The lesson of 15th August
(The following extracts were published in this column on 13 November 1998)
While it may be futile for me to even speculate what Judge Kazi Golam Rasul was doing, or where he was, at precisely the moment he heard of the gruesome August carnage, I suppose he would then have been a youth of, say, two summers over thirty.
Like many of us, he perhaps first heard of it on the radio… “…Sheikh Mujib has been murdered.” Full stop. Like most of us, he must have been stunned to silence. Being one of the multitudes, their mind and body shell-shocked, he could never have imagined then the responsibility which twenty-three years later would raise his shoulders.
Time has travelled. So have we. But, not all of them have. They could not. They were supposedly pushed into an abyss of darkness. But, forever they twinkle and sparkle like the first dewdrops of a bright wintry morning. It is cold. Still there is warmth within.
Khuki Apa, later Sultana Kamal, was an extraordinary personality. Many knew her as a top-grade athlete, but she was also a woman of exceptional qualities. She was extremely popular on and off the field. Although she was one of the pioneer woman athletes, there was not a speck of blemish on her character. On this judgement day, my thoughts make the arduous journey to when she showed me her gaye holud pictures at their Bakshi Bazar house. She was then full of life; she always was. On that day, she was agog as any young would-be bride. Contrary to contemporary obnoxious and later unlearned propaganda, she was not forced into the marriage. The last time I saw her, she was in her bridal attire.
Sheikh Kamal has many loyal friends. That friendship has blossomed into today's Abahani Krira Chakra. Being from the camp of their life-long rivals, I have to reluctantly admire his constructive faculty. His wife was, like me, a Mohammedan supporter. Around sometime during his last few days, Kamal Bhai questioned me jovially at the Dhaka stadium, “Now what will you do? I have married your sister!”
Jamal was buoyant and prankish like his brother. More than that, he was an ordinary boy of any neighbourhood.
The brothers mixed easily. Their friends were so young then. A quarter of a century later, they have all grown up, and greyed. They have children as old as when they last saw Kamal and Jamal. The brothers still have friends, who mourn them. That is not a mean achievement by any measure, the reward of a lifetime, however short it may have been curtailed to.
Many of us do not know Russel. Or don't we? He was only six or seven. But then we all know of a child who tugs at her mom's anchol for something that he has seen, that he wants. A child who jumps on his father's lap during an important meeting, a child who the night before his brutal demise slept perhaps to the lullaby of khokon sona or while galloping in a jungle full of dacoits.
Few give credit to the family of Bangabandhu and others slain in August for not taking the law into their own hands. The month was hardly august after 1975. Some blame them for bringing up the issue after so many years. What option does a family have if successive governments chose to ignore the issue? Let's each of us put us in Sheikh Hasina's place and decide what we would have done; taken up arms perhaps, many of us.
This was not an eye for an eye. This was a manifest demonstration of patience to bring back the rule of law. This was a daughter pleading for justice, a sister begging for mental serenity.
3 August 2010
The trial had finally taken place, but only after Ziaur Rahman government's notorious indemnity bill protecting the killers was scrapped in the parliament of democratically-elected people more than two decades (23 years) after the gruesome murders. The killers of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and others who were martyred in one of the most cowardly acts in history were to be executed as per the verdict of the court meted out on 8 November 1998. The nation had to wait a little over another eleven years till 28 January 2010 to be at peace. On that Thursday, thirty-four years after the killing, the killers were finally hanged.
Reflecting back on the events makes one shudder. Little did anyone visualise on the bloody Friday of 15 August 1975 that in the days following sinister and satanic forces shall take over the reins of the state and deny simple commonsensical justice.
The lesson of the National Mourning Day is two-fold: one, that there should not be an iota of complacency when it comes to providing security to key persons in the government as well as national leaders, as evident from the grenade attack of 21 August on Sheikh Hasina, and two, that no criminal can ultimately go unpunished, whatever maybe brokered by man to save his benefactors.
(R) thedailystar.net 2010