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Freedom fighter fights for recognition, survival

by Istiak Ahmed Shimul

At the age of 18, Protap Chandra Roy risked his life when he went all out and joined the ‘Mukti Bahini’ to free his motherland from Pakistani occupation forces.

Fifty years later, the country Protap fought for has made remarkable economic achievements and the government in power has been playing its part by disbursing monthly allowances and providing housing facilities to the freedom fighters.

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But thanks to bureaucratic red tape and an inefficient process of scrutinising the list of freedom fighters, Protap Chandra Roy — from Kazirchawra village in Harati union of Lalmonirhat Sadar upazila — never received any allowance or housing from the government.

The 68-year-old still wakes up in the morning and paddles around on his bicycle in surrounding areas to sell spices from door to door. When he comes home — a derelict one-room tin structure — in the evening, nearly half of his daily earnings are spent to buy medicines for his ailing wife Bimala Rani, 58.       

“I joined the Liberation War when I was 18. I fought in battles. We’ve freed our motherland from the Pakistani occupation forces. But my life struggle has not stopped yet. I struggle every moment to survive,” said Protap.

“In my pursuit of attaining the government benefits for freedom fighters, I am still going door-to-door,” he said choking back tears.

Documents validating his authenticity as a freedom fighter were examined in February of 2019 by a committee formed by the Muktijoddha Sangsad in Lalmonirhat Sadar upazila.

Although Protap received a provisional certificate (serial number 205944) as a freedom fighter from the relevant ministry, his benefits are being collected by one Protap Chandra in Gangachara upazila of Rangpur.

Abu Bakkar Siddique, former commander of freedom fighters and an official of Lalmonirhat Sadar upazila Muktijoddha Sangsad, said the freedom fighter benefits are no longer being given to the other Protap Chandra in Rangpur’s Gangachara and the real freedom fighter Protap Chandra Roy will definitely get all available government benefits.

The necessary documents in this regard have already been sent to the department concerned, he also said.

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