Out of 193 member states of the United Nations only eight countries have a Uniform Civil Code - the United States, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Turkey, Indonesia, Egypt and Ireland.
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the founder of Bangladesh, was assassinated at his home in Dhanmondi 32 on August 15, 1975, following which military dictator Major General Ziaur Rahman assumed power. Incumbent Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Mujib’s eldest daughter, was in Germany then and hence she survived. Bangladesh observes it as a Day of Mourning.
Mujib was to visit Dhaka University and a grand ceremonious welcome awaited him. Even a ‘citation’ in Bangla was prepared.
Addressing the Bangabandhu, as Mujib was popularly known, the citation read: “You’ve said you want to turn Dhaka University into the National University. We want your kind sympathy, goodwill and consideration in this regard.”
But that was never read out because the nascent country’s national hero never visited the university.
The then Dhaka University Central Students’ Union (DUCSU) vice president, Mujahidul Islam Selim, in the early morning of August 15, 1975, received a phone call from the dean office of the arts faculty, “which informed him that Dhanmondi 32 was under attack”, the country’s leading newspaper The Daily Star reported.
On August 15, several Bangladesh newspapers published special supplements to mark Bangabandhu’s visit to the DU.
Bangabandhu was supposed to arrive at the university at 9.55 a.m. Upon entering the premises from the Curzon Hall area, he was supposed to visit different faculties and departments, pay tribute to martyred intellectuals and freedom fighters before delivering a speech at the Teacher-Student Centre around 11.40 a.m., the daily says.
Paradoxically, Mujib had enrolled himself in the university in December 1947 but varsity authority in 1949 had expelled him and several other students on charges of “instigating” a movement launched by class-four employees, demanding increase of salaries and allowances.
While Mujib did not live to visit Dhaka University on Aug 15, 1975; it was many years later only in 2010, the university authority withdrew the expulsion order, terming it “undemocratic and unjust”, says The Daily Star.
“The Dhaka University authority will award Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman an honourary degree of ‘Doctor of Laws’ posthumously at a special convocation, which is likely to take place on October 26,” the newspaper says.
Of course, the bolstering Bangladesh-India ties and enhanced relationship of mutual trust ties owes it to history around 1970-71 — five decades back. Perhaps it also relates to India’s undiluted rivalry with Pakistan.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in June this year sent mangoes for her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi, President Droupadi Murmu and Congress leader Sonia Gandhi.
The Dhanmondi House is now a tourist attraction with hundreds including from overseas visiting the spot to pay homage to Asia’s one of the greatest crusaders of liberty and free speech.
Bloodstains on the walls and on the peeling green plaster certainly will bring to the fore the story of one of the most horrific killings of political stars and the family members in the sub-continent.
A sense of chill runs through the spine as three Indian journalists in 2017 December encountered the ‘bullet marks’ at the House. This was the place where Sheikh Mujibar Rahman and his 18 family members, including three sons and a young grandson was assassinated in a ruthless exercise by the ‘right-wing’ military officers.
Among those killed were Mujib, 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.
A gentleman standing nearby and a staffer at the Memorial spoke softly: “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.”
Of course, sociologists will agree this is the place today where hundreds of Bangladeshis — young and old — feel they can renew their commitment to nation building.
In 2015, it was reported that at least seven months before the ‘Bangabandhu’ was assassinated along with his family members, a former Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) official had met him here and warned against the conspirators.
“These are my own children and they will not harm me,” Mujib had reportedly told Rameshwar Nath Kao, who met him in December 1974 with the approval of the then Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
Mujib’s two daughters, Sheikh Hasina and Sheikh Rehana, were in West Germany in August 1975 and so they survived.
(Nirendra Dev is a New Delhi-based journalist. He is also author of the books ‘The Talking Guns: North East India’, and ‘Modi to Moditva: An Uncensored Truth’. Views expressed are personal)