Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has shared that she had lived with her children under an assumed identity on Delhi’s Pandara Road – trying to escape the attention of those who assassinated her father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
Nearly five decades later, a visibly emotional Hasina, in an interview with ANI, opened up about the piercing trauma that haunted her for decades.
Hasina vividly recounted the fast-paced events of 1975 when she left Bangladesh to join her nuclear scientist husband in Germany.
It was the 30th of July in 1975 and family members had come to the airport to see off Hasina and her sister Sheikh Rehana. It was a happy farewell and Hasina had no inkling that it would turn out to be her last meeting with her parents.
“Because my husband was abroad, I used to live in the same house (with my parents). That day everyone was there: my father, mother, my three brothers, two sisters-in-law. They came to the airport to see us off…. That was the last day, you know,” Hasina recounted one of the darkest chapters in Bangladesh’s history.
A fortnight later, on the morning of August 15, Hasina received news that she found hard to believe. Her father, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rehman, had been killed. The horrors didn’t stop at learning about her father’s death, but got further compounded when she received news of the summary execution of more members of her family.
“It was really unbelievable. Unbelievable, that any Bengali could do it. And still we didn’t know how, what really happened. Only that there was a coup, and then we heard that my father was assassinated. But we didn’t know that all the family members were, you know, they were assassinated,” Hasina said, fighting back tears.
India was one of the first countries to extend help, Hasina recalled.
“Mrs Indira Gandhi immediately sent information that she wanted to give us, I mean, security and shelter. We received offers for shelter… especially from Marshal Tito from Yugoslavia, and Mrs Gandhi. We decided to go there (Delhi), because we thought that if we go to Delhi, from there we’ll be able to go back to our country. And then we’ll be able to know how many members of the family are still alive,” the Bangladesh Prime Minister said.
“It was a very difficult time,” she said. The then Bangladesh Ambassador to Germany, Humayun Rashid Chaudhary, was the first person to give an account of her family’s massacre.
“For a few moments, I didn’t know where I was. But I thought about my sister… she’s 10 years younger than me. So, I wondered how she will take it. It was so difficult for her… In Delhi, at first, they put us in a house with all security, because they were also worried about us,” recounted Hasina.
Asked if she felt that she too was a possible target, Hasina said those who had killed her father also carried out attacks at the houses of other relatives and killed some of her kin. “Almost 18 members, mostly my relatives, and then some domestic workers and their children and some guests, my uncle were among those killed,” she said.
The conspirators had a clear aim – that no one from Bangabandhu’s family should ever come back to power.
“My younger brother was only 10 years old… they did not spare him either. When we returned to Delhi, it was perhaps 24th August… Then I met Prime Minister Mrs Gandhi. She called us… there we came to know that nobody was alive. She made all the arrangements for a job for my husband and this Pandara Road house. We stayed there. The first 2-3 years were extremely difficult to accept this. My children, my son was only 4-years-old. My daughter, she was younger… Both of them used to cry. They wanted to go back to my mother, my father and they still remembered my younger brother mostly,” Hasina said.
So much had been lost, yet, Hasina also realised that she had to think ahead.
“This crime, not only they killed my father, they also moved the nation from the ideology of our Liberation War. Everything just, just one night, everything just changed. And those killers...they were still haunting us. They were trying to find out where we were, so when we lived on Pandara Road, our names were changed,” said the Awami League leader.
“And it was so painful that you cannot use your own name, own identity,” said Hasina.
“Definitely I wanted to come back to my country. But taking responsibility of such a big party, I never thought about it,” she said. However, Hasina travelled to different countries during this time and even addressed a public meeting in London on 16th August 1980, demanding punishment for her father’s killers.
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“To bring them to justice or bring them to book, so that the trial should take place, because there was immunity granted to them. There was an ordinance… Killers got all type of facilities and immunity… they claimed that yes, they committed this crime and they were very vocal. Because they thought they were very powerful,” said Hasina.
She continued with the campaign, roping in many eminent people. “On one hand we lost everybody, and on the other, I cannot ask for justice. Justice was denied. So that was the situation. Then again, I returned to Delhi, end of 1980 or 81,” she said.
However, by this time there was another important development in Bangladesh. “Awami League had a conference, and at that time they, in my absence, declared me as the president of the party,” said Hasina, who eventually moved back to Bangladesh and again reached the top position in the country's political arena.
“They tried to kill me, several times, yes, but I survived. In broad daylight, there was a grenade attack. I don’t know how I survived. Our party leaders, workers they just covered me, made human shields, so they received all the splinters but I... I survived… They placed a huge bomb at my meeting… Somehow it was discovered... So, I survived again. I don't know... Allah is helping me perhaps, maybe Allah has given me some responsibility to fulfill,” she said.
Source: United News of Bangladesh