Bangladesh fought and won the war in 1971 and it took 9 months. It was a remarkable war because just about everyone participated in it one way or the other. It was possible because it was an informal war and the gates of entry were many and open to all. That is also why Bangladesh was able to win the war and overcome the enemy, a collective effort.

The war was more informal than formal but both existed. Obviously, in the official world the formal dominated but in Bangladesh which was occupied, the situation was the opposite as people lived in occupation and created their own political reality by refusing to be part of Pakistan.

This was the great strength of 1971 but one also recognizes that the light shone from the Mujibnagar government as well and to the world it became the symbol of a people who were not ready to go down. In the end the people prevailed.

However, as soon as the war was over, problems surfaced on the very issue on which there was no debate in 1971. Who had participated and who had not? Who did what and who did not? 50 years after the war was over the debate on the 9 months war goes on and on. With luck it will last at least another fifty years.

What happened first?

Initially the credit seeking was not high as people were busy seeking and getting revenge. But once the economic opportunities emerged, many took a leap into that sector. 1971 was not only about sacrifices and bloodletting but looting as well. With much Pakistani property up for grabs, a group took advantage of the situation and began to do what criminals had done in 1971.

Society was very proud of the FFs and many gifts and benefits were given to them by the people. But the selfish and the cynical saw an opportunity in this and began to exploit the situation. Although being an FF was not considered being an official part of the war but of social resistance, many began to cross over and claim to be an FF because there were benefits attached to the designation. Suddenly, an FF was an official part, a formal part of the war. And the FF list was made an integral part of privilege seeking.

Of course this was largely an urban affair, but then the official /formal world lived there so getting the name on the list was like buying a ticket to opportunities. As the quota system was introduced, this grew and grew.

Quota existed in every space and being a FF certificate holder led to many advantages including 2 years antedated seniority in official jobs. And the bus began to roll.

After 1975

Of course the situation changed after 1975 as the old guard and supporters of AL retreated and the anti-AL camp rose in power. And thus a new list began. And since politics always had a 1971 component, a new list was in order. By then the tradition of getting into the list had also become an economic activity and thus required investment. Livelihood hungry Bangladeshis knew how to manipulate and enter the list. So the average age of FFs began to drop as they were now in alignment with various official jobs and age bars. An FF quota was of course firmly in place which meant that the older FFs were already in jobs so the new generation of FFs in a way began to rewrite the war history through age and imagine participation.

It was interesting but many FFs were now teenagers. As the years rolled on, they got younger and younger. Finally, the quota was extended to children and grandchildren and the jobs and certificates grew and grew.


Right now, the FF list is not seen as a product of history but economic needs. Being an FF means accessing the quota and also other benefits as well so it's only natural that the list will grow. Although it was once tagged to participation in the 1971 war, the situation is different now. For historians who have access to the data of 1971, the current number would be very difficult to reconcile. More difficult would be to actually identify who these people were as nobody kept lists or info to say who did what.

So given the trend that began in 1972, should it be surprising that as per the NID data , as many as 2000 FFs are around 50 years or so ?

It's not possible that these cases were not verified or maybe they were and that is not the point. The point is that anyone can apply to be on the list and gain access to the benefits that accrue to such a membership. There have been many cases before and there will be more in future because no records exist to show who did what and all are speculation now. So one suppose it's all fine.

Maybe there can be an exam like the BCS exam and those who pass may be declared as BCS FF, a new category in war participation of 1971.

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