People from all walks of life yesterday blasted Jamaat-e-Islami Secretary General Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed for his Thursday's comments, which they said went against the Liberation War.
Mojaheed on Thursday told the media that Jamaat did not work against the Liberation War in 1971 and there are no war criminals in the country.
A cross section of people said the comments of Mojaheed on Thursday were arrogant and deceitful. They yesterday demanded trial of the Jamaat leaders who are known collaborators of the genocide in 1971.
Meanwhile, a number of organisations and Dhaka University teachers also protested and condemned Mojaheed's remarks.
Elderly people in the city, whom The Daily Star correspondents talked to, reacted sharply over the comments. "Millions of elderly people who witnessed the Liberation War are still alive in the country. We witnessed the role of Jamaat and its leaders. How did Mojaheed make such kind of remarks? Does he think we are stupid?" said a retired government official.
"From the documents of our Liberation War and from our parents, we came to know that the war criminals now belong to the Jamaat-e-Islami," said Rezaur Rahman, a student of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET).
Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman declared general amnesty for war criminals even though they were involved in many misdeeds during the Liberation War. Now they are denying it, he said.
Abdur Rahim, an official at a private firm, said he is surprised to hear such comments from a person who helped the occupying Pakistani army carry out massacres, looting and rape.
It is not at all desirable to hear such comments from a man who is a war criminal and it goes against the Liberation War, he said.
If Jamaat can say that anti-liberation forces never even existed then it is not far off when Jamaat leaders will say that they played an important role in achieving the independence of the country, he added.
"Many political parties cannot tolerate Jamaat-e-Islami, that is why they encourage propaganda against them," said one of the students of BUET as he was subdued by others screaming out that most political parties and common people cannot tolerate this party since it uses religion to get votes and hide their misdeeds in 1971.
During the last five years, this party ran the country as part of the government and gained strength and publicity. Now they dare to say that there are no war criminals in the country, BUET students told The Daily Star.
"Actually we have given them the power to say such things publicly. The political parties could not be united against the people who opposed the Liberation War even after 36 years. They unite only when time comes for seat-sharing in Parliament," said Biplob, 34, a businessman.
Jayed Shahriar, a student of Dhaka University, said, "We must condemn such comments that there are no war criminals in the country."
The comment is an expression of arrogance, he said adding that it has only been possible due to the failure of successive political governments who could not bring them to justice.
The responsibility for making the Jamaat leaders arrogant primarily goes to the immediate past BNP-led government, which took them into its fold, he said.
"The caretaker government cannot do anything about the issue of war criminals now. An elected government can punish the war criminals," said another businessman Arefin.
A rickshaw puller said there is no doubt that there are "razakars" (collaborators) in the country who opposed our Liberation War.
A number of teachers of Dhaka University condemned Mojaheed's recent comments.
Former president of Dhaka University Teachers' Association (Duta) Prof AAMS Arefin Siddique termed the Jamaat leader's statement false and misguiding.
He said whether Jamaat worked against the Liberation War in 1971 can be proved by going through old newspapers issues, even the Jamaat mouthpiece Dainik Sangram can be used.
Over seven crore people of the country fought against the Pakistani occupational army then, but a few people joined the Razakar, Al Badr and Al Shams and collaborated with the Pakistani army.
History of their activities is recorded in the archives, he said.
Former Duta general secretary Prof Muhammad Akhtaruzzaman said in legal sense, there are no war criminals. However, in Bangladesh the words "war criminals" mean the few people who acted against the independence of the country during 1971.
He said the Jamaat leaders took shelter of rhetoric and used the loopholes of law to befool people.
The statement might be an indistinct demand before the government to probe the war criminals issue and settle the matter, he said.
Chair of Mass Communication and Journalism Department Prof Shaikh Abdus Salam said Mojaheed's statement is not based on facts.
"If there are no war criminals in the country, then who killed three million people of the country, who disgraced over two lakh women and who killed our intellectuals?" he asked.
Their role is now history, and an attempt to deny their role is not positive for the country's politics. The statement does not bear the prudence of politicians, he said.
Prof Nurul Amin Bapari said there is no doubt that they are war criminals, as there are records of them. Since successive governments did not put them on trial, they gained the courage to say something like this.
Meanwhile, leaders of Ekattorer Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Committee and South Asian People's Union against Fundamentalism and Communalism said the comment is not arrogant it is tantamount to an attack on the spirit of Liberation War, as well as the existence of Bangladesh.
In a joint statement, they said evidence of the anti-liberation role of Jamaat would be found in Jamaat's mouthpiece Dainik Sangram's issues published during the Liberation War.
Apart from helping the occupying Pakistani army carry out genocide and torture, Jamaat formed Razakar, Al Badr and Al Shams forces to collaborate with the enemy and killed many freedom fighters and intellectuals.
They said denying this truth is tantamount to the denial of the existence of Bangladesh.
The false, intentional and provocative remark that Mojaheed made hurting the spirit of Liberation War is sedition, he is a war criminal and a traitor, they said.
They demanded formation of a special tribunal for the trial of Mojaheed and Nizami, Jamaat ameer, and a ban on politics based on religion and fundamentalism.
Jatiya Samjtantrik Dal also condemned the remarks and said the comments are not only false and in violation to the Constitution, they are also arrogant.
In a meeting yesterday, they said through the comment Mojaheed proved that Jamaat has not accepted yet the Liberation War and the independence of the country.
They urged the Election Commission not to register those political parties involved with anti-liberation activities.
Sammilito Sangskritik Jote also condemned Mojaheed's remarks.
In a statement, they said the remarks were arrogant, a humiliation to the 30 lakh martyrs and tantamount to denying the independence of the country.
Projonmo Ekattor and Chhatra Sangram Parishad also condemned the remarks.