Bangladesh is set to observe National Mourning Day commemorating the assassination of its independence architect Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on Wednesday.
The Father of the Nation Sheikh Mujib, then President of the infant republic, was killed along with most members of the family on Aug 15, 1975 by a group of disgruntled army officers at his Dhanmondi residence in Dhaka.
The day – a public holiday – will begin with the flying of the national flag at half-mast at all government, semi-government and autonomous organisations, educational institutions, private establishments and Bangladesh missions abroad.
Programmes to mark the day will start by paying tributes at Sheikh Mujib’s mural in front of the Bangabandhu Bhaban at 32, Dhanmondi early in the morning.
President Md Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will lead the tributes by placing wreaths on the mural at 6:30am.
Bangabandhu’s daughter Hasina will then offer prayers at the Banani Graveyard, where most of the Aug 15, 1975 victims are buried.
She will also travel to Gopalganj’s Tungiparha to lead the Awami League leaders to pay homage at Bangabandhu’s grave around 10am.
The president will attend special prayers at the Bangabhaban in the afternoon.
Special prayers will be organised at mosques, temples, pagodas, churches and other places of worship throughout Bangladesh.
Discussions will also be held at several places on the significance of the day.
Bangladesh Television, Bangladesh Betar and other private television stations will broadcast special programmes on the day. The national dailies will publish special supplements.
Bangladesh Charushilpi Sangsad unveiled Bangabandhu’s largest portrait on the Dhaka University campus on the eve of National Mourning Day.
A handful of renegade army officials on Aug 15, 1975 killed the Father of the Nation along with his wife Begum Fazilatunnesa Mujib, sons Sheikh Kamal, Sheikh Jamal and Sheikh Russel, daughters-in-law Sultana Kamal and Rosy Jamal, younger brother Sheikh Abu Naser, nephew Sheikh Fazlul Haque Moni and brother-in-law Abdur Rab Serniyabat, Moni’s wife Begum Arju Moni and Serniabat’s daughter ‘Baby’, son ‘Arif’ and grandson Sukanto Babu.
Sheikh Mujib’s security chief Col Jamiluddin Ahmed, police’s Special Branch Sub-Inspector Siddiqur Rahman, three guests and four domestic helps were the others to fall.
Bangabandhu’s daughters Hasina and Sheikh Rehana escaped the massacre as they were abroad at that time.
President Hamid in a message urged all to follow the path showed by Bangabandhu while Hasina called for turning grief of losing Bangabandhu into strength.
“Along with political independence, Bangabandhu had dreamt of a happy and prosperous Bangladesh in order to attain people’s economic emancipation,” Hamid said, adding that Bangabandhu elevated the war-torn country to stability.
“The defeated forces of the Liberation War tried to stop the advancement of the nation by killing him. Though the killers were temporarily successful but in the long run they have been dumped into the dustbin of history,” he said.
Noting the achievements in nine years of her government, Hasina said, “Let us come and turn the grief of the loss of Bangabandhu into strength.
“Let us engage ourselves holding Bangabandhu’s philosophy in building a non-communal, hunger, illiteracy-free, and happy and prosperous Bangladesh and establish the Golden Bangladesh as dreamt by the Father of the Nation.”
“Bangladesh has recently graduated to a developing country. We have launched Bangabandhu Satellite-1. We shall turn Bangladesh into a middle-income country before 2021 and a developed one by 2041, In Sha Allah,” the prime minister said.
Five of the 12 condemned-to-death killers have so far been hanged in 34 years of wait for justice. It took 21 years to start the case – only when after the Awami League returned to power in 1996.
The trial could not be held earlier because the killers were indemnified by Bangladesh’s first military ruler Gen Ziaur Rahman who went on to found the BNP.
Six of the convicted killers are reportedly hiding abroad, with no visible breakthrough in government efforts to bring them back.
Born on Mar 17, 1920 at Gopalganj’s Tungipaha, Bangabandhu burst onto the political scene with the formation of Purba Pakistan Chhatra League following the end of the British rule in the Indian sub-continent.
Sheikh Mujib continued to rise in national politics because of his active involvement in the Language Movement in 1952; 1954 general elections, and Six-Point declaration in 1966.
His arrest in the Agartala conspiracy case catapulted him onto the national stage, making him the undisputed leader of the Bengalis’ freedom struggle against Pakistani exploitation.
He was given the title ‘Bangabandhu’ after he was freed from jail in 1969.
On Mar 7, 1971, he delivered the historical speech at Race Course Maidan (now Suhrawardy Udyan), which inspired the Bengalis to wage an armed struggle to win independence from Pakistan.