'Gallantry Awards' titles awarded to distinguished freedom fighters in recognition of their exceptional heroism and self-sacrifices during the liberation war of Bangladesh. MAG Osmany, the commander-in-chief of the liberation forces, placed the proposal before the council of ministers of the Mujibnagar Government in early May 1971 for conferring gallantry titles upon the freedom fighters in recognition of their valour and courage in the liberation war and also to inspire them to such sacrifice. This proposal was approved by the council of ministers at its meeting held on 16 May. The proposal contained provisions for conferring titles at four levels: (a) highest level, (b) top level, (c) praiseworthy level, (d) certificate of commendation for valour.
The following qualifications were required for the conferment of a title:
Highest level Deeds of bravery of the highest order by risking life while facing a highly adverse situation, in the absence of which the enemy could have inflicted heavy losses on Bangladesh forces. Furthermore, such act of bravery influenced the course of the war by causing heavy losses to the enemy.
Top level The above-mentioned qualification for award had to be obtained, but at a lesser degree.
Praiseworthy level The above mentioned qualification for award had to be obtained, but at an even lesser degree.
Certificate of commendation: Does not qualify for the above three titles, but deserves commendation for act of heroism.
While conferring titles for acts of valour, three witnesses were needed for the highest category, two witnesses for the top category, one witness for the praiseworthy category and no witness was needed for the certificate of commendation.
One-time financial award used to be given along with the gallantry awards. There was a provision for taka 10 thousand (at present taka 1 lakh) for the highest category, taka 5 thousand (presently taka 50 thousand) for the top category, and taka 2 thousand (presently taka 20 thousand) for the praiseworthy category. Originally, there was no provision for monetary award for praiseworthy level, but now a provision has been made for taka 10 thousand. The title-holders are now also given monthly allowances.
After liberation of the country, the gallantry awards were specifically renamed at a meeting of the council of ministers held on 14 February 1972. These are:
Title of highest honour : Bir Srestha
Title of top honour : Bir Uttam
Title of praiseworthy category : Bir Bikram
Title for certificate of commendation : Bir Pratik.
A total of 43 freedom fighters were selected for conferment of titles on 19 February 1972. On 26 March 1973, 546 freedom fighters including the previously chosen 43 were selected for award of titles. The recommendations received from various units, sectors and brigades during or after the liberation war were scrutinized by a committee headed by Air Vice Marshall AK Khondakar. Afterwards, Prime Minister Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman signed and ratified the list of awardees as the country';s Defence Minister on 14 December 1973. A total of 676 freedom fighters including the previously selected ones were awarded the following titles on 15 December 1973. The category-wise break-up was as follows:
Bir Srestha : 7 persons
Bir Uttam : 68 persons
Bir Bikram : 175 persons
Bir Pratik : 426 persons
The awardees of gallantry titles were given medals and ribbons on 15 December 1992. They were given financial rewards and certificates on 7 March 2001. The break-up of awardees on the basis of their parent forces are as follows:
Army : 288 persons
Navy : 24 persons
Air Force : 21 persons
Bangladesh Rifles : 149 persons
Police : 5 persons
Mujahid/Ansar : 14 persons
Ganabahini : 175 persons
The awardees included two females. Five non-Bangalis also got gallantry titles of whom one was a foreigner. The gallantry awards are applicable for the members of the armed forces and of the related para-military forces even after the War of Liberation. Since independence, a total of 126 individuals from the Army and Bangladesh Rifles received gallantry awards for various operations conducted at Chittagong Hill Tracts, Tangail-Mymensingh, Rajshahi and at other places. The awardees are invited to state functions and occupy positions of honour in society. [Muhammad Lutful Haque] [Haq, Muhammad Lutful Colonel (retd), Bangladesh Army]