A Birangona's Recognition
Almost 40 years since the events that changed the country,
Rizia Khatun is yet to receive the title that she unquestionably deserves.
Rizia Khatun, a 57 year old woman is yet to be recognized as a freedom fighter, even after 39 years has gone by since the glorious liberation war of 1971. During this time, a number of governments came to power, many freedom fighters worked as leaders of the community, and even a discrete ministry was created to look after the welfare of those that freed the country. But Rizia Khatun remained ignored and uncared for. Her name did not appear in the register of the women who were forced to sacrifice their chastity and sovereignty for the liberation of the country.
She is agonized whenever her minds recalls the dark days from the war-stricken months when she was captivated in a barrack of Pakistani soldiers in Shailakupa. Ignorance of countrymen and recognized freedom fighters dishearten her she now believes that the title “Birangona” is actually loathed in the society. It brings tears to her eyes as the title did not bring any betterment to her life and could not pull her out of poverty. Her daughters are detested by the society. She lives in her husband's makeshift house in the village Royerah in Shailakupa upzilla of the district.
She left her father's house in Kasba Majail village under Pangsha upazilla of the Rajbari district at the age of 18 in May 1971. She went to one of her maternal uncles named Rafique. The Pakistani forces started ransacking the houses in the village with the help of the Rajakars and Al Badrs and in the end they set the village on fire. Rizia, her elder brother Azimuddin and younger sister Momena found their way to the house of Hazra Mandal in the middle of the chaos. He assured them of providing safe shelter, but, little did they know then he was collaborating with the occupying forces. The next day, Hazra handed them over to local Pakistani camp. She was wearing a wristwatch of the brand 'Richo' and the army, thinking it is a wireless device, alleged her and took her into custody.
Azmat and Momena were freed later under the condition that Rizia stays captive. She lived there for the duration of the war; living in terrible suffering, torture and torment. She was forced to fulfill the evil and perverse demands of the brutal armed men. The camp was at the Shailakupa WAPDA colony, which is the resident of ex-veteran parliamentarian Kazi Khamedul Islam, widely known as 'Shishu Daktar'.
Rizia could not hold back her tears when she recalled her painful days. She said that if she refused the evil advances of the brutes, they kicked her, slapped her and beat her like an animal sometime hit with the back of rifles. On many occasions, she lost her consciousness.
Some brave freedom fighters named Dabir Uddin Joarder, Rahmat Ali Mantu and several others rescued Rizia and other women from the WAPDA bungalow, after the independence of the country. They had no clothing; and bore marks of limitless torture. Later, a shelter was arranged for Rizia in the house of Wazed Ali at the village Royerah.
When Commander Dabir Uddin Joarder requested the Freedom Fighters to arrange Rizia's marriage, one freedom fighter named Seraj Mandal accepted the proposal and married her to show respect to her, Rizia said.
In last 39 years, the Ministry for the Freedom Fighters did not recognize Rizia as a Freedom Fighter. Now her elder daughter works as a maid in Dhaka while the younger one lives with Rizia at Royerah. She could not even complete her education for financial constraints, she said.
When talking to Star Insight, Rizia said that she believed that the government of Sheikh Hasina would arrange a job for her daughter that might help her survive. Agitated, Rizia states that she can't help the fact that the male freedom fighters are acknowledged but the birangonas like her are ignored. The title “Birangona” does not bring her any honor.
When contacted, Bangladesh Muktijoddha Sangsad Shailakupa upzilla unit Commander Rahmat Ali Mantu said, the name of Birangona Rizia Khatun could not be registered with the official document yet but it will be enrolled as soon as possible to ensure that she receives the recognition that she deserves.
(R) thedailystar.net 2009