War Heroes often come back from a War with trauma, PTSD, scar that haunts them. Rehabilitation of War Heroes is important, specially after a bloody Liberation War like Bangladesh's, it's more about the prestige and respect of the war heroes than anything else.
The Pakistani Military Junta aimed to eradicate nationalist Bengali citizens, scholars, intellectuals, religious minorities, and military men in a methodical manner. With the leadership of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the trained soldiers, government officials, political activists, students, workers, peasants, professionals and the mass population, both male and female, fought for 9 months for the independence of Bangladesh. These war heroes are the freedom fighters or war heroes of Bangladesh.
Who are War Heroes?
As per the definition of Government of Bangladesh, freedom fighters or War Heroes are those who fought in the Liberation War between March 26, 1971, and December 16, 1971, in response to the appeal of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the Father of the Nation. Those who were aged 13 or higher on March 26, 1971, the commencement of the Liberation War are entitled to seek the status, given that they fought for Bangladesh’s Liberation. They crossed international borders, received training in various training facilities and camps in India, and registered their identities would be recognised as war heroes. Professionals, such as journalists, who actively contributed to mobilising public support overseas during the nation’s Liberation War should also be regarded as freedom fighters. The members of Shwadhin Bangla Betar Kendra’s football squad and those in charge of the Mujibnagar administration will be remembered as warriors as well. The Gazette says that the women who were abused and subjected to torture by the Pakistani occupation troops in the past will also be considered freedom fighters or war heroes.
The Ministry of Liberation War Affairs’ statistics indicates that there are over 2,33,000 (2 lakh 33 thousand) freedom fighters in the nation. Allowance was provided in January 2022 of last year in the names of 204,013 individuals. Due to their exclusion from the verification, that figure dropped to 186,731 in February 2022.
Festival Allowance on Eid (x2)
Festival Allowance on the Victory Day
Festival Allowance on Bengali New Year
Currently, a War Hero is given an allowance of BDT 20,000 every month (USD 182), BDT 10,000 (USD 91) festival allowances on each of the two Eids, the largest religious festival of Bangladesh, BDT 5,000 (USD 45.5) on the Victory Day, and BDT 2,000 (USD 18.2) on the occasion of Bengali New Year. Altogether, a War Hero receives BDT 2,67,000 thousand (USD 2429.76) a year, in total.
Other Benefits for War Heroes
The Government of Bangladesh has set a few targets for the freedom fighters and their families for a 5 years program.
Monthly 35 kg Rice, 30 kg Flour, 5 kg sugar, 8 litres oil and 8 kg lentils were given for the families consisting of 4 members of freedom fighters family. A cheap ration card has been provided to the families of the 7838 freedom fighters who were injured and killed.
Medical Expenses Abroad
Upto BDT 8,00,000
In Govt. Hospitals within Bangladesh
Upto BDT 2,00,000 allowance in 24 Special Hospitals within Bangladesh
BDT 30,000/BDT 50,000 for funeral
The Freedom Fighter Welfare Trust provides up to Tk. 8,00,000 for medical expenses abroad. In addition, all the treatment expenses in Govt. Hospitals for War Heroes are free of cost. Freedom fighters with serious medical issues can receive treatment at 24 specialty hospitals across the nation. For qualified independence warriors, these hospitals provide medical services worth up to Tk 200,000. If a liberation warrior passes away at home, his family would get Tk 30,000 for the funeral and Tk 50,000 if he passes away in a different area.
Exempted for 1500 sq ft home
Exempted for 2 stoves
Free for upto 125 litres
Free upto 200 unit
If the War Heroes live within 1500 sq ft home then the holding tax is exempted and 02 gas stove with 125 litres water bill fee is free for their family with 200 unit electricity usage.
Free Mobile Phones
For Disabled War Heroes
Mobile Phone Bill
BDT 1100 to 1900
Aged, wounded and disabled freedom fighters are entitled to receive free mobile phones from the government. And for all freedom fighters, a monthly mobile phone bill of BDT 1100-1900 is provided as allowance.
On Eid, Victory Day and Bengali New Year
At Government bungalows and motel facilities
In historical sites, picnic spots and national events etc.
During the two occasions of Eid, the Eid-ul-fitr and Eid-ul-adha, the same amount of BDT 10,000 allowance is provided as mentioned above. There are special allowance of BDT 5,000 on the Victory Day and BDT 2,000 on the Bengali New Year. If the freedom fighters show their ID card collected from the Ministry of Liberation War Affairs, their toll is free for govt. Bungalow and Motel facilities. In addition to that, historical places, picnic spots etc. are open to them, free of any charge. They are invited to any government event organized on the national days. Even without invitation, they can access any national day event organized by the Government of Bangladesh.
Construction of residential and commercial buildings at Ghaznavi Road in Dhaka
In 2014, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated a residential and commercial building, named ‘Muktijoddha Tower’ (Freedom Fighter Tower) which has 15 floors with 2 basements and 80 car parking slots in Ghaznavi Road, Mohammadpur, Dhaka. From the doctors’ chamber to the trust office everything is available in the building. The government spent around Tk. 6280,00,000 for this project.
Construction of shelters (Bir Nibash) for landless and destitute War Heroes
2962 Bir Nibash
Handed over to insolvent Freedom Fighters
In a timespan of 6 years, under a Government project during 2012-2018, in every upazila (sub-district) of Bangladesh landless War Heroes were given shelters with 2 bedrooms and one floor along with a place for their domestic animals. The total area of each of these houses are 500 sq ft.
Freedom Fighter Complex in Upazila (Sub-district)
of War Heroes and their families
Bearing the Expenses
of the Upazila Freedom Fighter Assembly (Muktijoddha Sangsad)
In order to create job facilities and socioeconomic development of War Heroes and their families so that they have a safe and sound livelihood and have savings for the future Freedom Fighter Complex was inaugurated in 470 Sub Districts of Bangladesh. Among which 436 has been created till June, 2023 and 10 of them are under construction. The project was taken in 2018 and almost complete by 2023. The government of Bangladesh spent around Tk. 122354 crore for the complex which consists of 3 floors.
Memorials, Renovating Graveyards and Conservation
In the Suhrawardy Udyan
Conserving Martyr's Graves
20,00 Graves in Phase I
A variety of initiatives are being carried out to preserve all the memorials associated with the Great Liberation War, to guarantee the well-being of the valiant liberation warriors, and to instil in the younger generation the spirit of the Great Liberation War. These efforts include building the Upazila Muktijoddha Complex, conserving the historical landmarks of the Liberation War, and erecting the Swadhinata Stambha (Liberation Monument) in the historical Suhrawardy Udyan. In addition, the project’s Preservation and Development (First Phase) would conserve 20,000 independence martyrs’ graves. The government is scheduled to contribute Tk 4.6 billion towards the preservation of 20,000 tombs.
Measures for Female War Heroes
The Ministry of Liberation Affairs has made a number of efforts to ensure the welfare of families and Freedom fighters. Approximately half of them are women and girls. These initiatives increase women’s economic and social empowerment. Throughout the 16–17 fiscal year, a number of Gazettes with the names of female liberation warriors (Beerangana) were published, including 75 names of battle heroines. All of them include social security, medical treatment, and upazila complex facilities.
This is an important step. Because until then, the female warriors who were raped and who actively took part in the liberation war, their efforts were not officially rewarded by the Government of Bangladesh. Through this, the Beeranganas and their sacrifice has been owned up by Bangladesh, and they have been given the respect they deserve.
Bangladesh Freedom Honour
The highest state honour bestowed upon foreigners or non-natives by the Bangladeshi government is known as the Bangladesh Freedom Honour. The award honours significant achievements made to the independence movement in Bangladesh.Former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi received the honour posthumously in honour of her support during the Bangladesh War of Liberation and her ability to lead such a complicated regional conflict.
Training and Micro-credit through BRDB
Bangladeshi independence fighters might receive training and microcredit from the Bangladesh Rural Development Board (BRDB). An organisation run by the government, the BRDB promotes the socioeconomic advancement of Bangladesh’s rural poor. By arranging small and resource-poor individuals into informal groupings and cooperative societies in accordance with government goals and objectives for rural development, the institution is attempting to achieve integrated rural development. They promote rural residents’ income generation, skill and capacity building, beneficiary capital construction and management, distribution of microcredit to agriculture, and administration of microcredit. A total of 285 freedom fighters have obtained microcredit from the organisation, while 316 freedom fighters have had training organised by the BRDB.
Quota for War Heroes’ Children and Grandchildren
Since 1972, there has been a quota system in effect for government posts reserved for independence fighters, as well as their offspring and grandchildren. Up to 2018, liberation fighters and their families were eligible for 30% of quota employment. Due to mass protests the government had to announce scrapping the quota system for class-I jobs and turn it into a merit based system. However, the quota system will continue to apply to employment in classes III and IV jobs.
The Freedom Fighters of Bangladesh fought for the very country we live in. Unlike the US War Heroes who have taken part in wars in Iraq, Afghanistan etc., they’ve fought for their own country valiantly. Not all of them were trained soldiers, but peasants, workers, students, who risked their lives for the independence of Bangladesh. It is unfortunate that Bangladesh has failed to honour its heroes for a long time. Even though various initiatives have been taken for them, there still exists scope of further facilities for them. Now that most of our Freedom Fighters have reached an old age, the Government of Bangladesh may consider the scope of constructing old homes with modern facilities for the Freedom Fighters, as well as their wives.
About the Author
A R Tahseen Jahan is a Research Associate at The Confluence and a student of Development Studies at the University of Dhaka. She is also serving as an Editor at Dhaka University Law and Politics Review.