In 1969 I was posted in Dhaka. A one-storied government acquired building at Shahjahanpur on the other side of Rajarbag Police Lines was allotted to me as my residence. The house was adjacent to the wide road along the Police Lines.
Towards the end of 1969 Dhaka became agitated in self-rule movement with ‘Joy Bangla, Joy Bangobandhu’ slogan.
Next came the National Election of 1970. In that Election out of 169 electoral seats in East Pakistan, Awami League became victorious in 167 seats. It clearly revealed that the people of the eastern region of Pakistan gave out their final verdict against the deprivation, exploitation and disparity of the central government. Following the Election Pakistani rulers drawing up a roadmap for persecution jumped upon the Bengalee people instead of transferring power to the victorious party on the black night of 25 March with their full military strength. Everybody knows the matter.
On this night the Pakistan Army, like that of other areas in Dhaka, entered the Rajarbag Police Lines and killed whoever was found and put fire on the police barrack. In such a situation taking my only daughter of 14 months, Urmi into my lap along with my wife, Selima (then a Dhaka University Student), my younger brother Captain Rafi of PIA (now Bangladesh Biman), our house-maid and our domestic helper boy whenever stepped down to the lawn in front of the residence I noticed bullets coming from the road in swarms. On the other side, the Police Barracks were ablaze in flames. Immediately lying down on the ground we crawled back to the residence and stayed laid down on the floor the whole night. Throughout the entire night there was sound of movements of heavy vehicle and amidst uninterrupted firing sound, announcements were coming in half-Bangla, half-Urdu and broken English – “nobody shall come out of the house; if anybody comes out will be fired upon. Curfew imposed for unlimited time.”
Very early in the morning when the area all around got brightened with daylight I tried to observe the conditions outside through the window, I noticed that a tank fully closed the road obstructing any exit from my residence. Then in a moment time a bullet got fired on the upper part of my window that caused it to break down and fall on the veranda floor. But as luck would have it, I managed to lay down my body on the floor of the room unhurt.
In the morning the servant of the house came and said, some Bengalee Police personnels who escaped the burning barracks took position on the roof of my residence where a Bangladeshi flag was tagged earlier. Those policemen fired sporadic rifle shots targeting the army tank but they were outgunned by continuous machine gun bullets of the Pak army and left my residence early morning. Bullets continued to shower on my residence because of the flag tagged on the roof.
On the following day 26 March at 8 a.m. when curfew was still in force, we took shelter in the residence of another government officer by leaping over the backside wall of our residence. After our stay of a day and a night there on 27 March temporary interval of curfew was given. Then we took refuge at the residence of another PWD government officer at Khilgaon.
But alas! In the next night there were some unidentified person or persons put fire in the slums opposite to my residence. In a moment the slum got ignited; those who were alive started wailing in the road.
Afterwards at a cost of blood of uncountable people and through the sufferings of the entire Bangladeshis from 25 March to 16 December, 1971 the nation earned the independence desired for a thousand years.
Decision was taken for building a national mausoleum at Savar, Dhaka in memory of the unknown martyrs. Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Shekh Mujibur Rahman laid the foundation stone of the monument. As an ordinary PWD officer I had the fortune of being present at that occasion. Afterwards I got to be involved in the construction of the national memorial tower at different times in different official capacities and status.
I want to recollect my memories something about the matter.
British Prime Minister John Major came to Bangladesh in 1991 on a state visit. He went to the monument for placing the floral wreath for the memories of the martyrs. The matter what I specially remember is that he repeatedly uttered, “It’s a great nation”. And standing on the bridge with his eyes on the red blown water lilies below he said, ‘It’s beautiful, it’s beautiful.’
Indian Prime Minister Debgaura during his state visit to Bangladesh in 1997 went to the national memorial tower for placing flower wreath commemorating the memories of the martyrs. Very early in the morning when he got down to the Helipad from the Helicopter, while the military and civil officers including myself reached there to greet him, I noticed that the Indian Prime Minister was in a Hawai Chappal (Rubber sandals) and in that severe cold breeze he had his heel to knee bare. What in my mind continues to be a memory is that how a high positioned person can become such a common man in attire and habit.
With a view to celebrating the 25th Independence Day (March, 1997) of Bangladesh, Nelson Mandela of South Africa, Palestine President Yaseer Arafat and Turkish President Suleman Damirel came to Bangladesh. They placed floral wreaths to the National Mausoleum for the Martyrs of the liberation war.
The speech that Nelson Mandela made in the Sohrawardi Uddyan about the independence of Bangladesh, I am quoting here partially from my memory,
“I have come to Bangladesh to pay homage to a nation that has fought for its sovereignty. Celebra- ting this blood soaked Independence I am here to say today that escaping the clutch of oppression and autocratic rule is never easy…. I have deep respect for Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.”
I carried on the responsibility of Chairman, RAJUK for four years. So without making any reminiscence the matter remains incomplete.
We, the dwellers of Dhaka have seen the price of the land of all areas of Dhaka including Gulshan, Banani, Dhanmondi has increased how abnormally. How keen desire the people have to become owner of a piece of land of these areas. Recently litigation and what a tumultuous brawl took place with a plot of a high level politician! At last the claimant of the plot had to lose the plot of the value of 150 crore taka.
About two decades back an event of this sort took place in RAJUK which was as interesting as bizarre. Pretending to be a son, one person claimed that his father Sadik Ali (not his real name) had died in helicopter crash towards the early sixties. And before his death he gifted him (his son) a plot in Gulshan by a deed. The claimant also submitted a registered deed in RAJUK office. He also claimed that RAJUK handed over the plot to another family member claimed to be wife and progeny of late Sadik Ali which is unlawful. The issue was transferred to Anti Corruption Department as it appeared to be a complicated case. Through inquiry Anti-Corruption Department filed a fraud case against the first person and he was awarded 3 years jail. After serving the punishment of imprisonment and coming out from the jail this person once again claimed that Sadik Ali was his father and the plot belonged to him. So he would one day take possession of this land.E
• Former Chief Engineer, PWD and Chairman RAJUK
President, PWD Retired Engineers Welfare Association
• Translated into English by ‘The Economy’ Analyst.
• Reread and corrected by the writer.