By: Shabbir Ahmed

A dark era of killing for power began in the newly independent Bangladesh on August 15, 1975. A group of disgruntled killers committed a heinous crime by killing the founding father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and most of his family members. These human-like hyenas killed children as little as four-year old (Mr. Serniabat’s grandson). Bangabandhu’s youngest son (Sheikh Russell) was only ten-year old when he was killed by the notorious killers. The criminals did not spare pregnant women (Mrs. Arzu Moni and Mrs, Sultana Kamal). The cowards came with powerful guns to kill the unarmed family members of Bangabandhu in the dark night of August 15, 1975. As a leader of the people of Bangladesh, Bangabandhu led a very simple life in his own house with a minimum level of security. It was only a few steps required for the killers to enter into his house in Dhanmondi. As I remember, it was a sad and a painful morning on August 15, 1975. The people of all walks of life in Bangladesh became very sad and simultaneously confounded by the horrible event that took the life of Bangabandhu. An eerie silence engulfed the whole country. It was Friday and the grief was all engulfing every moment on that day that I still remember. I never watched a day full of grief everywhere in Bangladesh after August 15, 1975.

It is true that a tiny group belonging to the evil axis of Razakars, Pakistani collaborators, and the conspirators were happy after the killing of Bangabandhu. They organized to take-over the power under the leadership of the second Mir Jafar named Khondoker Moshtaque of Bangladesh. It was not clear at the outset about the patrons and other cohorts of the killers and the conspirators. We had to wait to see the conclusion. Eventually, the patron of the killers, the beneficiary of the killing, and behind-the-scenes conspirator named Gen. Ziaur Rahman emerged as a strong man just like his Pakistani master Gen. Ayub Khan. This ruthless dictator rewarded some of the killers with jobs in the foreign ministry. Some of the killers were given support for forming a political party with their cadres always carrying fully loaded arms to terrorize the public. All of the killers were given impunity that gave them freedom from the consequences for the heinous crimes that they committed. Under the blessings and patronization of the military dictator Gen. Zia, the killers portrayed themselves as if they were above the law of the land. All these were happening in a country where any unruly acts were possible under the blessing of the Martial Law Administrator Gen. Zia. The conspirators and the killers did a massive propaganda to rationalize the killing of Bangabandhu and his near and dear ones. In their propaganda, they propagated that they were going to bring piece and tranquility along with the prosperity in the country, which was going through some chaos in the post-war Bangladesh. They tried in vain to suppress the glorious history of the struggle of Bangabandhu for the independence of Bangladesh.

The killers and the conspirators brought a kind of peace that exists in graveyard under the leadership of their able leader Gen. Zia. Dictator Zia kept the nights of Dhaka fully silent by imposing curfew. It was not days or weeks for the Dhaka City to be under curfew. If my memory serves me correctly, the Dhaka City was under curfew year after year that started in 1975 and ended sometime in 1979. The present generation of Bangladesh will not understand how it was in Dhaka under curfew at night during the rule of the military dictator Gen. Zia. Anyone attending a party or visiting his/her relative at night had to return home before the curfew began. Otherwise, he/she could easily become a target of the joint forces patrolling the city at night. Anyone could have been taken away by the members of the joint forces or could have been missing with no traces left behind. I personally had the experience of being approached by a military vehicle with machine guns pointed toward our rickshaw, while I was trying to take my friend to the hospital under an emergency condition. No rickshaw puller was willing to take the risk to carry us to the hospital at night during the curfew. I had to beg and pay a substantial amount to the rickshaw puller, who agreed to take us to the hospital. After we were halted, I showed the notes of the university doctor to the military and had to spend a good amount of time to get the permission from them to proceed in the Shahbag area. The same thing happened in the Farm Gate and Tejgaon areas. After wasting so much time, finally, we went to the Mohakhali Hospital at a time when the patient was almost to the final stage of his life because of dehydration. A number of doctors and nurses worked hard to revive him. I still remember what the doctor said. The patient could have died due to dehydration if it were only ten or fifteen minutes late. I have shared my experience to illustrate the condition of the country after the death of Bangabandhu. The cohorts and cronies of the dictator Gen. Zia always have their big mouth to make him larger than what he was. They try heart and soul to portray him as a disposer of all things including democracy in the post-1975 Bangladesh. In fact, a petit dictator Zia became a demon ruler in the country, which fought only to become free from the Pakistani rule of military and theocracy. Unfortunately, the conspirators killed Bangabandhu to pave the path for bringing back a military dictator in power following the Pakistani tradition of martial rule, which we denounced, rejected, and defeated through our nine-month long fight in 1971.

Despite the ill efforts of the conspirators, Bangabandhu’s image will never fade in Bangladesh. The more we see the present Pakistan, the luckier we should feel that we had a leader like Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who had the foresightedness to predict our gloomy future. His forethoughts helped us to be aware of the ills of the military and theocratic rules in Pakistan. His towering personality, glittering charisma, and determined vision helped unite the fragmented and scattered Bengalis into one platform. In particular, he was able to bring the awareness of freedom in the bewildered Bengali Muslims, who were in favor of Pakistan under the influence of the vicious two-nation theory based on religion. It was possible only for Bangabandhu to unite all the Bengalis irrespective of their religious belief in one platform and made them chant the slogan “Joy Bangla” in unison. “Joy Bangla” that is “Victory for Bengal” became the inspiring slogan during our struggle and fight for independence. Our inspiration for independence and freedom was stimulated by none but Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. As the founding father of Bangladesh, he will always be remembered by the freedom loving Bengalis.