THE formation of a parliamentary sub-committee to collect information about the role of women in Bangladesh’s liberation war has come rather late in the day. Even so, now that it has dawned on the powers that be that Bengali women have indeed made significant contributions to the emergence of Bangladesh as a sovereign state, we welcome the move. With every bit of detail about the war quite loaded with the narratives of male participation in the struggle, it is now important that the history of the liberation war be made more substantive through recording the contributions of the women of this country.
We cannot easily ignore the fact that a prime target of the Pakistan occupation army and its local collaborators was Bangladesh’s women. Everywhere these genocidal forces went, they left a trail of devastation in their wake through murder, pillage and rape. The brutal fact remains that tens of thousands of women were raped by the soldiers and their auxiliary forces. Many were made pregnant and there are distinct reports of the many war babies born toward the end of the war and immediately after it. These women have regularly been eulogized for their extremity of suffering. Most of them go on with life reliving that old nightmare of pain and shame. That said, there are the women who made it to Mujibnagar, in droves, in order to serve the country. Doctors, teachers, artistes, government officials, spouses of influential men, et cetera, all were unequivocal in their belief that they needed to lend a hand in the historic task of the attainment of national liberty. Some women even worked on the battlefield; others inspired the nation through keeping up our spirits on Shwadhin Bangla Betar. Taramon Bibi and Dr. Sitara Begum are names we have not forgotten.
The task of recording the contributions of women to the cause will not be easy, seeing that nearly four decades have elapsed since the end of the war. But despite the difficulties involved, the parliamentary sub-committee must shape a strategy through which names, events and records can be collected across the country. Our surviving sector commanders, their junior officers and officials who worked in other areas may be contacted for the details. Additionally, there are the aging freedom fighters in every nook and corner of Bangladesh. They should be knowing of the women who took part in the war, directly or otherwise, from their localities. Let them be contacted.
It is time a substantive record of those who went to the war and so reinforced the intensity of the struggle was placed before the country.