The four national leaders played crucial roles in the Mujibnagar government in exile during the Liberation War
November 3, 1975 is one of the darkest chapters in Bangladesh history, as on this day four national leaders were brutally killed inside Dhaka Central Jail.
Syed Nazrul Islam, Tajuddin Ahmad, Captain Mansur Ali and AHM Quamruzzaman all played crucial roles in the Mujibnagar government-in-exile during the Liberation War of 1971. Syed Nazrul Islam served as acting president, Tajuddin Ahmad as prime minister, Mansur Ali as finance minister, and AHM Qamruzzaman as home, relief and rehabilitation minister in the course of the war. Following liberation, they held significant positions in the government led by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
Dr Sayeda Zakia Noor, member of parliament from Kishoreganj-1 and daughter of Syed Nazrul Islam, was just a fifth grader in 1975. Speaking to Dhaka Tribune on Sunday, she recalled how she had gone to visit her father in jail just two days before the heinous murders.
“My mother, younger sister and I went to visit our father at Dhaka Central Jail on November 1. My mother asked him when he would be released, as his daughters were missing him and crying for him. He promised us that he would come back to us soon,” Dr Sayeda said.
“At the time, we lived in a house near the jail. On November 3, we heard alarm bells ringing inside the jail and got the feeling that something was wrong. My mother tried to find out what had happened, but she could not on that day.
“The next day, on November 4, the prison authorities asked us to identify and collect his body. My father had kept his promise to return to us soon, but he could not do so alive,” she added.
Dr Sayeda further said the trauma of losing her father in that way weighed heavy on her at that young age and it still haunted her.
What happened that night in the jail?
In 1975, Awami League Central Executive Committee member Mofazzal Hossain Chowdhury Maya was one of the prisoners in the same cells as the four national leaders.
Maya, now the lawmaker from Chandpur-2 constituency, said: “There were three rooms at the jail in a row, marked cells number 1, 2 and 3, in that order. A total of eight prisoners were in cell 1, including Tajuddin Ahmad and Syed Nazrul Islam. AHM Qamruzzaman, former minister Sheikh Abdul Aziz and I were among eight or nine people in cell 2. Mansur Ali and some of our other leaders and activists were in cell 3.
“On November 3, at around 3:30am or 4am, the alarm bell started ringing. Normally, this type of bell rings for about a minute, but it seemed to ring for longer at that time. Our lights were turned off, the crows started squawking and we heard the sounds of heavy boots in the darkness
“The four national leaders were gathered in cell 1. Within five or six seconds, a group of armed men entered the room and shot them dead before leaving. When they left, we heard someone from the cell asking for water. After hearing the sound, the armed men came back and stabbed the four national leaders to make sure they were dead,” Maya added.
Elaborate but limited programs to mark Jail Killing Day
According to BSS, the Awami League has taken an elaborate program to commemorate Jail killing Day. The program will still be limited in scale in order to contain transmission of Covid-19.
Members of the ruling party’s central executive committee, the Dhaka city North and South unit presidents and general secretaries, and leaders of the party’s associate bodies are set to attend the program while maintaining health guidelines.
The program includes the hoisting of the national and party flags at half-mast and the hoisting of black flags at all ruling party offices throughout the country, including the central office and Bangabandhu Bhaban, at dawn.
The Awami League will place a wreath at the portrait of Bangabandhu at Bangabandhu Bhaban in Dhanmondi at around 8am. Leaders from the Dhaka city unit of the Awami League and its associate bodies will also place wreaths at Bangabandhu’s portrait at Bangabandhu Bhaban.
Wreaths will also be placed at the graves of the four national leaders and those killed on August 15, 1975, along with the offering of fateha, munnajat and a milad mahfil. Similar programs will be organised at the grave of national leader Shaheed Quamruzzaman in Rajshahi.
Furthermore, the Awami League will arrange a discussion at its central office on Bangabandhu Avenue in Dhaka at 3.30pm. Party President and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will join the program through a video conference from her official residence Ganabhaban.
Awami League General Secretary and Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader urged all party leaders and people across the country to commemorate the day while maintaining health guidelines.