Reflections on a tragic hero

Bangabandhu The HERO of Bangladesh

The history of our independence closely resembles literature. It is replete with the grandeur of epics, the story telling of novels, the incredulity of fairy tales, the suspense of short stories, the conflict of drama and the spontaneity of poetry.

Really, there is no accounting for the fact that he, who appeared as the saviour of a people, has been ruthlessly killed only in a double couple of years by some of the same people. His whole family perished in a monstrous carnage. The killers went on a rampage and shot dead almost every member of the family; the Mujibs, their three sons, two newly married daughters-in-law, Mujib’s brother Nasser and many others. Even the innocent child Russel could not escape the wrath of the marauding killers. Mujib was killed by bullets in the chest at the turn of the stairs, while asking the killers what they wanted. Unguarded, the founding father of the nation was gunned down!

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 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 and perfunctorily at gun point. A bucket from a nearby cow-shed was used to fetch water from a tubewell for the purifying bath. The soap used for this purpose was a cheap laundry soap. There was no clean white cloth to be used as a shroud.

So, when no winding sheet was being 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: “We have no objection. You can bring anything you like. But you are to complete the bloody burial business quickly,” the Major 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 janaza, 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 Sheikh Mujib — the man who was the Father of the Nation.”

This terrible killing of Mujib is one of the biggest tragedies in our history. We consider this August 15 pre-dawn killing as August tragedy. The grief is so profound that the remembrance of these excruciating events tends to fade our lofty ideas about Independence and Victory into insignificance. We are repeatedly made to feel: what is the value of the independence of the country, which has seen her founding father, being killed?

As a mater of fact, during the thirty years after Bangabandhu’s killing, the spirit of our great liberation war has been vitiated, democracy trampled under military feet, constitution dissected and concept of secularism and human rights throttled. Alongside are fostered autocracy, communalism and anti-liberation elements. So, August tragedy is on one hand, a tragedy of losing the Father of the Nation and that of losing our national ideals on the other. After the killing of Bangbandhu and then four national leaders in jail, the pro-liberation stance of the country started stumbling around in the dark alley of reaction.

In consequence of this impasse, the anti-liberation forces have bagged power in alliance with the beneficiaries of Bangbandhu murder. Not only that, they have paved the way for the capture of the country by the Islamist militants. This is the biggest concern of the day. Price hike or power shortage is not a very serious problem we are faced with. But the rise of 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 Bangabandhu.

As Julius Caesar was to the Romans, Sheikh Mujib was to the Bengalis. 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 Mujib have been tried, given capital punishment and are awaiting execution. Mujib is dead but his dream of a secular civil society, of an enriched Sonar Bangla is not to evaporate. Mujib dead is stronger that Mujib alive.

Author :Dr. Rashid Askari

The author is Professor and Chairman of the Department of English at Islamic University, Kushtia, and a columnist.

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