Vol. 5 Num 293 Thu. March 24, 2005  
Front Page

Elegy for a Bir Sreshtha

Thirty-four years have gone by since the Liberation War, but successive governments have not taken any initiative to bring back martyred Flight Lieutenant Matiur Rahman's (Bir Sreshtha) grave from Pakistan.

Recently Milly Rahman, wife of Matiur Rahman, has appealed to the prime minister for steps to shift her husband's grave to Bangladesh so that the nation can pay homage to Matiur, a martyr to the cause of the country's independence.

Matiur died in a crash on August 20 in 1971 while endeavouring to join the Liberation War with a T-33 aircraft from the Mashrur Airbase of Karachi.

He was buried at a graveyard entitled for the fourth class employees. The Pakistani authorities even dared to disgrace the gallant hero by hanging his photograph and identifying him as a Gaddar (Traitor) at the main entrance to the Mashrur Airbase.

"My husband's grave still lies in Pakistan amid sheer dishonour despite the fact that 34 years have gone by since the Liberation War," Milly Rahman aggrieved.

"My daughter, Mahim Matiur Khandaker, first officially applied to the government for relocating his father's grave to Bangladesh immediately after visiting the grave in Pakistan back in 1994," she said.

In 2003, the government decided to build memorials to the country's seven Bir Shrestha in the places where they died. But for Matiur Rahman, the government decided to build the memorial near the city's Bijoy Sarani though he died in Pakistan, she added.

"In a programme of laying the foundation stone of the memorial to Matiur Rahman, I once again requested the government to act to relocate the grave," Milly said.

"After writing about it in a national daily on December 2004, I received huge response from the public and everyone encouraged me to apply to the prime minister," she added.

She called on the entire nation to join her in demanding the relocation.

Citing examples of former president Ziaur Rahman and Momtaj, wife of emperor Shahjahan, Milly said "Shifting graves from one place to another is nothing new in the Muslim world, so I hope the concerned authorities will act to meet my demand," she said.

A concerned government official recently said that religious provisions do not permit replacing a grave.

He said, however, that the government would take its decision in this regard after considering various factors.

Justice Mohammad Golam Rabbani, retired judge of the Supreme Court Appellate Division, said that Islam does not directly prohibit moving a grave to another place.

"In the case of relocating a grave, there is no specific example in Islam," he said.

Besides, lifting bodies from graves for the sake of proper investigation are not unusual in the country, he added.

"On the principles of justice, the concerned authorities should decide in favour of moving the grave to Bangladesh," Rabbani observed.

"There are numerous examples of relocation of graves, and even in our country late president Ziaur Rahman's grave was shifted from Chittagong to Dhaka," he said adding that Yasser Arafat was recently buried in Ramallah in a way that Palestinian people can shift their leader's grave to Jerusalem in future.

A number of social and environmental organisations have already expressed solidarity with Milly Rahman.

Abu Naser Khan, Convenor of Save the Environment, said that they would demonstrate ahead of the Independence Day in favour of relocation of Bir Sreshtha Matiur's grave.

Bir Sreshtha Matiur Rahman's daughter Mahim Matiur Khandaker and her husband and son offer prayers at Matiur's grave in Mashrur Air Base graveyard in Karachi in 1994