Government Policy

Recognition as freedom fighter: 50 years have gone, but painter Haider Ali’s wait continues

Haider Ali, whose job is now to paint walls and doors, put his life on the line every day during the nine-month liberation war of Bangladesh as his country called.

Fast forward to November 2021, as the country is celebrating the golden jubilee of its independence. But things have not changed for Haider, the father of two daughters, for whom tomorrow means another fight for survival.

The man from Darshana, Damurhuda upazila is yet to be gazetted as a freedom fighter even after 50 years. That means he is not able to avail the benefits given to freedom fighters. He now has to struggle to put food on the table.

Then twenty-year-old Haider from Darshana’s Paranpur joined the Liberation War in 1971 in sector 8. The young gun went to India to complete his training as a freedom fighter. He joined the group of ten freedom fighters, led by late Chabdar Ali, in the Bishoykhali area of Kaliganj upazila, Jhenaidah.

Freedom fighters Tamsher Ali, Anisur Rahman, Akkas Ali, Sirajul Islam, Nowsher Ali were the other people from Haider’s area who directly fought the war.

These 10 freedom fighters had to retreat and return to their camp when the Pakistani forces launched airstrikes.

Haider broke his left wrist while practising drilling with a .303 rifle at the freedom fighter’s camp in Majhdia of Nadia district in the state of West Bengal, India. He was first treated at a hospital in Ranaghat of the district.

But the incident could not crush Haider’s spirit. He never backed down.

“With my hand bandaged and arm in a sling, I was tasked with doing recce of the India-Bangladesh border area for four months to get information about Pakistani forces or their positions,” said Haider.

At the end of the war, Haider collected a certificate signed by Commander-in-Chief of the Bangladesh forces Colonel MAG Osmani, testifying to his participation in the war, from the Majhdia camp.

“Even though I have the evidence [certificate] that I fought in the Liberation War, I did not get any recognition as a freedom fighter even after 50 years of independence,” Haider said.

“Although it is very difficult for me to keep my head above water, I borrowed Tk20,000 to go to Dhaka with Asir Uddin, former Bangladesh Muktijoddha Sangsad Damurhuda unit commander, to get my recognition. But everything went in vain.”

“I also met with Liberation War Affairs Minister AKM Mozammel Haque. After going through my documents, he asked Asir Uddin to include me to the list of freedom fighters.”

“I feel like money is the real issue here. My name could have been on the list of freedom fighters if I had put money into the effort. I am hardly making ends meet with my work as a painter. How would I afford this much money? Although I directly fought the war, I am still not a freedom fighter.”

Asir Uddin said: “Haider Ali was a freedom fighter, and I saw his certificate. If some of the people who fought along with Haider testify for him, his name would be included to the list of freedom fighters. It has nothing to do with money.”

Abu Hossain, Bangladesh Muktijoddha Sangsad Chuadanga unit commander, said: “The government started an online process in 2013-14 to verify the list of freedom fighters. If he was involved in that process to get listed as a freedom fighter, it would have been easier to help him.”

Also, freedom fighter Tamser Ali of Darshana said: “I will testify for Haider. He joined the battle of Bishoykhali with me.”

However, the question remains if Haider will ever be recognised as a freedom fighter. The man, who was ready to die for the country, now finds it hard to make a living.

Source: United News of Bangladesh