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Sheikh Mujib Memorial: An edifice of political vision

Sheikh Mujib Memorial: An edifice of political vision

By Nirendra Dev

Dhaka, Jan 2 (UNI) A sense of chill runs through as one encounters the 'bullet marks' at House No. 10 in Dhanmondi locality of Bangladesh capital.

This is the place where Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Father of the Nation of Bangladesh, and his 18 family members including three sons and a young grandson were assassinated in a ruthless exercise by 'right-wing' military officers -- in cold blood.

"This house has been a witness to the history of the making of Bangladesh, its struggle, language movement .... It was the witness to hours of deliberations among Mujib's close associates. Today, sadly though -- this house has become an enduring symbol of love and admiration people feel for Bangabandhu (Mujib)," says one of the staff at the Museum.

Today, this is a place where hundreds of Bangladeshis -- young and old -- feel they can renew their commitment to the nation building, he says.

Military dictator Major General Ziaur Rahman had then assumed power after the 1975 massacre. Bloodstains on the walls and on the peeling green plaster tell the story of one of the most horrific killings of political stars and the family members in the sub-continent.

Among those killed were Mujib himself, his wife Begum Fazilatunnesa Mujib, their three sons Sheikh Kamal, Sheikh Jamal and minor Sheikh Russel; the newly married brides of Kamal and Jamal -- Sulatana and Rosy and Bangabandhu's brother Sheikh Abu Naser.

So much was the 'hatred' and influence of diabolic motivation, that a number of Mujib's household staff and personal aides were also gunned down. The massacre had taken place in the early hours of August 15, 1975, when a group of Bangladesh Army personnel went to his residence and carried out their mission -- the first step to a military coup.

As one tried to interact briefly with a set of young visitors at the museum, most could not conceal their emotion and struggled hard to hold their tears.

But the moist eyes reveal what has been going on in their hearts. "The master bedroom forces any visitor to halt for a while in homage to the Bangabandhu," says Abdul Habib, a civil engineering student staring above at the ceiling.

The bloodstains and bullet marks on the walls, stairs and floor are easily distinguishable as these have been carefully 'preserved' under glass panels.

One can see the three vintage model telephone sets, outfits of Mujib and his family members preserved. On the table lies a book, playing guitar, with a gaping bullet hole through the middle and in the family dining-room -- a bottle of Coke, two jars of pickle, and a Raleigh cycle that belonged to Mujib's youngest son, Russel -- lying as it was.

In 1981 -- the house was formally handed over to Sheikh Hasina -- who not without good reason is rightfully called 'Daughter of Democracy'.

The house is now maintained as a museum by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Memorial Museum, a trust headed by Hasina herself. About 70 staffers including tourist guides, maintenance staff and others work here.

Often Prime Minister Hasina herself clears the names of those who would work or get associated with the living memory of her family.

"Our courageous Prime Minister often breaks down after coming here. Hasina often cries as she looks on portraits of Mujib sahab feeding pigeons or the family belongings, her mother's dress.....we have seen," says one female worker.

Insiders say overall plan of the museum involved stage by stage development.

There is also an annexed building -- an upcoming six-storied structure housing a library and a museum office.

The third floor focuses on Bangabandhu's life and political career, the brave revolt against injustice and of course the turbulent events during the Pakistani rule.

The newspaper clippings from pre-1971 days depicting the snaps help one recount the history. At places there are photographs of Mujib with world leaders including Indira Gandhi, the then Indian Prime Minister who had played a stellar role in the eastern neighbour's fight against Pakistan.

The shenanigans related to now infamous 'Agartala Conspiracy case' against Mujib in 1968 marked the rise, in meteoric manner, of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman as the spokesman of the Bengalis in the erstwhile East Pakistan.

There are a few quotes of Bangabadhu even bearing his signature.

One of them dated, May 30, 1973 runs: "As a man, what concerns mankind concerns me. As a Bengali, I am deeply involved in all that concerns Bengalis".

Another such heart touching comment is: "I yearn for nothing less than the love of seventy-five million Bengalis".

Truly, it was the love for Banga-bhoomi, its people and its culture that Sheikh Mujib stood firm fighting the 'West Pakistani' rulers and in the ultimate it was this struggle that had forced Gen Yahya Khan, the Pakistani dictator, to give up years of authoritarian rule in the then 'east Pakistan'.

As leaves the memorial, it is clear this house will remain a true 'reminder' of the heroic struggle of a leader who led his people and nation to victory and gave it a proud identity.

UNI DEVN RP SNU 0831

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