The country got its freedom but we never got back what we lost. How could we say that we benefited from our independence - it is the voice of women which has never been recognized for their courage in the '71 struggle? During our liberation struggle, Mazlibala , an 'Adivasi ' woman, was a young girl who had been sexually abused by war collaborators. She had just got married.
One day some collaborators followed her. Mazlibala said that, she hid in a small bush. They told her not to move. She was trembling in fear and was not able to run away. The aftermath is imaginable. When she came back home her father asked why she was crying. Then her father went to chase the collaborators with bow and arrow.
Mazlibala said that her father sent her to husband's house thinking she would be safe there. But she was again attacked. Her husband's grandfather hid her under the bed. Mazlibala asked to God-"Is there no one in this world for her? What did I do to be subjected?"
When Mazlibala took refuge at her relative's house they asked her why she was crying all the time and whether the collaborators had dishonored her. Her face washed with fresh tears and she demanded "Is physical assault all that matters? Haven't I lost my honor anyway?"
In April 1971, a large number of Santal men and women surrounded the Rangpur Cantonment. Armed with bows and arrows, the 'Adivasis' attacked the soldiers. Their hatred to the Cantonment was deep rooted. Like Mazlibala, many other women had been sexually assaulted by the Pak soldiers and their collaborators. The proximity of the Cantonment to remote areas where many such Adivasi lived helped to perpetuate these sex crimes.
Freedom fighter Kakat Heinchita is also known as Kakon Bibi and locally as Khasi Mukti Bekti (the freedom girl of Khasi) and is a member of Khasi community .She now lives in Sunamganj, Sylhet. During the Liberation War, she lost her husband and many others of her family members.
During her interview with Elizabeth Herman she said "I have lived with wounds in both of my legs for my whole life. I got them hurt while I was fighting along with Sector 9 in 1971. Government does not pay me the freedom Fighter Stipend that they pay the men". According to kakon Bibi she did not get help from the government. Now, her family has nothing.
In 2006, Bangladesh Adivasi Adhikar Andolan and Research and Development Collective, honoured seven indigenous freedom fighters named were :Karuna Mohan Chakma of Chittagonj Hill Tracts, Suresh Chandra Barman and Jatin Chandra Barman of Gazipur, John Tudu of Dinajpur,Buda Munda of Jaipurhat,Mistri Hansda of Chapai Nawabganj and Michael Sujay Rema of Netrokona.
Speaking of that occasion, Buda Munda said: '' Previously, I never bothered with the fact that the state is not recognizing my freedom fighter status. Now a days I do." On 5 May, 1971, Khagendra was killed by the Pakistani occupational army. Four decades later, in 2011, his family received a document recognizing him as a martyr, but only after paying off an official.
According to Nataniel Lakra many of the Adivasi women fought with bows and arrows and kill or were killed. For women like Mazlibala , the fight still goes on. "We participated in the Liberation struggle, but now we struggle on our own soil. Still our sorrows do not leave us. It seems this struggle has no ending.
Many other women took part in defending their land or their families when the Pak Army attacked. A mute woman lost her speech after her husband was killed while fighting the Pak Army . Mong Prue was also one who sent a telegram to the father of the nation Shiek Mujibur Rahman in 1972 when Indigenous people were being tortured and confined indiscriminately by freedom fighters in Rangamati.
In February,1972 , a few non Bengali freedom fighters were claimed to be in favor of Pakistan, among the non Bengali, freedom fighters all "indigenous'' people were considered to be with the Pak army. It is the matter of regret that there are very few books that have actually mentioned these freedom fighters' and their roles in 1971. It is told that, most of them live in such remote areas that finding their war-time facts is really tough.
Most importantly, freedom fighters from the non-Bangali communities do not tend to share their stories of the liberation war as most of the Bangali freedom fighters and their families do. Another freedom fighter is Euke Ching Marma, who was awarded the Bir Bikram gallantry award, said, '' I do not want to talk about this ''.
During a research conducted by Ms Zobaida the following names of indigenous men and women came up. Such as Ahlhya Chasha, Lakkhi Rani Lama, Dhani Karmakar, Revati Mahali and some others were identified but no supporting details were found regarding their contribution in the Liberation War. Neither were any interviews found that could tell their actual stories in their own words. So the immediate question that pops into one's mind is ; Why are these freedom fighters reluctant to talk about their involvement? The writer is stuff of The Asian Age.