‘Why did they kill Bangabandhu?’

“Why did they kill Bangabandhu? I’m feeling very bad [about it],” a six-year old Suha asked his father while visiting the Bangabandhu Memorial Museum in the city on Monday.

The house at Dhanmondi Road 32, where the country’s founding president Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and most of his family members were killed by a handful of renegade army officers on Aug 15, 1975, is now known as Bangabandhu Memorial Museum.

Mujib, who led the country’s independence struggle, has been nick-named Bangabandhu, or friend of Bengal.

His body was found lying in a pool of blood on the stairs of the second floor of the house on the fateful night.

There were signs of shots almost everywhere on the wall of the second floor. The body of his wife, Begum Fazilatunnesa, sons Sheikh Kamal, Sheikh Jamal and Sheikh Russel, daughters-in-law Sultana Kamal Khuki and Parveen Jamal Rosy were found in his bedroom.

Mujib’s daughters, incumbent prime minister Sheikh Hasina and Sheikh Rehana, were in Belgium, and thus escaped the massacre.

There are signs of blood in the room where Hasina used to live. A photograph hung outside the room shows that Bangabandhu is looking at some pigeons.

The house was the centre point of the 1969 mass-uprising, 1970 general elections and non-cooperation movement of March 1971.

Curator of the memorial museum Syed Siddiqur Rahman said over 1,000 people visit the historical house every day.

Physician Mahbubur Rahman, who came from Jessore district to pay respect to Mujib, said: “Until I come here, I did not know what a simple life he (Mujib) led despite being such a great man.”

“How such a man of great mind and his family were so brutally killed?” he asked.

The people coming to pay their respect to the great leader demanded that his fugitive killers be brought back home through diplomatic efforts or otherwise and be hanged.
A government official, Shafiqur Rahman, who came to the museum along with his family said: “The nation won’t be free from disgrace if the killers are not hanged. And those who are opposing it should be punished too.”

“We should remember that those who are involved in the killing are not actually human beings…,” he contended.

Awami League general secretary and local government minister Syed Ashraful Islam has already said that the government has taken initiatives to bring the killers back.

Author : Mamunur Rashid /  Source : bdnews24

The nationalist that was Mujib

#bangabandhu : Eminent scientist Professor Abdus Salam had been invited by the then Islamic Academy, Dhaka to give a lecture on religion and nationalism a couple of months before the presidential election in 1964. The Academy was housed in an old two-storey abandoned building. That house was demolished to construct Bailul Mokarram shopping complex in the late sixties. My friend Ahmed Safa, the late writer, and I attended the lecture.

After the seminar was over, the Director of the Islamic Academy, Abul Hashim, a politician and thinker, was chatting with Dr. Salam and some other distinguished persons including Dr. Muhammad Shahidullah and Dr. Qudrat-e-Khuda. All on a sudden, Awami League leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Dr. Mofazzar Ahmed Chowdhury, a reader in the political science department at the University of Dhaka, showed up on the veranda of the Islamic Academy. Seeing Prof. Salam and Abul Hashim in the auditorium, they joined them. It was a Sunday morning. Perhaps they had gone to Awami League office, opposite the Academy, for party work. We were listening to their conversation from a considerable distance.

Almost all major political parties in East Pakistan had been supporting “provincial autonomy.” Their idea of autonomy was some kind of “political autonomy.” But Maulana Bhasani and Sheikh Mujib’s concept of autonomy was different from that of other Bengali leaders. They demanded full provincial autonomy and an “autonomous economy” for East Bengal.

I still remember the gist of this informal conversation. Speaking on the provincial autonomy, Sheikh shaheb pointed out the disparity between the two wings of Pakistan. He quoted from Dr. Mahbubul Huq’s newly published Strategy of Economic Planning in Pakistan, and said that in order to redress the economic disparity between the two wings it was necessary to dismantle the central Planning Commission to create two powerful regional planning bodies. He emphatically said that the region should have the authority to tax, and the power to make fiscal and monetary policy on its own. So far as I can recollect, Dr. Salam endorsed the views of Sheikh Mujib. Bangabandhu further said that the provinces should have the power to form foreign policy and conduct foreign relations. It was two years before the announcement of his Six Points.

By the early 1960s, Sheikh Mujib was known to all as the standard-bearer of Bengali nationalism. It was the period of military dictatorship of Field Martial Ayub Khan. Sheikh Mujib was his greatest opponent. He fought relentlessly for the revival of democracy in Pakistan and provincial autonomy for East Pakistan. From the nationalist and from the conservative standpoint, his role in power politics was unparalleled.

In 1963, Sheikh Mujib went to London to consult with his ailing political guru, Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, who was in self-exile. The two had detailed discussions on the political situation prevailing in Pakistan. Mujib didn’t like foreign involvement in achieving the rights of the people of East Pakistan.

Suhrawardy wrote in his unfinished memoirs: “Mujib has doubts that national unity and national integration will solve the problems of East Pakistan. He is not interested in the field of foreign politics as he does not believe that any foreign country should become deeply committed here; East Pakistan must work out its own destiny. Hence, there is no point seeking foreign political involvement.” [Memoirs of Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, P. 71]

After the death of Suhrawardy in December 1963, it became difficult to keep the party together. Ataur Rahman Khan was a gentleman politician. He had neither courage nor charisma. Neither he nor any other leader had any command over the younger leaders and workers. At that crucial time, Mujib took over the helm of the party. Sheikh Mujib not only led the Awami League, but also led the nation to independence in seven years.

After liberation, Bangabandhu had to tackle multifarious problems. He faced severe opposition from various quarters at home and abroad. Anti-liberation parties like Jamat-e-Islami, Muslim League and Nezam-e-Islam, which were banned by the government, and other reactionary forces, communal elements, and underground ultra-Left outfits went on with their conspiracy and anti-government propaganda. The political and social elite did not cooperate with the government. Because of economic hardship the ordinary people were frustrated. In the meantime, creation of Baksal — one-party rule — angered the Western capitalist bloc.

The Bangladesh liberation war got active support from the Soviet Union and its East European allies. Both the US and the Soviet Union were trying to gain influence in the impoverished nation. The influence of US was more than that of the USSR as the US was able to pour in more aid and assistance and its intelligence was more efficient and pro-active. Pakistani intelligence was also active and got support from the US. China and Muslim countries were against the Bangladesh freedom movement because of India’s total support to Bangladesh. In these circumstances, Bangabandhu had become a victim.

The people of Bangladesh had experienced the military coups of Ayub and Yahya Khan. Both were bloodless. But the August 15 coup was the worst possible military savagery.

Who killed Sheikh Mujib? Dalim-Faruk and others in the army were mercenaries. And Mushtaq? Brutus was better.

Samar Sen, an astute diplomat, was India’s high commissioner to Bangladesh in 1975. He saw the political developments in Bangladesh from close quarters. Twenty-three years after the coup, Sen told the Frontline journalist Sukumar Muralidharan in 1998: “We had been keeping in touch with all elements within Bangladesh. India’s intelligence services — whose operations few of us know much about — retained contact even with elements hostile to Sheikh Mujib. He felt that these contacts were uncalled for and asked us to stop them. We did so. As a result, until the time of the coup, we had no idea that things had deteriorated quite so badly. In retrospect, it is clear that the August coup, apart from being a rude awakening, was perhaps a logical outcome of the situation of chaos that prevailed.”

The August 15 military action was a coup with a difference. It changed, among other things, the secular and democratic character of Bangladesh.

I saw Bangabandhu for the first time in 1954 on the banks of the mighty Padma at Aricha ghat. The last I saw him was in the Bangabhaban Darbar Hall on July 31, 1975. To him, personal relationship was very important. He maintained excellent relations with his opponents and adversaries. Two weeks before the 1973 elections, National Awami Party chairman Maulana Bhasani was admitted to PG Hospital. Bangabandhu rushed to visit him. Hearing the voice of Bangabandhu, the Maulana sat up from the bed. Bhasani touched the hands of Mujib and wished him all success in the election. He stressed on “a stable government” under his premiership.

While in the IPGMR, the Maulana did not have the chance to eat any food supplied by the hospital. Admirers sent home-made food for him. Begum Fazilatunnesa Mujib herself went or sent somebody to the hospital almost everyday with big tiffin-carriers. She cooked small fish curries with hot green chilly and spices to the taste of the Maulana. This gesture of the Mujibs annoyed the leaders and candidates of NAP.

I would like to cite another anecdote. A couple of months before the August tragedy, poet Jasimuddin asked me: “Bhai, could you accompany me to Dhanmondi? I’ve an urgent talk with Bangabandhu.” I gladly agreed. So far as I can recollect, the rickshawalla demanded taka two. It was exorbitant. The poet got angry. He haggled with the rickshaw-puller over the fair and hired the rickshaw from Bangladesh Bank to Bangabandhu Bhavan for taka one and a-half.

On reaching Bangabandhu Bhavan, the poet paid and patted the rickshawalla and walked straight to the drawing room. I followed him. Bangabandhu came down from the first floor. The two great Bengalis exchanged warm greetings and sat down on a sofa.

The poet said: “You’re from Faridpur, I’m also from Faridpur (district). I’ve come to you for a tadbir (a favour). My son-in-law is your son-in-law. Isn’t it?” “Of course,” Bangabandhu laughed and quipped: “Your son-in-law (meyejamai) is my son-in-law. I do understand what you want to say. You and Bhabi should not worry for Maudud. He is alright in jail. He will be released as soon as possible. I’m giving the order.”

Then they chatted for some time. The poet was highly gratified by the gesture of the president and supreme leader of the nation. Bangabandhu knew very well that the palli-kavi shouldn’t be entertained with tea or coffee. So, he asked his servant to serve him with muri, gur (molasses) and coconut — favourites of the poet.

This was Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. As a politician and statesman, he was not above mistakes or follies. As a mortal human being, he had his weaknesses and limitations. History will absolve all his mistakes and weaknesses. As the independence hero and nationalist leader, he is second to none.

Author : Syed Abul Maksud is a noted writer, researcher and columnist.

Bangladesh Liberation War Mujibnagar Government Documents 1971

Book Review

Oath-taking at Bidyanathtala

Zobaida Nasreen

Bangladesh Liberation War Mujibnagar Government Documents 1971; compiled and edited by Sukumar Biswas; Mowla Brothers; February 2005; Taka 1200; 655 pp.


It is undoubtedly true that the Bangladesh War of Liberation is the most remarkable event in the history of the people of Bangladesh, and it is equally true that the documentation of this struggle is a continuous process. Unfortunately, since the history of the liberation war has become a highly politicized matter, its history, and interpretations of it, have become a contested site. Though the war in 1971 was itself the historical consequence of a long-lasting economic, political and social oppression, it is often treated as an outburst of the oppressed people.


It was as a part and a continuation of this history that the Pakistani army launched a barbarous attack on civilians on the night of March 25, 1971. It was the beginning of a genocide with rare parallels in world history. After the declaration of independence by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on 25th March, a provisional, independent government of Bangladesh was formally established on 10 th April, 1971. The oath-taking ceremony of this provisional government took place at Bidyanathtala under Meherpur sub-division of Kushtia district, which was subsequently renamed as Mujibnagar. From then on, this provisional Bangladesh government came to be popularly known as ‘Mujibnagar Government’.


Yet there is a scarcity of reliable documentation about the Mujibnagar Government, which played not only the pivotal role in our struggle for independence, but which is also considered as the first non-institutionalized government of the Bangladeshi people. The provisional government of Mujibnagar had to face tremendous hurdles, but, as the author puts it in his preface, ‘it eventually succeeded in achieving independence through farsightedness, firm mental strength and relentless effort. The Mujibnagar Government was recruiting freedom-fighters for fighting against the Pakistan army, giving them training and making and implementing war-plans, (and) also had to keep in their mind the responsibilities of arrangement of relief of nearly ten million refugees in India, sending emissaries to different countries of the world, making efforts to form world opinion and also maintain overall good relations with India regarding all aspects (of the military and civil struggle).’


The book is arranged in four sections: In the first part are 77 out of 82 press releases issued by the Mujibnagar Government. The second part contains ‘Bangladesh‘ a bulletin published by the Mujibnagar Government. The third part includes news items in the foreign press related to Bangladesh and the freedom movement which started after the crackdown of Pakistan army on March 25. The fourth part contains a number of documents of the Mujibnagar Government and rare photographs of that period. The latter is indeed the great attraction of this book.


Though many books have been published on the liberation war or its background over the last 34 years, few of them have focused on the Mujibnagar Government. In the case of documents pertaining to the liberation war, the most definitive is the official, 14-volume Bangladesher Swadhinata Juddho, Dalilpatra, edited by Hasan Hafizur Rahman, published by the Bangladesh government. While that does include papers and documents relating to the Mujibnagar Government, they are not arranged chronologically. Also, some of the documents in Mujibnagar, as Professor Salahuddin writes in the foreword,’had remained hitherto unknown.’ Given the specific focus of Dr. Biswas’s book, it therefore gives us a truer picture of the Mujibnagar Government. Of special interest is that all 26 volumes of ‘Bangladesh‘– a journal brought out by the then newly formed External Publicity Division of the Mujibnagar Government to fight the crucial publicity and propaganda war–has been published here for the first time.


But here one must note that typos abound: indeed, at the very beginning, the author’s introduction is spelt ‘Indtroduction.’ At times the indexing has been overdone; for example, ‘Gestapo rule,’ and ‘Gestapo’ are indexed separately on pp. 185 and 157. Why? And if that is to be the case, then why leave out ‘Gestapo interrogation’?

But, in conclusion, it must be said that it is a necessary book, one that should be of interest to all Bangladeshis concerned about the history of their freedom struggle. Dr. Sukumar Biswas, a researcher on our liberation war as well as publisher Mowla Brothers, are to be commended for having undertaken to bring out this book.


Zobaida Nasreen is a graduate of the Anthropology Department, Jahangirnagar University.



Documenting a government-in-exile

by Syed Badrul Ahsan


There has generally been a rather woeful dearth of documentation relating to the War of Liberation as well as the period preceding it. The paucity of recorded material stands out in sharp contrast to the materials that have been with us about the partition of India in 1947. If we were now to go into a search for papers dealing with the Rawalpindi Round Table Conference of 1969 or the Mujib-Bhutto-Yahya talks of March 1971, we would come away quite disappointed. That would be because apart from the discrete views made known by the parties involved in such happenings of historic proportions, there is little else to actually work upon.

   It is from such a perspective, or away from it, that Sukumar Biswas’s collection and collation of documents relating to the Mujibnagar government of 1971 assume significance. Documents is in many ways the first time (and do not forget that there is the very authoritative Muldhara ’71 of Maidul Hasan as well to fall back on) a scholar has attempted to put together some documents he feels are important to an understanding of how the Bangladesh government-in-exile conducted itself in the extremely difficult months of the war. Statements put out by Acting President Syed Nazrul Islam, Prime Minister Tajuddin Ahmed and Foreign Minister Khondokar Moshtaque Ahmed find prominence in the anthology. There are too the turning points of the war, particularly in relation to the emerging nation’s diplomacy. The defections of Bengali officers of Pakistan’s Foreign Service are noted in great detail by the Mujibnagar authorities. It is these crucial announcements of how a military struggle for freedom is being systematically strengthened in various ways that Biswas now puts on record. Especially intriguing is the move, an abortive one, by the Pakistani authorities to have A.F.M Abul Fateh, a Bengali serving as Pakistan’s ambassador abroad, extradited to Islamabad once he switches allegiance to the Mujibnagar government.

   Mujibnagar Government Documents 1971 focuses in an important way on the stupendous efforts put in by expatriate Bengalis to propagate the national cause throughout the course of the war. The Bangladesh Association of Japan sends out a congratulatory telegram to M. Hossain Ali for his courageous move of declaring allegiance to Bangladesh in the early phase of the war. In Washington, the Bengal Revolutionary Committee, led by Mian Nawab, appeals to the international community to accord diplomatic recognition to the Bangladesh government. The documents make note of the many steps the Mujibnagar government took to present the Bangladesh cause before the global arena. One notes that Abdus Samad, later to be a minister in both the Mujib and Hasina governments, travelled to Budapest as the representative of the Mujibnagar government at a peace conference in May 1971. A government press note in June urges Bengalis proceeding to London from their occupied country to avoid passing through Karachi airport. Syed Nazrul Islam despatches a telegram in October 1971 to West German Chancellor Willy Brandt on the latter’s coming by the Nobel Prize for Peace.

Overall, Mujibnagar Documents demonstrates the clarity of purpose with which the government-in-exile operated despite the many constraints it was weighed down by. It was a government on which a war had been thrust by the Yahya Khan military junta. And it acquitted itself well. Read the notes and letters reproduced in the concluding section of the anthology.

Bangladesh Liberation War Mujibnagar

Government Documents 1971

Collected, compiled, edited by Sukumar Biswas

Mowla Brothers

ISBN 984 410 434 3