Nostalgia: My Vsit to Mujib Memorial in 2017

Date:

 Nirendra Dev

‘WHEN dealing with people, let us remember we are not dealing with creatures of logic. We are dealing with creatures of emotion, creatures bristling with prejudices and motivated by pride and vanity’ — Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People.

India takes pride in its association in the historic struggle for liberation of Bangladesh.

The bolstering Bangladesh-India ties and enhanced ties owes it to history around 1970-71 — fifty years back. Perhaps it also relates to India’s undiluted rivalry with Pakistan.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh ventilated that spirit when he said on Sunday, December 12, the ‘partition’ of India based on religious differences was a historic blunder.

The emergence of Bangladesh as an independent nation is certainly seen as a corrective course to that blunder.

I visited Dhaka in December 2017. My Late father and another friend of mine had advised me to visit the famous Sheikh Mujib Memorial. The military dictator Major General Ziaur Rahman had assumed power after the 1975 massacre.

Bloodstains on the walls and on the peeling green plaster certainly brought to fore the story of one of the most horrific killings of political stars and the family members in the sub-continent.

A sense of chill ran through our spine as three Indian journalists encountered the ‘bullet marks’ at House No.10 in Dhanmondi locality of Bangladesh capital. This is the place where Sheikh Mujibar Rahman, Father of the Nation of Bangladesh, and his 18 family members, including three sons and a young grandson were assassinated in a ruthless exercise by the ‘right-wing’ military officers — of course in cold blood.

This house has been a witness to the history of the making of Bangladesh, its struggle, language movement.

A gentleman standing nearby and a staffer at the Memorial spoke softly: “It was the witness to hours of deliberations among Mujib’s close associates. Today, sadly though — this house has become an enduring symbol of love and admiration people feel for Bangabandhu.”

One could not agree more.

This is a place today where hundreds of Bangladeshis — young and old — feel they can renew their commitment to nation building.

Among those killed were Mujib himself, his wife Begum Fazilatunnesa Mujib, their three sons Sheikh Kamal, Sheikh Jamal and minor Sheikh Russel; the newly married brides of Kamal and Jamal — Sulatana and Rosy and Bangabandhu’s brother Sheikh Abu Naser.

In 2015, it was reported that at least seven months before the ‘Bangabandhu’ was assassinated along with his family members, a former Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) official had met him here and warned against the conspirators.

“These are my own children and they will not harm me,” Mujib had reportedly told Rameshwar Nath Kao, who met him in December 1974 with the approval of the then Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

Mujib’s two daughters, Sheikh Hasina and Sheikh Rehana, were in West Germany in August 1975 and so they survived.

So much was the ‘hatred’ and influence of diabolic motivation, that a number of Mujib’s household staff and personal aides were also gunned down.

The massacre had taken place in the early hours of August 15, 1975, when a group of

Bangladesh Army personnel went to his residence and carried out their mission — resulting in a military coup.

As one tried to interact briefly with a set of young visitors, most could not conceal their emotion. The moist eyes and cracking lips would tell what has been going on in their hearts.

“The master bedroom forces any visitor to halt for a while in homage to the Bangabandhu,” Abdul Habib, a civil engineering student, had said.

In 1981 — the house was formally handed over to Sheikh Hasina — who not without good reason is rightfully called ‘Daughter of Democracy’.

The bloodstains and bullet marks on the walls, stairs and floor are easily distinguishable as these have been carefully ‘preserved’ under glass panels.

On the table lies a book, a guitar, with a gaping bullet hole through the middle and in the family dining-room — a bottle of Coke, two jars of pickle, and a Raleigh cycle that belonged to Mujib’s youngest son, Russel.

There are also three vintage model telephone sets, some outfits of Mujib and his family members.

The house is now maintained as a museum by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Memorial Museum, a trust headed by Hasina herself.

About 70 staffers, including tourist guides, maintenance staff and others work here. Often Prime Minister Hasina herself clears the names of those who would work or get associated with the living memory of her family.

“Our courageous Prime Minister often breaks down after coming here,” said one female worker.

Rather helplessly, we looked on as she also started wailing.

The entry-floor focuses on Bangabandhu’s life and political career. The brave revolt against injustice and of course the turbulent events during the Pakistani rule.

The newspaper clippings from pre-1971 days depicting the snaps help one recount the history.

At places there are photographs of Mujib with world leaders, including Indira Gandhi, the then Indian Prime Minister who had played a stellar role in the eastern neighbour’s valiant fight against Pakistan.

The shenanigans related to the now infamous ‘Agartala Conspiracy case’ against Mujib in 1968 marked the rise, in meteoric manner, of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

There are a few quotes of Bangabadhu even bearing his signature.

One of them dated, May 30, 1973 runs: “As a man, what concerns mankind concerns me. As a Bengali, I am deeply involved in all that concerns Bengalis”.

Another such heart touching comment is: “I yearn for nothing less than the love of seventy-five million Bengalis”.

These words perhaps serve as testimony to Indian leaders’ often claiming that religion alone cannot be the basis of a creation of two or more nations. — IANS

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Nirendra Dev is a New Delhi-based journalist. He is also author of books, ‘The Talking Guns: North East India’ and ‘Modi to Moditva: An Uncensored Truth’

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