This article is being republished on the occasion of National Mourning Day
On August 15, 1975, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was scheduled to visit Dhaka University as “the first chancellor visiting the university in its 54 years’ history” – returning to the place he was once expelled from for raising his voice in support of underpaid employees.
The university authorities had planned an elaborate reception at the Teachers-Students Centre (TSC) for the day, while special supplementaries were published in national newspapers to mark the occasion.
The entire campus took on a festive look ahead of Bangabandhu’s visit, with colourful decorations put up to welcome the then president Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
According to the invitation card of the programme, the event was scheduled to start at 11am and all invited persons were requested to attend by 10:45am with their invitation cards.
For souvenirs to be presented to Bangabandhu, the university authority prepared a citation placed inside a decorated scroll, a crest with the university’s monogram, a silver-made tray also with the monogram, and a handkerchief made of sheepskin.
The then vice-chancellor of Dhaka University Prof Dr Abdul Matin Chowdhury was supposed to present the gifts on behalf of the teachers, students and employees of the university, conveying their support for the president’s success.
Attested by the VC, the five-paragraph-long citation read: “We are very happy to welcome you [Bangabandhu] for your first visit as a chancellor of the university. You are the first chancellor who is visiting the university in its 54 years’ history; that is why we are specially proud.”
To mark the visit, the university also published a special supplement, titled “Dacca University: A special supplement on the occasion of the August visit of the president and the chancellor.”
On the centrefold, there was a picture of Bangabandhu captioned “father of the nation.” The supplement also included messages from the then vice-president Syed Nazrul Islam and prime minister M Monsur Ali.
Recalling the scheduled visit of Bangabandhu, incumbent VC AAMS Arefin Siddique said: “Bangabandhu was scheduled to go to the sociology department on that day. There, three children, including Sheikh Russel, were supposed to show respect to him by pouring flower petals from a decorated silver plate.”
According to the Daily Ittefaq edition published on August 15, 1975, Bangabandhu was also supposed to visit the University Laboratory School and the physics department. He was scheduled to place wreaths at a graveyard of martyrs located in the area adjacent to the university central mosque.
After attending the programme at the TSC, Bangabandhu was also supposed to visit the museum of sociology department at the university, as his eldest son, Sheikh Kamal, was studying there.
The then vice-president Syed Nazrul Islam and prime minister M Monsur Ali were supposed to accompany Bangabandhu during his visit.
Teachers and students of the university eagerly waited to welcome Bangabandhu at the university; but their wait never ended, as Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was brutally assassinated along with most of his family members in the first hours of August 15.
Meanwhile, the wooden-framed citation made for the programme had been missing for over 34 years, until Amir Hossain, a retired deputy registrar, found it at the registrar’s building on December 2, 2009. Amir found the document while rummaging through a pile of files inside a cupboard, while the crest and the box prepared for the programme were found inside a safe in the registrar’s office.
On August 17, 2013, DU VC AAMS Arefin Siddique handed over the citation along with the other gift items to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to preserve these at the Bangabandhu Memorial Museum in Dhanmondi.
Bangabandhu’s days at DU
In 1948, Sheikh Mujib took admission in the law department of Dhaka University. On March 26, 1949, the then executive council of the DU expelled Bangabandhu and four other students on charges of “instigating” a movement launched by class IV employees demanding increase of salaries and allowances.
Then a second-year student, Mujib had extended his support to realise the demands of the university employees.
Although the DU executive council gave the expelled students a chance of forgiveness against a small fine and a guarantee of good conduct from their guardians, Bangabandhu stood his ground in support of the class IV employees. The expulsion of the four other students was withdrawn after they complied with the authority’s directive.
Commenting on Bangabandhu’s expulsion, Professor Arefin Siddique said: “The decision was undemocratic and unjust. That is why after 61 years, the university authorities withdrew the expulsion order on August 14, 2010.”
This story is being republished.