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Eye-witness account of Bangabandhu’s last journey

GOPALGANJ, Aug 15, 2014 (BSS) –“His chest was honey-combed with bullets. His middle finger on the right hand was not there. The red-framed spectacles, broken, near his head. In his pocket, his favorite pipe. In a wooden box lay the greatest Bengali of the millennium, Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. I saw and shivered. I went mute. I cried, silently. Simultaneously, nature too cried.

This is how Kazi Idris Ali, who buried Bangabandhu, described his feelings after opening the coffin that carried Bangabandhu’s corpse on the morning of August 15, 1975.
After being assassinated by some rogue army elements in the early hours of August 15, 1975 Bangabandhu was buried at his birth place, Tungipara, Gopalganj. Kazi Idris Ali had bathed Bangabandhu and participated in the burial.

Recollecting Kazi Idris Ali told BSS that in 1973 Bangabandhu had given him a job as a guard at Sheikh Sahera Khatun Red Crescent Hospital. Idris was very happy with it. He had heard that Bangabandhu gave jobs to the illiterate but he did not believe till he got one.

Idris Ali said in the morning the Jamaddar at the police station near the hospital had told him, “Idris, have you heard what is being said in the radio? Bangabandhu has been murdered. “I did not want to believe it. Nevertheless, I went over to hear the radio. It was repeatedly saying “I am Major Dalim speaking. The autocrat Sheikh Mujib has been killed. The Baksali government has been overthrown; etc, etc.”

“A few minutes later a helicopter arrived. Even before the copter had landed several soldiers jumped down and took up position. After that a major or some high-level officer came and blew a whistle. Seeing us standing around he beckoned, roughly and asked us to take away the coffin. It was a very large one. Some of us carried it from the helicopter stationed at the police station premises through the wooden bridge in front of the hospital and took it to Bangabandhu’s courtyard. Leaving the coffin there, we went and called Ayub, the carpenter, who opened the box.”

“Opening the box we found Bangabandhu’s body wrapped in a white cloth. Tea-leaves and ice packed under it. He was wearing a beautiful white Punjabi”. While narrating, Idris Ali’s eyes welled up.

Idris said that the soldiers were asking them to bury him like that. But the imam of the local mosque, Halim Sheikh and another Moulvi protested and said that without bathing and janaza they would not bury the corpse. To explain matters, they talked in Urdu and English. The army officer gave us fifteen minutes’ time. Meanwhile, we bathed the body and wrapped a shroud around him.

Suddenly the army officer threateningly asked, “Who will accept the corpse? Where is the next of kin? Where is his guardian?” We were people of the labor class. Meanwhile, a teacher, Sheikh Polu Miah, was found. He, too, was old. Shaking with fear he approached Bangabandhu’s corpse. The army officer extended a piece of paper. Still, shivering, he signed the paper.

Idris said, “As soon as we had finished burying the corpse, the rains started pouring, incessantly. The rains seemed to be the tears of Bengalis for a thousand years”.