings of the council. Recommendations also have been made to overlook the age-limit for many applicants.

The birth date of Nur Hossain from Kalmakanda in Netrokona, as per the NID card, is 11 December in 1959. The 75th meeting of JAMUKA proposed to include his name in the freedom fighters’ list. But the 82nd meeting of the council requested to verify the allegations regarding age-limit.

Nur Hossain Akand claimed he was 17 years old during the liberation war and fought in the war. He said he has evidence in favour of his claim.

The freedom fighter certificate of Belal Hossain from Joypurhat was cancelled. Later, the 86th meeting of JAMUKA decided to reinstate his freedom fighter status alongside paying the allowance.

Belal has already died. His wife Rahmat Ara told Prothom Alo that her husband was a freedom fighter. His age was correct in the birth certificate but the NID mentioned a wrong date. His allowance was stopped as his age was found to be less than the required minimum age to be considered as a freedom fighter. Later an application has been filed for resuming his allowance.

Researchers on liberation war said almost the same trend regarding age is being seen in including the names in the freedom fighters’ list. The applicants are claiming that they were actually older than their certificate age at the time of liberation war. But the age was lowered in school or other documents. It is a big failure to come up with a flawless and complete list of freedom fighters even after 562 years of the liberation war, they insisted.

Speaking about this to Prothom Alo, JAMUKA member and president of the parliamentary standing committee on liberation war affairs, Shajahan Khan said, “A chaos is going on over the age issue. We have fixed 12 years and 6 months as the minimum age to be considered as gazetted freedom fighters. But many were freedom fighters but documents showed them as younger. That’s why special consideration is a must in appropriate cases.”

Complexities over age

The 74th meeting of JAMUKA proposed Daudar Rahman from Natore to be included as a freedom fighter. Later, his name was included in the 3rd combined list published from the ministry. But there were allegations of fraudulence against Daudar. Investigations reveal upazila vetting committee opined against including Daudar’s name in the list. Still his name was included.

A high official of the liberation war affairs ministry told Prothom Alo that the ministry received information of 2,000 people who have issues regarding age. As per the documents they were 8-10 years old at the time of liberation war. Some were born after the liberation war. There are questions as to whether those were mistakes or the names were included fraudulently in the freedom fighters’ list.

The ministry official further said the NIDs are prepared based on birth certificates and other documents. Many people fix their age according to their needs. If the NIDs are considered as yardsticks, many people would become eligible to be included in the list and names of many will be slashed.

Liberation war affairs minister AKM Mozammel Haque told Prothom Alo, “If any person’s birth date is recorded in the NID mistakenly and the person can prove that he is a genuine freedom fighter, in that case we propose to consider the age of that person. But the general rule is that the minimum age has to be 12 years and 6 months.”

A sub-judice matter

The Liberation war affairs ministry published a notification in 2016 that said the minimum age of any person will have to be 13 years on 26 March in 1971 to be considered as a freedom fighter. The ministry published an amended notification on 17 January in 2018 that said the minimum age has to be 12 years and 6 months on 30 November in 1971. Several aggrieved persons filed a writ petition with the High Court challenging this.

The court on 19 May in 2019 pronounced the notification invalid. The state filed a petition seeking a stay of the HC order. The appeal is waiting to be heard at the Appellate Division.

* The report, originally published in the online edition of Prothom Alo, has been rewritten in English by Shameem Reza