“I lost everything and all of my family and relatives. What will I tell you and about whom? Please, forgive me. I do not want to remember the heartbreaking scene,” a teary Abul Hasnat Abdullah told the Dhaka Tribune correspondent, when asked about his memories of the black night of August 15, 1975.
Abul Hasnat and his wife Shahan Ara are among those who survived the barbaric attacks by some disgruntled army officers on family and relatives of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
Son of Abdur Rab Serniabat, who was a brother of Bangamata Sheikh Fazilatunnesa Mujib and brother-in-law of Bangabandhu, Hasnat is an Awami League lawmaker from Barisal 1 constituency. Serniabat, also a former Awami League minister for water resources, was among the ill-fated members of his family, who were killed on the same night when Bangabandhu and almost all of his family were assassinated.
On Monday when contacted for an interview, Hasnat declined to talk as he was gripped by grief remembering the scene.
Speaking on his behalf, his wife Shahan Ara said she still cannot forget her four-year-old son Sukanto Babu, one of the victims in the brutality.
“He [Shukanto] came to our family during the 1971 Liberation War and left us with Bangabandhu in 1975,” said Shahan Ara.
Describing the whole incident, Shahan Ara said a group of army men – led by Maj Shahriar Rashid, Maj Aziz Pasha, Capt Majed and Capt Nurul Huda – stormed into Serniabat’s Minto Road residence, now the headquarters of Dhaka Metropolitan Police, in the wee hours.
“The sun had not yet risen. We woke up and heard sounds of gunshots. My mother-in-law Amena Begum thought robbers might have attacked our home and insisted that we phone Bangabandhu [Amena’s brother],” she said.
“My father-in-law Serniabat then phoned Bangabandhu but did not tell us what they talked about. At the same time, I also called Moni Bhai [Sheikh Fazlul Haque Moni, a nephew of Bangabandhu] and informed him of the matter. He asked me to try to know who are firing gun.
“A bit later, my mother-in-law took over the phone and sought help from him.”
Meanwhile, the army officers went up to the first floor and broke open the door, just as Serniabat was making a phone call to Bangabandhu’s residence. They rounded up the residents in the drawing room on the ground floor where Maj Shahriar and Capt Majed opened fire, Shahan Ara said.
She added: “I just heard my father-in-law Serniabat telling my mother-in-law that Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib had been attacked too.
“My husband Hasnat was shouting at the army men, saying “stop firing. It is not fair.”
Later, he went up to the second floor to receive a phone call and learned that Moni had been killed, she continued.
She said: “Sukanto was beside his uncle Shaheed Serniabat. When I came down to the ground floor, they approached me and asked how many members there were in our family.
“I did not disclose the number according to my father-in-law’s gesture for me not to disclose it. Later, they started firing indiscriminately at us.”
Killed on the spot were Serniabat, his nephew Shaheed Serniabat, daughter Baby Serniabat, son Arif Serniabat, four-year-old grandson Sukanto, domestic helps Potka and Laxmir Ma, and Abdur Naim Khan alias Rintu, according to her.
Amena Begum, Shahan Ara, her brother Abul Khair Serniabat, sisters Beauty and Rina Serniabat, and domestic helps Rana, Rafiqul Islam, Golam Mahmud and Lalit Das were seriously injured. Hasnat hid behind a door and escaped unscathed.
Maj Shahriar, Maj Aziz and Capt Huda shot the victims again before leaving the scene.
“Then officer-in-charge of Ramna police station and other officials visited our home the next day and took us to Dhaka Medical College Hospital,” said Shahan Ara, bursting into tears at one stage of the interview.
On October 21, 1996, she filed a case over the killings with Ramna police. Eighteen accused were put on trial. The High Court in November 1999 stayed the case proceedings after a criminal revision was filed by one of the accused against the charge framing order.
Public Prosecutor Abdus Sattar Dulal of Dhaka’s First Additional Metropolitan Sessions Judge’s Court said: “The case is still pending with this court due to the High Court stay order.”