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Bangladesh shuts museum galleries to 'correct' history

world Updated: Jul 07, 2009 17:53 IST
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Bangladesh's dynastic political rivalries have reared their heads again with the decision to close three galleries in the national museum for presenting a "distorted" version of the war of liberation.

Liberation War Affairs Minister ABM Tajul Islam said Tuesday the offending exhibits glorified the late president and military ruler Ziaur Rahman, who was an army major during the war, while it neglected Bangladesh's founding leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

Sheikh Mujib was the father of the current prime minister Sheikh Hasina. Hasina scored a landslide victory in elections last December over her long-time rival Khaleda Zia, who is Rahman's widow.

"History was wilfully distorted in these galleries. We have ordered them to be shut down and rearranged so that they give a true picture of our liberation war history to the new generation," said Islam.

"There was hardly any mention of Sheikh Mujib - the father of our nation - in the three galleries. Yet they had separate corner for Ziaur Rahman, who was just a head of one of three forces during the war," he said.

Sheikh Mujib led the country to independence after nine months of fighting in which three million people were killed. He was assassinated along with most members of his family by army officers in August 1975.

Rahman, also a war hero, went on to become the country's military ruler in November 1975 but was killed in a failed coup attempt in 1981.

As Zia and Sheikh Hasina have alternated their grasp on the premiership, each has sought to rewrite the historical record of the independence struggle, highlighting the role of Rahman and Sheikh Mujib in each case.

Only last month, a Bangladesh court ruled that Sheikh Mujib and not Ziaur Rahman proclaimed independence in March, 1971.