The freedom fighters sacrificed themselves for Bangladesh but have not been given the respect they rightfully deserve, said Major General (retd) KM Safiullah, chairman of Sector Commanders Forum – Liberation War '71.
Safiullah made the remarks in an event at the National Press Club, held on Thursday to honour two deceased sector commanders Major General (retd) CR Dutta and Lieutenant Colonel (retd) Abu Osman Chowdhury, and Bir Protik Colonel (retd) Anwar Ul Alam Shahid.
Speaking as the chief guest at the event, Safiullah said, "Initially, I fought in Tangail, and then in the Sylhet region. We fought tooth and nail to bring independence to the country. But the freedom fighters are not receiving the respect they deserve for their dedication, sacrifice and valour.
"It falls on all of us to ensure proper respect is paid to the freedom fighters, who chose to sacrifice everything for the independence of Bangladesh."
He continued, "A Pakistani brigade commander in Dhaka once asked me to join him for lunch, but I declined his offer. I have always rejected their overtures. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's historic speech on 7 March inspired us to join the Liberation War.
"We were prepared to do anything for our country. Bangabandhu led the way to our freedom."
Remembering the two sector commanders, the Sector Commanders Forum chairman said, "CR Dutta decided to fight alongside us in Bangladesh's war for independence, while Abu Osman Chowdhury led the war efforts in Chuadanga.
"The duo's contribution to the Liberation War can never be forgotten. We also fondly and respectfully remember [recently deceased freedom fighter, former secretary and ambassador] Anwar Ul Alam and other freedom fighters."
Speaking at the event, Bir Protik Lt Gen (retd) M Harun-ar-Rashid said, "I heard that the government has provided stimulus to 2.2 lakh freedom fighters during the Covid-19 crisis. If we had that many freedom fighters in 1971, it would not have taken nine months to achieve independence."
Harun-ar-Rashid, who also served as an army chief, added, "2021 is the golden jubilee of Bangladesh's independence, but the list of freedom fighters is yet to be finalized, which I consider to be a colossal failure for this country.
"Instead of compiling a list of freedom fighters, we should have released a list of Rajakars and Al-Badrs, so that these traitors to the nation could be easily identified. We couldn't even manage this much."
Starting from 31 January, the upazila nirbahi offers (UNOs) are set to review and verify the list of freedom fighters at upazila-level.
Criticising the decision to assign UNOs to this important task, Harun-ar-Rashid said, "Those tasked with the review process are very young and inexperienced and will find it difficult to finish the work properly."
To commemorate the golden jubilee of Bangladesh's independence, Sector Commanders Forum – Liberation War '71 put forward a list of three demands, urging the government to ensure that proper respect is accorded to the freedom fighters.
He also demanded the construction of museums in all 11 sectors of the country, focusing on the 1971 Liberation War and genocide; and that the contribution of other legendary freedom fighters be highlighted in textbooks.