Source:- Bangladesh redefines Freedom Fighters, recognises Biranganas as FFs - bdnews24.com Under a new definition, those who were at least 15-year old on March 26, 1971 can now apply for the freedom-fighter status. The decisions were taken at the 25th annual meeting of the Jatiya Muktijoddha Council (JMC) in Dhaka on Monday. Liberation War Affairs Minister AKM Mozammel Haque said, "Those below 15 during the war cannot apply for recognition as freedom fighters." It is estimated that over 100,000 people took part in the war against Pakistan. Many juveniles had fought the War and helped the freedom fighters in many ways. One of them, 13-year old Shahidul Islam Lalu, was awarded 'Bir Pratik' award for gallantry. Explaining the reasons for selecting Mar 26, Haque said Bangladesh was a part of Pakistan from Mar 1, 1971 to Mar 25. â€œThough Bengalis did not obey Pakistan government before Mar 26, Pakistan government officially existed at that time. "So, how anyone can be a freedom fighter after dying in Pakistan?â€ he told bdnews24.com. He admitted that there were exceptions where young boys below 15 had taken part in the War and added that a decision on them would be taken later. Controversies arose over the list of freedom fighters, prompting the government to prepare a list of 'real' freedom fighters after screening the data. Later, the minister told bdnews24.com: â€œMany have taken freedom-fighter certificates since there was no definition for them. Thatâ€™s why the question of fake freedom fighters is arising. So freedom fighters have been defined.â€ He said those who were under 15 on Mar 26 in 1971 would not be given the credentials. Haque said: â€œIf there was any â€˜under-agedâ€™ freedom fighter that would be considered later.â€ Defending the new definition of freedom fighters, he said it was not possible for anyone under 15 to fire from rifles. Nationâ€™s founder Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had first honoured women, who had been raped in 1971, as â€˜Biranganasâ€™. But they had long been demanding recognition as freedom fighters. On Jan 27 this year, the High Court asked the government why they should not be given that status. It also questioned the state's failure to give the 'Biranganas' social privileges since independence. Minister Haque said under the new definition those included in the 'Laal Muktbarta', India's list of Bangladeshi fighters, freedom fighters certified by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, those who crossed over India and registered for training, and servicemen who worked to create public opinion for the Liberation War would be recognised as Freedom Fighters. Apart from them, the Mujibnagar government employees; members of the armed forces, police, then East Pakistan Rifles, Ansars who fought in the war, and MLAs and MPs of the war-time government are also being considered as Freedom Fighters. As per the definition, artistes and performers of Swadhin Bangla Betar, journalists who played leading roles after the liberation, and Swadhin Bangla Football Team members can also apply for Freedom Fighter status. Doctors, nurses and their assistants who treated the wounded freedom fighters and officials at offices under the Mujibnagar government, too, will be eligible for the status. The aspirants will have to apply online by Oct 31 on the JMC website to be included in the gazette as freedom fighters. The minister described as 'unfortunate' Biranganas having been deprived of the freedom-fighter status for last 43 years. â€œWeâ€™re sorry for that. We have nothing to say other than sorry, because many have died. They could not enjoy the status or know about it.â€ He said though different volunteer organisations and researchers had the lists of Biranganas of different areas, they were not complete. He said different ministries had collected the lists of Biranganas which would be scrutinised by Upazila-based committees. â€œIt is not supposed to be unknown anymore as to who was violated in which Upazila. But these (information) will be collected confidentially. Many wonâ€™t want to disclose these now after getting old.â€ He described the collection of information of Biranganas as â€˜historical responsibilityâ€™.