It was 15 August 1975. I was a senior student of Dhaka University and at that time, living at the Sergeant Zohurul Haque Hall. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Bangladesh's founding father and the country's President was scheduled to visit the University of Dhaka on that day, from where he was once expelled permanently by the reprobate Pakistani rulers.
Although I have always been apolitical, I felt very excited about this visit, and so were so many of my friends. On the day before what would have been a grand visit, the University of Dhaka was decorated elaborately, appearing very festive.
In the early hours of 15 August, just before dawn, my roommate and close friend Abdus Sobhan Khan Arif woke me up and told me the news Bangabandhu's brutal murder in a terrified voice.
He almost dragged me out to a room nearby where a one-band radio was on. It was broadcasting an announcement. Horrified and speechless, we heard Major Dalim's voice telling the audience: "Sheikh Mujib has been killed. The army has captured power. Martial law has been imposed throughout the country…".
We were tremendously shocked, appalled and at the same time, we were completely outraged by this cowardly and horrific act. A pall of deep gloom descended on Dhaka city and around the country.
The blowing of winds came to a sudden halt. The leaves of the trees didn't move. Everything stood still on that day. What TIME magazine, August 1971 said, peeped into the corner of my mind then: "A man of vitality and vehemence, Mujib became the political Gandhi of the Bengalis, symbolising their hopes and voicing their grievances. Not even Pakistan's founder, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, drew the million-strong throngs that Mujib has attracted in Dacca. Nor, for that matter, has any subcontinent politician since Gandhi's day spent so much time behind bars for his political beliefs."
As the day progressed, a false news suddenly began to spread that the dead bodies of Bangabandhu and his family members were taken to the morgue of Dhaka Medical College and Hospital (DMCH).
I and some of my friends rushed to DMCH through the Polassey area. We had to see Bangabandhu, we had to see the greatest figure in our history for the last time.
But they didn't have Bangabandhu and his slain family members. Instead, we found some murdered dead bodies brought in there by some naval officers in their vehicles. In fact, those were the dead bodies of some of Bangabandhu's close people.
Suddenly police, upon instruction from the killer army officers, began to attack the public gathered there to disperse them. They started baton charging. We had to run away.
We then walked up to the Gulistan area and adjacent areas to the Bangabhaban building and saw some armoured tanks moving into the compound. As we passed the Suhrawardy Uddan, we saw several armoured tanks parked inside of the park.
From there, we went to the front of Bangladesh Betar Bhaban in the Shahbag area. It was also surrounded by armoured tank contingents with soldiers appearing to be in a violent mood, ready to strike or hurt if they deemed necessary.
We heard that Khondokar Mushtaq Ahmed, a trusted comrade of Bangabandhu, turned into his Judas and the mastermind behind the hellish killing of his leader was inside the Betar Bhaban. He was preparing for a speech to be broadcast to the nation in consultation with Taheruddin Thakur, a former journalist and State Minister of Information of Bangabandhu's Cabinet, Mahbub Alam Chashi, Director General of Comilla BARD Academy and a long time known Mushtaq loyalist Tajul Islam, Press Adviser to the self-declared President Mushtaq and usurper of power of Bangladesh.
Exhausted and shaken, both physically and mentally, we came back to our residential hall at about 3:30pm on that fateful day. When we were crossing by the Dhaka University arts faculty building, we found evidence that some armoured tanks rolled through this road to ravage the DU Campus areas in the wee hours of 15 August 1975. We could see the impression of the chains of those tanks. In some places, the roads were found cracked and pot-holes emerged on the roads because of the tanks' movements.
We advanced a little further and got wind about another notorious incident that the renowned scholar and scientist, a luminary, most popular and pro-student VC of Dhaka University Prof Dr Abdul Matin Chowdhury was taken into custody by the killers from Bangladesh Army. The news left us disgusted.
At about 4.00pm, Colonel Rashid, one of the most important actors of the 15 August massacre came to our dormitory in an army jeep, flanked by soldiers equipped with sub-machine guns, and other heavy weapons. They kept giving us threatening looks.
Colonel Rashid burst into extreme anger as he made a short speech: "Don't try to resist us or you will perish from this earth in no time." We, the general students, heard him silently. He left after his speech.
In the evening we went to our hall's TV room to see if we could get more news. A meeting conducted by the execrable of a president, Mushtaq at the Bangabhaban, was aired. We saw a few flunkies sitting with the killer soldiers, namely General Osmani, a newly appointed Defence Adviser to Mushtaq, Gen Shafiullah, Gen Zia, Gen Khalil, Naval Chief MH Khan, Air Chief AK Khondokar and many more morally reprehensible individuals.
To our utter horror, a news item was read out citing Maulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhasani's supposed support of the illegal Mushtaq government. But we remember what Annada Shankar Ray wrote on hearing the sad news of Bangabandhu's beastly killing, "As long as Padma, Meghna, Gouri, Jamuna flows on, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, your accomplishment will also live on."
At about 5:00am in the morning on 16 August 1975, our residential hall was stormed by a large Lancer Unit of Bangladesh Army, mostly wearing black attires, equipped with heavy guns. A large group of Lancer forces cordoned-off the entire area of our hall, taking positions in its different locations, some lying on the nearby playground and some standing in different strategic places with guns pointed towards us. A group of soldiers went inside the hall and pounded on doors.
They angrily shouted to come out from our rooms with our hands up. They forced us to vacate all rooms and then we were made to stand with our hands up nearby the halls' playground.
They lined us up and began swearing, mostly in Urdu and English. At that moment, it seemed that they were the Urdu-speaking Pakistanis who we defeated during our great Liberation War in 1971 to establish Bangladesh. "We shall take you all to an unknown location, and we are not sure whether some of you might come back to this dormitory or not." Two of our friends were mercilessly beaten by them to create panic among us. Those two friends were bleeding from the beating.
As we stood there, we saw a senior and one of the most brilliant teachers, Prof Dr Khosh Mohammed, Chairman of DU's Mathematics Department and our hall's provost being escorted out to the TV room, his hands up in the air, like a captured combatant. Provost Sir looked terrified.
Some students were also shoved inside the TV room along with Provost Sir. A few army officers got up on the podium of this room and began hurling abuse at everybody present. "All students, immediately surrender any arms and ammunition you have in your possession. Otherwise, no one will be spared." Prof Khosh Mohammed told them none of his students had any weapons.
Provost Sir requested them to give his students until 10am of the next day, 17 August. "If my students have any arms and ammunition in their possession, they will surrender them at this TV room by that time." They reluctantly agreed and left. They didn't turn up the next day, however.
The place for Mushtaq and his allies of morally reprehensible men was aptly described by eminent journalist and columnist Syed Badrul Ahsan: "Forty-two years after the assassination… it is time to plumb the depths of the tragedy which took hold of our collective life in that sad summer…"
We wish to remember the words of journalist Cyril Dunn: "In the thousand-year history of Bengal, Sheikh Mujib is her only leader who has, in terms of blood, race, language, culture and birth, been a full-blooded Bengali. His physical stature was immense. His voice was redolent of thunder. His charisma worked magic on people. The courage and charm that flowed from him made him a unique superman in these times."
Anwar A Khan is an independent political observer who writes on politics, current and international affairs