The Liberation War of 1971 is a source of great pride for all Bangladeshis. It was a life-changing experience for the nation. Numerous Bengali men and women participated in the war directly and indirectly. However, the contributions of women are not widely discussed. Many dauntless women freedom fighters of Bangladesh fought against the Pakistan army in 1971 with weapons, medical help, food, shelter, and other ways. Today, we remember the known and unknown Bangladeshi women freedom fighters with the utmost respect.
3 Bir Protik Women Freedom Fighters of Bangladesh
During the nine-month-long war against Pakistan (then West Pakistan), Bangladesh's military, paramilitary, and civilians formed Mukti Bahini which is a guerrilla resistance movement. Many brave Bangladeshi women joined Mukti Bahini. Here are three heroic women who worked directly with Mukti Bahini.
Kakon Bibi was a Bangladeshi freedom fighter who also worked as a secret agent during the Liberation War of 1971.
According to some sources her original name is Kaket Hennyata. She was born into a Khasi family from Nayrai Khasia Palli at Meghalaya in India. After her marriage to a Bangladeshi man, her name was changed to Noorjahan Begum. However, she was generally known as Kakon Bibi.
While searching for her lost husband, she was captured and brutally tortured by Pakistani military. Later Kakon Bibi joined the Mukti Bahini, leaving her young daughter at home. She took part in around 20 front battles. She also worked as a war spy.
In the honour of her gallant contribution to the Liberation War, the Government of Bangladesh gave her the Bir Protik title in 1996. The freedom fighter died in 2018.
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Dr. Sitara Begum
Dr. Sitara Begum was born in Kishoreganj in 1946. She received her MBBS degree from Dhaka Medical College. She joined the Pakistan army in 1970 as a lieutenant in the medical corps.
She, along with her brother Major Abu Taher Mohammad Haider was stationed in Comilla Cantonment. When the Bangladesh Liberation war started, Dr. Sitara Begum and her family moved to Meghalaya. A Mukti Bahini hospital was located inside India to operate during the war. Dr. Sitara then was appointed as the commanding officer of the hospital. After the independence of the country she returned Dhaka.
For her invaluable support to freedom fighters during the Liberation War, Dr. Sitara Begum was also honoured with the Bir Protik title.
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Taramon Bibi was born in 1956 at Shankar Madhabpur village in Kurigram. She was the daughter of Abdus Sobhan and Kulsum Bewa. When Taramon joined Mukti Bahini, she was only 14 years old. Though a teenage girl at that time, Taramon fought bravely with weapons against the Pakistani army. She fought in Sector 11.
For her courageous role in resisting the Pakistan military in direct battles, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman awarded her with the Bir Protik title in 1973. As her location was unknown at that time, the award was not handed over to her.
A researcher from Mymensingh discovered Taramon Bibi in 1995. Bangladesh’s then Prime Minister Khaleda Zia finally awarded her on December 19, the same year. The brave hero died on December 1, 2018.
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Women Who Made Major Contribution to the Liberation War of Bangladesh
Not all women got the scope to fight against the Pakistani army face-to-face with weapons in the front battles. Numerous Bengali women took care of the wounded freedom fighters and supported the fighters with food, shelter, and money. Women were also victims of sexual violence during the war.
Geeta Kar, one of the freedom fighters who fought against the Pakistani army in 1971, was born in Rajbari. Geeta was only 15 at the time of the war. The Pakistani army killed her father on May 5, 1971. That incident shocked her so much that she left home – leaving behind her mother and younger siblings. She started her journey to India. She walked nine days and finally reached India and enlisted her name in the Mukti Bahini.
She joined the camp on July 2, 1971, and took training on guerrilla warfare. Like Geeta, more than 200 women in the training group had lost their family members and were eager to take revenge.
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Shirin Banu Mitil
Shirin was a second-year student at Pabna Edward College in 1971. Getting inspired by Bangabandhu’s speech on March 7, Shirin joined the Liberation War to fight against the Pakistani army.
She had to face numerous problems in direct combat. However, her determination helped her to find an alternative, and finally, she found that by disguising herself as a boy.
Rounak Mohal Dilruba Begum
Although Dilruba Begum did not take part directly in the battle, she played the role of a trainer and prepared six groups of young people for fighting. She inspired lots of people and encouraged them to join the Mukti Bahini to fight for the sake of the country.
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The renowned Bangladeshi sculptor Ferdousi Priyabhashini was brutally abused by the Pakistani army and their collaborators in 1971. She did not take part in the Liberation War directly but made supreme sacrifices.
In one interview, she said that after independence, she faced another ordeal and trauma when society refused to accept her as she was abused during the war. She felt isolated and that isolation led Priyabhashini to take refuge in sculpture.
In 2010, Government of Bangladesh awarded Priyabhashini Independence Day Award.
Rokeya Begum was pregnant when the war broke out. Her husband was a freedom fighter and he brought his fellow fighters to his home.
The local razakars became angry at Rokeya for providing food to the freedom fighters. But Rokeya ignored that and decided to take food to the nearby island where the freedom fighters had camped in.
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Bangladesh earned its independence through the sacrifice of millions of men and women. As we celebrate Victory Day, let’s honour the contribution of women who directly or indirectly participated in the Liberation war of 1971 and made supreme sacrifices.