This article is being republished on the occasion of National Mourning Day
On that particular day there were three other military officers, who, besides Colonel Jamil, responded instantaneously in their bid to save Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. The story goes like this.
Early in the morning at about 6 o’clock on 15th August, I (then a captain and ADC to the President) received a phone call from Ganabhaban from one of the security officers by the name of Fakrul Islam. He said: “Do you know what is happening”? He then said that tanks were rolling by the road in front of Ganabhaban towards Mirpur/Dhanmondi Road 32. “Something is happening. Please find out.”
I then rang up Mohsin, another security officer to the president. He said there were loud noises of gunfire, tank movements and rifle shots. He also said that something terrible might be happening. After hearing this, excited and anxious, I rang up Brigadier Mashoorul Haq, the then military secretary to the president, who along with us used to reside in Bangabhaban. I informed him of what I had heard and said that we should go to Bangabandhu’s residence to find out all about it. His reaction was spontaneous.
I also informed Lt Gholam Rabbani, the other ADC from the Navy who was residing next to my room. In the meantime I called up Bangabandhu’s house several times but failed to establish contact with anyone. Quickly we called for a vehicle (an old Volkswagen car) from the transport yard at Bangabhaban and started our journey towards Road 32 Dhanmondi, the residence of Bangabandhu. We decided to take a different route and soon were at the Science Laboratory area. We intentionally came by the Dhaka University Campus to see for ourselves whether everything was normal in the area since Bangabandhu was supposed to be here in a few hours for a ceremony.
We then proceeded towards Bangabandhu’s house but soon were confronted by some people wearing black dungarees on the road opposite the present Road 2 of Dhanmondi. We had some Army jawans stopping our vehicle and asking us about our destination. They were quite surprised to hear that we were going towards Bangabandhu’s house. Since we were in civil clothes, they challenged us, but eventually they let us go when we said we were personal staff of the president.
Soon we reached the Staff Quarters area of Kalabagan, where we were again challenged by another group of unruly soldiers. They stopped our vehicle and told us not to proceed towards Bangabandhu’s house and said that they have already killed Bangabandhu. They were quite rough with us and threatened us with consequences if we proceeded further. We were infuriated with their behaviour and told them not to stop us from going ahead. They identified us as officers and since some of them knew us, they eventually let us proceed.
However, advancing a little further, at Kalabagan we were again stopped by another group of black-dressed soldiers. This time they were more aggressive and violent. They pulled us out of the vehicle with force. When we identified ourselves to them, they said you are “Gaddars” [traitors] and we should be killed right way. Thereafter it was a story of abuse and humiliation towards us. We endured and kept quiet. We were identified as the single group of three people on that day trying to reach Bangabandhu to save him. This was most surprising to them that we did not know anything about the murder of Bangabandhu by then.
They held a transistor in front of us where we heard for the first time announcements like: “Ami Major Dalim bolchi. Sheikh Mujib ke hotta kora hoyeche. Ami Major Dalim bolchi. Sheikh Mujib ke hotta kora hoyeche.” [This is Major Dalim speaking. Sheikh Mujib has been killed. This is Major Dalim speaking. Sheikh Mujib has been killed.]
We really did not believe the announcements and tried to justify our efforts to reach Bangabandhu. Our insistence to go ahead to the residence, which was very near from where we were held captive, made the soldiers extremely agitated and annoyed. When they came to know this was our third attempt to reach the residence they blindfolded us, tied our hands and waists with rope and made us lie on the ground with heads down. We were kept lying like this for the next five hours.
In between Colonel Faruk Rahman, Maj Noor Chowdhury and some other officers passed by the road a number of times. They were told of our locations and our attempts to reach Bangabandhu’s residence. Everything was presented very negatively to them and they had all the reason to think of us as adversaries on that day.
The soldiers were whispering all along against us, at times hurling dirty abuses and foul words. We had been lying for a few hours by then, exhausted and hungry we asked for drinking water and one of the soldiers suggested to feed us their urine instead. I was particularly made a target, for I held a revolver loaded with bullets, which belonged to the military secretary, handed over to me before we started our journey from Bangabhaban.
Just as we were about to be shot and killed and thrown into Dhanmondi Lake, our lives were spared most miraculously. A reference to the incident is given on page 77 of the English version of Anthony Mascarenhas' book titled Bangladesh: A Legacy of Blood.
Major Mohammad Shahidullah AC (retd), brother-in-law of late novelist Humayun Ahmed, is another surviving officer who was a witness to the incident on that day.
God knows what happened. Blind folded, we were moved to Ganabhaban in a vehicle at around 1 0’clock and confined there in a room. It was a Friday. We requested the sentry to allow us to offer prayers in the mosque located in Ganabhaban. The comptroller of Ganabhaban, who was known to us, arranged a vehicle for us before sunset. Escaping the eyes of wary soldiers, we boarded the civil jeep and made our way to Bangabhaban after darkness.
At Bangabhaban we found our place taken over by newly posted officers. New ADCs and a new MSP had taken over our responsibilities. We were identified as arch enemies of the newly formed government. In a week's time all of us received posting orders and when we were preparing to move out, we received counter orders from the coup makers that we should hold on until further order to conduct the ceremonial functions at Bangabhaban. This happened because the new set up were not confident to conduct credential ceremonies and other state functions that required some kind of expertise and were possible to be done smoothly by us only.
However, we were totally barred from attending or entering any meeting halls for the next two and a half months until after November 7, 1975 when we resumed our normal duties with President Abu Sadat Mohammad Sayeem.
The above account is a true revelation that along with Col Jamil another three persons – the personal staff of the president – without fear or hesitation responded on that fateful day. We made repeated attempts to reach Bangabandhu but failed once we were over-powered physically. It was mere luck and miracle that we survived.
Readers may please realise that at that time 41 years ago, I was a junior officer aged 25 only, with limited access and knowledge. Therefore, I may not be able to give satisfactory answers to many of your queries today.