Bangladesh gets new version of independence history
DHAKA (AFP) — School textbooks in Bangladesh have been revised to reflect the latest government version of the role of two slain leaders when the country won independence in 1971, an official said Wednesday.
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who led Bangladesh's bitter independence struggle against Pakistan, is now once again referred to as the "father of the nation," said Mosir Uddin, head of the National Curriculum and Textbook Board.
Sheikh Mujib, who died in a military coup in 1975, is credited with the independence declaration at midnight on March 25, 1971 and referred to by his popular name of "Bangabandhu" or friend of Bengalis in the new texts.
In another change, former president Ziaur Rahman, who was slain in an attempted military coup in 1981, was acknowledged to have made an independence proclamation "on behalf of Bangabandhu at Kalurghat Radio Station in Chittagong, on March 27", he added.
School textbooks containing the changes have already been printed and would be read in the schools from January 2008, Uddin said.
The place of the two leaders in the nation's history remains a deeply sensitive subject in Bangladesh.
Since 1991, textbooks have been subject to alterations by governments led alternately by Sheikh Mujib's daughter, Sheikh Hasina Wajed, and Ziaur's widow, Khaleda Zia. The two women are bitter rivals and lead the country's two main political parties.
Supporters of Sheikh Hasina's Awami League believe that independence was proclaimed by a regional party leader acting on the instructions of Sheikh Mujib.
Members of Zia's Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), however, say it was the former army chief Ziaur who made the historic proclamation.
Sheikh Hasina led the country from 1996 to 2001 while Zia held power twice, from 1991 to 1996, and from 2001 to 2006.
A military-backed government took power in January after vote-rigging allegations led to elections being cancelled and the imposition of a state of emergency.
Immediately after the takeover, the country's powerful military chief General Moeen U Ahmed said that the new government would give due honours to the national leaders.
The textbook board head said the latest version of the history was close to the facts.
"This is more authentic than the others we have seen in the past. This is based on authentic documents. All the references are taken from the official history of the war of independence published by the information ministry in 1982," he said.
Bangladesh, formerly called East Pakistan, won its independence from Pakistan in 1971after a bloody nine-month war.