The history of our Independence closely resembles literature. It is replete with the grandeur of epics, the narrativity of fiction, the incredulity of fairy tales, the suspense of short stories, the conflict of drama, and the spontaneity of poetry.
In sooth there is no accounting for the fact that, the man, who appeared as the saviour of a people, the liberator of a country from the yoke of new imperialism, has been ruthlessly killed only in two couples of years by some of the same people. Almost the whole family, except for Mujib’s two daughters, perished in a monstrous carnage that appeared in the form of a coup by some disgruntled army officers. The marauding killers went on a rampage and shot dead almost every member of his family: The Mujibs, their three sons, two newly married daughters-in-law, Mujib’s brother Sheikh Nasser and many others. Even the innocent child Russel could not escape the wrath of the cruel killers. The Greatest Bengali of All Time, Mujib himself was killed by bullets in his chest at the turn of the stairs. Unguarded, the founding Father of the Nation was gunned down in the month of August!
The tragedy of Mujib’s death multiplies when we get to know the harrowing facts of his burial at his native village of Tungipara on August 16, 1975. Although all dead bodies were transported to Banani cemetery for burial in unmarked graves, Mujib’s body was buried far from the capital city for, the killers did not want his graveyard to be a place of pilgrimage. One Major Haider Ali was ordered by the then DGFI to perform the responsibility of Mujib’s burial to be completed in a couple of hours since it would be dangerous to fly the helicopter after nightfall. The burial rites of the greatest son of the soil were performed most expeditiously at gun point. A bucket from a nearby cow-shed was used to fetch water from a tube well for the purifying bath. The soap used for this purpose was a cheap bar of laundry soap. There was no clean white cloth to be used as a shroud.
So, when no winding sheet was found, the local police officer suggested that some saris donated by Mujib himself to a nearby Red Cross hospital could be used for this purpose. How the Major in charge of the supervision of Mujib’s burial reacted against this suggestion has been poignantly mentioned in S A Karim’s book Sheikh Mujib: Triumph and Tragedy. As he puts it: “We have no objection. You can bring anything you like. But you are to complete the bloody burial business quickly.” The Major in charge answered in military English in which every sentence is liberally sprinkled with the all-purpose word “bloody.” Anyway, “three saris,” continues Mr Karim, “were procured from the hospital. Their red borders were trimmed with a razor blade to make a makeshift white shroud. There was no time to stitch the pieces together. There followed a hurried janazah (the funeral prayer), in which some 25 people took part. Mujib’s body was then lowered to the grave beside that of his father. The Major and his military escort were able to fly out well before dusk so as to arrive safely in Dhaka before nightfall. Thus ended the life of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman — the man who is the Father of the Nation.”(Ibid)
This terrible killing of Mujib is one of the biggest tragedies in human history. We consider this August 15 pre-dawn killing as ‘August tragedy’. The grief is so profound that it makes the whole nation feel orphaned. It was the biggest loss for us as a nation. As a matter of fact, during the thirty years after Mujib’s assassination, the spirit of our Liberation War had been vitiated; democracy was trampled under military boot, the Constitution was dissected to suit the vested interests’ book and the concept of secularism and human rights was throttled. On the contrary were fostered autocracy, communalism, and anti-liberation elements. So, August tragedy is, on one hand, a tragedy of losing the architect of the nation, and a tragedy of losing our national ideals on the other. After the assassination of Mujib and the four national leaders - Syed Nazrul Islam, Tajuddin Ahmed, Captain (Rtd.) Mansur Ali and A H M Quamruzzaman in jail, the pro-liberation stance of the country started stumbling around in the dark alley of reactionary rulers and regressive beliefs. In consequence of this impasse, the anti-liberation forces bagged power in alliance with the beneficiaries of Mujib’s murders. Not only that, they paved the way for the capture of the country by the Islamist militants. This is the biggest concern of the day. The rise of religious militancy is really something to worry about. This can be solved by the resurrection of the true ideals of our Liberation War and those of the Great Leader Bangabandhu Sheikh MujibuRahman.
As Julius Caesar was to the Romans, Sheikh Mujib was to the Bengalis. By a strange twist of fate, both were slain by the conspirators. Caesar’s conspirators were finally defeated at the battle of Philippi (42 BC) and killed themselves. The killers and conspirators of Sheikh Mujib had been tried and given capital punishment. Five have already been executed and the absconding six are awaiting execution. Mujib is dead, but his dream of a secular civil society, of a non-communal country, of his beloved ‘Sonar Bangla’ is not to evaporate. 160 million people of the country are now trying under the dynamic leadership of the heir to his blood and politics, Sheikh Hasina to realise his dream. He is the Lighthouse of hope for the Bengali as a nation. Mujib dead is stronger than Mujib alive.
Dr. Rashid Askari writer, fictionist, columnist, and Vice Chancellor of Kushtia Islamic University, Bangladesh. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org