- Rehan Fazal
- bbc correspondent
This article about the assassination of Bangladesh founder Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was first published on PRESS24 NEWS Hindi on 26 March 2014 I went, today on his birthday Today Read once again this article written by Rehan Fazal –
On March 7, 1971, the Racecourse ground of Dhaka was packed with people. There were about one million people with bamboo sticks in their hands, not to ward off a possible attack by Pakistani soldiers, but as a symbol of resistance or defiance.
Slogans in favor of freedom were not taking the name of stopping. A Pakistani army helicopter was circling above to take stock of the crowd.
Defying the government order, Radio Pakistan’s Dhaka station was making final preparations to broadcast Sheikh Mujib’s speech live across the province.
However, the army had also made full preparations to thwart his attempt. Sheikh Mujib started speaking. It was not a speech but a challenge against the Pakistani military rule. Later this speech was placed at the highest position among all the political speeches given in the subcontinent.
After a few days, the President of Pakistan Yahya Khan reached Dhaka to find a political solution to the problem. Immediately there were indications that Yahya Khan was going to reject the demand of the people of East Pakistan to hand over the power.
On March 23, when Shaikh went to the President’s House to talk to Yahya, his car was carrying a Bangladeshi flag, as if he had become the leader of an independent Bengali state.
By the evening of March 25, news started spreading that President Yahya Khan had returned to Pakistan along with his entourage. At 11:30 in the night, it seemed as if the Pakistani army had attacked the entire city.
Operation Searchlight had begun.
Syed Badrul Ahsan writes in his book From Rebel to Founding Father that Sheikh’s eldest daughter Haseena told her that as soon as the sound of gunfire was heard, Sheikh sent a wireless message announcing the independence of Bangladesh.
Shaikh said, “I call upon the people of Bangladesh to resist the Pakistani army wherever they are and with whatever they have in hand. Your fight should continue till each and every soldier of the Pakistani army are not expelled from the soil of Bangladesh.”
At around one o’clock in the night, a team of Pakistan Army reached Sheikh Mujib’s house at 32 Dhanmandi, where Sheikh Mujib was waiting for them. As soon as they reached the gate, the soldiers started firing bullets. A local security guard who was looking after Sheikh’s security was also hit by a bullet and died instantly.
An army officer shouted on the loudspeaker that Shaikh should come down and surrender before the army. Shaikh himself came downstairs where the soldiers pushed him with the butts of the guns, made him sit in a jeep and left.
The officer who arrested Sheikh sent a message over the wireless, “Big bird in cage, small bird has flown.”
Badrul Ahsan writes that the officer who arrested Sheikh asked General Tikka Khan over the phone, “Does he want Sheikh Mujib to be presented before him.”
The general angrily replied, “I don’t want to see his face.” Shaikh was kept at the Adamji College in the cantonment for three days and then taken to Pakistan under tight security.
In Pakistan, he was kept in a dungeon in Mianwali Jail where he was not provided with radio television, let alone newspapers.
Shaikh remained in that jail for about nine months. Between December 6 and the end of the India-Pakistan war, that is, between December 16, a military tribunal sentenced him to death.
Meanwhile, the power of Pakistan came into the hands of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. He ordered that Mujib be taken out of Mianwali Jail and taken to a guest house near Rawalpindi.
Kuldip Nayar writes in his autobiography, Beyond the Lines, “Mujib told me that one day suddenly Bhutto came to meet him at the guest house. Mujib asked him, how are you here? Bhutto replied, I am the President of Pakistan. But Mujib started laughing. He said that I have a right to this post. Bhutto came straight to the point. He offered that if the Sheikh agreed, Pakistan and Bangladesh should run the foreign affairs, defense and communication departments together.”
Kuldeep Nayyar also told the PRESS24 NEWS, “Sheikh said that at this time I am in your custody. It will not be possible for me to give any promise without consulting my people.”
Former Foreign Minister of Bangladesh, Dr. Kamal Hussain, who was in Pakistani jail with Sheikh at that time, also confirms this.
He reported, “Bhutto kept pressing for some sort of relationship with Pakistan to be maintained till the last moment. On the day Sheikh was to be released and he was about to fly to London, Bhutto said that he would stay for one more day. go, because the Shah of Iran was coming the next day and he wanted to meet him. Sheikh understood that he wanted to put pressure on him from the Shah of Iran. He said that Bhutto’s proposal is not acceptable to him. If he wants, he can Can be sent to jail again.”
return to bangladesh
On the night of January 7, 1972, Bhutto herself went to Chaklala Airport in Rawalpindi to see off Mujib and Kamal Hussain. He bid farewell to Mujeeb without saying a word and Mujeeb too without looking back quickly climbed the stairs of the plane.
After staying in London for two days, Mujib left for Dhaka on the evening of January 9. On the way he stopped in New Delhi for a few hours.
Dr. Kamal Hussain recalls, “Giri, the then President of India, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, her entire cabinet, chiefs of the three services and Chief Minister of West Bengal Siddhartha Shankar Rai were present at Delhi airport to receive Sheikh. All eyes were on him.” It was moist. It felt like a family reunion.”
In a public meeting on the grounds of the army cantonment, Mujib thanked the people of India for helping the freedom struggle of Bangladesh. Shaikh started his speech in English. But then Indira Gandhi, who was present on the stage, requested him to give a speech in Bengali.
When Sheikh reached Dhaka after staying for two hours in Delhi, about one million people were present at Dhaka airport to welcome him.
Sheikh Mujib, who had lost a lot of weight after nine months in a Pakistani prison, pushed back his long hair with his right hand and Prime Minister Tajuddin Ahmed stepped forward and wrapped his leader in his arms. Tears flowed from both of their eyes.
He remembered Rabindranath Tagore in front of a crowd of lakhs at the Racecourse ground. Quoting the great poet, Shaikh said that you had once complained that the people of Bengal remained only Bengalis, have not yet become true human beings.
Dramatically, Mujib said, “Come back, O great poet, and see how your Bengali people have turned into the wonderful human beings you once imagined.”
death of caesar
Sheikh Mujib assumed power and started rebuilding Bangladesh devastated by the war. But every fairy tale also has a sad ending. By 1975, things started going out of his hands.
Corruption started increasing and nepotism started getting fueled. Along with the discontent among the people, discontent also started increasing in the army.
On the morning of August 15, 1975, some junior officers of the army attacked Sheikh’s residence at 32 Dhanmandi.
As soon as he heard the sound of gunfire, Shaikh called up Army Chief General Shafiullah.
Talking to PRESS24 NEWS, General Shafiullah had said that Mujib was very angry. He had said, “Your soldiers have attacked my house. Order them to come back. I asked them can you come out of your house?
Here Syed Badrul Ahsan questions the attitude of the army chief. Speaking to the PRESS24 NEWS, he said, “How can you say such a thing to your President. Were you thinking that he would scale the wall of his house and come on the road and that too at a time when all around him Bullets are going.”
Sheikh was coming down the stairs after hearing the firing below that he was fired upon. Mujeeb fell on his face and went on falling down. His favorite pipe was still in his hand. After this the orgy of death started.
First Begum Mujib was shot. Then came the turn of his second son Jamal. His two daughters-in-law were also not spared. And even his youngest son, 10-year-old Russell Mujeeb, was put to death.
tears had no excuses
Subhash Chakraborty, who once served as Delhi bureau chief of The Times of India, told the PRESS24 NEWS that India’s then High Commissioner to Bangladesh, Shamar Sen, was his friend. He told them what actually happened that day at 32 Ghanmandi.
He said, “When these people entered Mujeeb’s house, they came out. They thought they had entered his house by mistake. They shouted what do you want. They had no idea that they had come to kill them. They were beaten, mercilessly, and after being beaten, they were dragged out of the house, not on someone’s shoulder, and dumped into a waiting truck.”
On the morning of August 16, the soldiers collected all the bodies and buried all of them except Mujib in a large pit in the Benani cemetery. Mujib’s body was taken by helicopter to his native village Tangipara.
The soldiers surrounded his village so that people could not participate in his funeral prayers. The soldiers were insisting that the dead body be buried as soon as possible. But a Maulana of the village was adamant that the dead body cannot be buried without bathing.
Badrul Ahsan writes that there was no soap available for bathing in the village. Finally, he was bathed with harsh laundry soap and buried next to his father’s grave.
When it started raining that evening, it did not take the name of stopping. The elders of the village were heard to say, “Perhaps even nature could not tolerate the brutality with which he was killed.”
The torrential rain was a symbol of his tears. But it will be called an irony that there were very few people who shed tears for the Father of the Nation of Bangladesh that evening.
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