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বাংলা
Dhaka Tribune

The Mournful Day

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina narrates in her own words the ordeal of her father’s assassination on August 15, 1975

Update : 15 Aug 2023, 01:50 PM

It was not dawn yet. Azan, the call for prayers from a faraway mosque was flowing through. All on a sudden sound of gunshots filled the air. Shots were being fired around a house on road 32 of Dhanmondi area in Dhaka. The house where the President of Bangladesh, Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman resides. It was a simple small-sized two-storey building on one bigha land. The Head of the State lives there just like any other middle-class citizen. He was like this all along; living an ordinary life. The house is also the silent witness of allsorts of movement and struggle for our independence. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib declared the independence of Bangladesh on 26 March 1971 from the same house. Target of this early morning attack was this house. The serene sound of Azan was already lost under the crackling of heavy gunfire.

Generally, the security of the residence of the President lies with the Infantry Division of the Armed Forces. But just 10-12 days ago the responsibility was shifted to the officers and soldiers from the ‘Bengal Lancer’, which was not a usual case. My mother, Begum Fazilatunnesa Mujib noticed that soldiers donning black uniform were engaged in maintaining the security of the residence. She raised the question but didn’t receive any satisfactory response.

My father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had endless love for his countrymen. He used to have blind faith on almost everyone. He could never imagine that any Bengali would raise a gun to shoot or kill him. No Bengali would ever try to kill or harm him in any way – he used to live with this conviction. Though unfortunate but what value did he get for his such strong faith in people?

Gunshots were being fired from all around. Continuously firing from a machinegun, a military vehicle stopped in front of the house at Road 32. By that time, all present at the house woke up due to such earsplitting noise of gunshots. My brother Sheikh Kamal hurried down to the reception area in an attempt to know what was happening and who attacked our house. Personal Assistant to my father, Mr. Mohitul Islam was then trying to make calls to different places but in vain. He did not get any response from anyone.

After staying there for few minutes, Kamal came out to the veranda. He saw Major Nur and Captain Huda approaching through the entrance gate. Kamal started talking to them – ‘Oh! You have arrived. Please look into the matter. Who attacked our house...?’ But before he could finish his words, the weapons at their murderous hands started spitting bullets at him. Kamal fell dead on the spot. Sad is the fact that both Major Nur and Kamal served together as ADCs to Colonel Osmani during our war of liberation. They knew each other very closely. But what a misfortune! How could those dearly known people appeared as unknown killers! And killed co-fighter Kamal by his own hand! Kamal was a freedom fighter himself. He completed his military training at Deradun, India and joined the liberation war to defend his country. Later Bangladesh government appointed him as one of the ADCs to the wartime Chief of Bangladesh Armed Forces Colonel Osmani. 

Major Syed Faruk was firing from a Military Tank aiming at our house. My father made the first call to Army Chief Shafiullah and informed him that the president’s residence was under attack. The latter responded: ‘Let me see. In the meantime, if you can please try to move somewhere outside’.

The telephone at our house started ringing then. On the other end it was the Minister for Agriculture Abdur Rob Serniabat, who was my uncle, husband of one of the sisters of my father. He informed my father that some unknown people had attacked his house. Father informed him that our house was also under attack. My father then called two prominent Awami League Leaders - Abdur Razzak and Tofael Ahmed. Mr. Razzak, who was in charge of a volunteer-based force namely ‘Shwessashebok Bahini (Volunteer Forces)’ told him: ‘Leader, let me see what can be done’. Mr. Tofael Ahmed, who was the head of another paramilitary force named ‘RakkhiBahini’ also repeated similar words. Interestingly, while putting down the receiver he said what could he do? Father then came out of the room to go down. Mother helped him donning his Punjabi, a traditional attire of Bengali people which he always used to wear. Going towards the stairs he was asking about his son Kamal’s whereabouts. While still talking he reached the stairs.

At that time, the goons who were standing in the middle platform of the staircase started to climb towards the upper floor. My father could recognize Huda among them. Father addressed him by the name of his father: ‘Aren’t you the son of Riaz? What do you want?.....’ Before he could complete his sentence, they opened fire on him. By that time, Risaldar Moslehuddin also joined the killers. 

Father fell down on the stairs lifeless by the bullets of the heinous killers. My mother was also approaching the stairwell. The killers had reached the upper floor by then. They blocked my mother’s way and told her to go with them. She said ‘I won’t move a single step, won’t go anywhere. Why did you kill him? You should kill me too!’ They didn’t spare a single moment and killed her instantly. My mother’s lifeless body fell to the floor. 

My two brothers Kamal and Jamal were just newly married. Kamal’s wife Sultana Kamal and Jamal’s wife Rozy Jamal were at my parent’s bedroom. Killers shot and killed both of them there. Roma, our helping hand was standing at a corner holding Russel at her lap. My 10 years old youngest brother Russel could not understand anything what was going on. One soldier among the killers took Russel and Roma ( a domestic help) downstairs. They also gathered all others who were at the house at that time. 

Our other domestic-help Abdul was shot. They took him too. There was a mango tree in front of our house. They lined up all of them under that tree and started verifying their identity one by one. My uncle, the only brother of my father, was an injured freedom fighter and was disabled. He repeatedly requested them to spare his life. His wife was pregnant and he had immature children. What would happen to them? But the killers paid no hid to his requests. Getting to know his identity, they took him to the bathroom of the office on the ground floor and shot him dead.

Russel was holding Roma’s hand. He was crying and repeatedly saying ‘I want to go to my mother!’ Roma was trying to calm him down and was trying to silence him by saying: ‘Please don’t cry brother otherwise they would kill you.’ But the innocent child kept crying for her mother. One of the goons at that moment wanted to know his identity. Getting to know his identity, he told Russel, ‘Let me take you to your mother’. They dragged the little child over the bodies of his bother and father to upstairs and shot him dead beside the body of his mother. Killers didn’t spare the life even of a ten-year child. 

The house from which Bangabandhu once declared the independence of Bangladesh, was flooded with his blood and of his family members. The pool of blood in which the house was drowned that day flowed down the stairs and got mixed with the land – the land whose people he loved the most.

Shafayet Jamil was in charge of the 46th Brigade. The Chief of Army Staff could not reach him over phone. CGS Khaled Mosharraf also did not fulfil his responsibilities. The Deputy Chief Ziaur Rahman did not even try to take any action rather he was intrinsically linked with the conspiracy. In an interview given to the BBC, killer Rashid and Faruk talkedabout Ziaur Rahman being an accomplice to this heinous crime. Later Killer Mushtaque made Zia the Chief of Army Staff. The then Police Super of Dhaka SP Mahbub was also not reachable over phone.

My Second Aunt’s (second sister of my father) House

Killers attacked the house of my father’s second sister at Dhanmondi under the command of Risaldar Moslehuddin. A group started climbing the stairs while hurling filthy words loudly. Freedom fighter, youth leader and the editor of ‘the daily Banglar Bani’ Sheikh Fazlul Haque Moni came out of his room hearing the noise and stamping of boots. Killers started to curse him in vulgar language aiming their weapons at him. His pregnant wife came running to shield his husband from the bullets. But the killers opened fire on both of them and tore off their bodies with bullets. Their lifeless bodies fell down to the floor. 3 years old Taposh and 5 years old Porosh, their two children , ran towards their parents’ deadbodies. They cried and kept repeating: ‘Please wake up mother, wake up father. Did the parents hear the crying of their beloved children? They did not. Cause by that time they went to the land of no returns. The tears of the innocent children got mixed with the blood of their parents spilled by those inhuman killers.

My Third Aunt’s House

While shooting aimlessly, Major Sultan Shahriar Rashid Khan and Major M A Rashed Chowdhury climbed upstairs of the Ministerial residence of my uncle, husband of the third sister of my father at Minto Road. They dragged all the members of the family out of their bedrooms and forced them down to the living room on the ground floor. Without any qualm, they opened fire on all of them. My aunt Amina Serniabat, my uncle, Minister for Agriculture Abdur Rob Serniabat, their daughters Beauty, Baby and Rina, their son Khokon and Arif, Shahana, wife of their elder son Abul Hasanat Abdullah, grandson Shukanto, son of my uncle’s brother freedom fighter Shahid and nephew Rentu were mercilessly killed. Their granddaughter 8 years old Kanta escaped death being trapped under a dead body. Grandson Sadek who was only one and a half years old was crying lying on his mother’s dead body. Kanta got herself released somehow from under the dead body of her aunt Baby. She was stunned with the scene of lying bodies of her near and dear ones all around. Some lifeless bodies were lying still and some were injured and were groaning in excruciating pain. There was an aquarium at one corner of the room. Bullets broke its glasses and fishes were scattered all over in the blood mixed water. Just a few moments back who were someone’s dear mother, father, grandmother, grandfather, uncle or aunt, turned into blood-soaked dead bodies a few minutes later. Freeing herself from under a dead body, 8 years old child Kanta was standing at the corner of the room and blankly staring in horror to the carnage.

Major Faruk was shooting from a military tank towards the Bangabandhu Bhaban at Road 32 from across the lake. His firing also killed eleven innocent humans and injured several others in a house and in the vicinity in Mohammadpur area. Major Dalim was in charge of capturing the radio station. From there he announced: Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was killed. Killers did not stop at killing only. They looted out house as well. They broke the cabinet and lockers in my father’s bedroom and dressing room and looted everything of value like ornaments, watches and money etc. Even our residence car was taken by force by Major Huda and Nur. 

Blood-soaked clothing was scattered all over the bed. Such looting after the heinous crime of killing the Father of the Nation brings forth the darkest side of their characters. Whoever was connected to this conspiracy, did they realize how big a disaster they had brought on the fate of the people of a newly independent country? 

The heart which was filled with great love for the Bengali nation, numerous holes were punched in the same heart with bullets shot by some misled criminals, who were members of his beloved Armed Forces. My father never believed that any Bengali could try to kill or harm him in anyway. Few world leaders had warned him of such a risk. However, he kept saying: ‘they are like my own blood. why would they kill me? Breaching a trust as solid as this, the killers stained the fate of the Bengali people.

How strange was it! At his call, one day people of this country took to arms and earned their freedom as well as victory through 9-month long war of liberation and got the status of a heroic nation in the whole world. On this day in 1975, the same nation came to be known as a treacherous one because of the barbarian act of killing the Father of the Nation and his family members. The majority of the population of this country hates the killers and conspirators as well as considers them as traitors.

Sobhanbag

Hearing something was terribly wrong, the Military Secretary to the President Colonel Jamil started towards the Bangabandhu residence at Dhanmondi 32 by his private vehicle. The attackers stopped his vehicle near the mosque at Sobhanbag. When he tried to move ahead, they shot him point blank and killed him. Sub-Inspector Siddiqur Rahman of Special Branch of Police, who was on duty at our residence that day was also shot and killed.

Belgium

Kring, Kring, Kring…the phone at the residence of the Bangladesh Ambassador to Belgium kept ringing. I woke up immediately and thought why the ring of the telephone was that harsh! I came out of the room and stood near the top of the stairs. Saw Ambassador Sanaul Haque was standing with the telephone receiver in his hand. Looking at me he told me that he would like to talk to Mr. Wazed, my husband. I woke him up. Mr. Humayun Rashid Chowdhury, the Ambassador of Bangladesh to Germany, was on the other end of the line. He informed that there was a Coup d’état in Bangladesh. ‘That means none of my family members are alive’ - the words automatically came out of my lips. My younger sister Rehana was standing beside me. I hugged her tight. But was not sure at that time what did happen actually.

Just 15 days before we came to Germany. From there we came to visit Belgium. We went to the Netherlands too. Father told me, if possible, to visit the facilities through which the Dutch people reclaimed land from the sea. 

I spoke to my parents just a day before. For unknown reasons while speaking to us, mother was crying a lot. She told me that she had a lot to share with me and would tell me all once I return to Bangladesh. We felt very bad at that time and felt like rushing back to Bangladesh immediately. Father told us that he had a plan to visit Romania and Bulgaria. On his way back to Bangladesh, he would take us along.

But we could not return to Bangladesh anymore. All was lost in a matter of one day. Sanaul Haque who was a politically appointed Ambassador of Bangladesh to Belgium changed his face overnight and turned his back towards us. He told Ambassador Humayun Rashid Chowdhury in Germany: ‘The troubles that you put on my shoulders; you take them back immediately’.

Just the night before, the person who arranged for a ‘candle light dinner’ for us, took very good care of us looking after all our needs, suddenly started considering us as ‘troubles’. He didn’t even spare his car for dropping us off at the Belgium-Germany borders. Fortunately, my school friend Nomi’s husband Mr. Jahangir Sadat was working at the Bangladesh mission in Brussels at that time and he drove us there in his own car. We crossed the No-Man’s Land on foot and entered into German territory. Our Ambassador to Germany Mr. Humayun Rashid Chowdhury sent his car to pick us up. His wife also sent some dry foods for my children. We took shelter at their residence for couple of days. Their support and care for us in the time of distress was invaluable. We would never be able to forget the contribution of Ambassador and Mrs. Chowdhury. All other officials of our mission in Germany also took good care of us. We went to Karls Rou by the Embassy car. 

We were offered political asylum by many including the then Government of Germany, President Marshall Tito of Yugoslavia and Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Indian Ambassador to Germany came and met Dr. Wazed and Ambassador Chowdhury and arranged everything for our travel to India. Finally, we reached India from Germany. 

My journey began with the shocks of blood-stained pain of August 15, 1975. I was able to return to the country on May 17, 1981 after 6 years of losing my parents and brothers. I have come with a promise, that my father made Bangladesh independent, it cannot fail. I will not let the blood of millions of martyrs and the blood of my parents and brothers go to waste.

My journey was not easy; I have been targeted time and again. I have been subjected to false propaganda, bullets, bombs and grenade attacks. Khaleda Zia, the wife of murderer Ziaur Rahman, said several times, "Awami League will not be able to come to power even in a hundred years." "Sheikh Hasina, the prime minister will never be the leader of the opposition." After that, the terrible grenade attack on August 21, 2004 happened. Awami League leaders and activists protected me that day by creating a human shield. With Allah above, Awami League leaders and activists and the people of Bangladesh are my strength. They are the ones who are helping me on my thorny way. So, today's Bangladesh has turned around. 

Today's Bangladesh has got the status of a developing country due to the people's elected democratic government is in power from 2009 to 2023. We have been able to free the people of Bangladesh from hunger. They have now started dreaming of a better life. Confidence regained.

Father! Wherever you are, your blessing hand is over my head - I can feel it. I will build a golden Bangladesh that you dreamt of by ensuing food, clothing, shelter, medical care and education to the people of the country. The people of your country have received your deep love and the strength of this love is the motivation to move forward.

Author is the Prime Minister of the Government of Bangladesh and the elder daughter of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman

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