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Burial in his native village -

S A Karim | August 15, 2022 00:00:00

The grave of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in his native village of Tungipara in Gopalganj district

As Mushtaque spoke, corpses of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his family members lay scattered all over the house [32 Dhanmondi, Dhaka]. Just before dawn of the following day, the 16th, all of the bodies, except one, were collected by a special detachment of the Supply Battalion and transported to the Banani Cemetery for burial in unmarked graves. The exception was that of Mujib's body because the new rulers did not want to take the risk of his burial site becoming a place of pilgrimage. It was therefore decided that he would be buried at his native village of Tungipara in the family graveyard far from the teeming masses of Dhaka.

On the next day at 1 p.m. Brigadier Abdur Rauf, the Director General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI), held a meeting of his officers to brief them about the decision to take Mujib's mortal remains to Tungipara for burial. He asked for a volunteer for this task. No one volunteered. So the DGFI ordered his adjutant, Major Haider Ali, to perform this responsibility. He was told that the local officials had already been alerted. All he would have to do was to hand over the body to an adult male relative and supervise the burial. 14 soldiers would accompany him for security purpose. At the helipad the pilot warned the Major that the job should be completed within two hours since it was dangerous to fly the helicopter after nightfall. When it landed at Tungipara the village had a deserted appearance. There were no males to be seen anywhere. The last time they had seen the military in strength was in the spring of 1971 when Pakistani troops had come on a mission to burn down Mujib's ancestral home and terrorise the local population. Probably they expected a repetition of their 1971 experience and did not want to take a chance. After a short search they found an old man by the name of Mosharraf Hossain who happened to be distantly related to Mujib. After the lid of the coffin was lifted he formally identified the body as that of Mujib and it was officially handed over to him. Meanwhile, a number of people ventured out of their hiding places and appeared on the scene.

The Major was anxious to get over with the burial of Mujib without delay. He asked the local police officer to fetch the imam of the village mosque. When he arrived the Major told him to bury the corpse immediately. The imam of course knew by then whose corpse it was and he asked a simple question: "Is this a corpse of a Muslim? If so, it can only be buried after a purifying bath and janaza (the final funeral rites)" The military officer firmly told him to forget about these niceties and go ahead with the burial. The imam conceded that an exception could be made in the case of a Shahid (Martyr): "Is he then a Shahid?" The military officer understood the significance of the loaded question, for a Shahid is a Muslim who has died fighting for his belief and is buried unwashed so that his wounds should testify to his martyrdom on the Day of Judgment.

The Major therefore relented but insisted that the burial rites be performed expeditiously. So, a bucket from a cow-shed next door had to be used to fetch water from a tubewell for the purifying bath. The only soap that was available for this purpose in the village store was a cheap laundry soap. There was no clean white cloth to be found anywhere in this village. The local police officer suggested that some saris donated by Mujib to a nearby Red Cross hospital could be used for his shroud. "We have no objection. You can bring anything you like. But you are to complete the bloody burial business quickly," the Major answered in military English in which every sentence is liberally sprinkled with the all-purpose word "bloody." Three saris were procured from the hospital. Their red borders were trimmed with a razor blade to make a makeshift white shroud. There was no time to stitch the pieces together. There followed a hurried janaza, in which some 25 people took part. Mujib's body was then lowered to the grave beside that of his father. The Major and his military escort were able to fly out well before dusk so as to arrive safely in Dhaka before nightfall.

Thus ended the life of Sheikh Mujib -- the man who was the Father of the Nation.

This piece is last part of Chapter-57 titled 'The End of the Mijib Regime' in the book named 'Sheikh Mujib: Triumph and Tragedy' written by S A Karim (University Press Limited, Dhaka, 2020)

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