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Bangabandhu refused to flee fearing retaliation on his people

by Mahmudul Hasan Raju, Asraful Huq

DHAKA, March 26, 2016 (BSS) - As Pakistani army convoy started rolling out of cantonment in their bid to annihilate Bengalis in then Dacca on the fateful night of March 25, 1971, one well-wisher telephoned Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and had asked him to go into hiding. But being the leader who never cared about his life over his people, he simply refused to flee.

"If I go into hiding they will burn the whole of Dacca to find me," Bangabandhu had answered.

Journalist Simon Dring in his article titled "Tanks Crush Revolts in Pakistan" in Daily Telegraph wrote about the firmness of Bangabandhu in the face of certain death.

"...as this was going on, other units had surrounded the Sheikh's house. When contacted shortly before 1 am, he (Bangabandhu) was expecting an attack by any minute and that he had sent everyone except his servants and a bodyguard away to safety," the article said.

A neighbour said that at 1.10 am, one tank, an armored car and trucks loaded with troops drove down the street firing over the house (Dhanmandi 32 number).

"Sheikh you should come down," an officer called out in English as they stopped outside.

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman replied by stepping out onto his balcony and saying, "Yes, I am ready but there is no need to fire; all you need to have done was call me on the telephone and I would have come."

The officer then walked into the garden of the house and told the Sheikh: "You are arrested."

"As he was driven off-presumably to army headquarters, the soldiers moved into the house, took away all documents, smashed everything in sight, locked the garden gate, shot down green, red and yellow "Bangladesh" (Free Bengal) flag and drove away," the article narrated.

In Pakistani army custody, the people's leader avoided certain death with the help of a jailer, who hid Bangabandhu in his personal apartment for two days to avoid his execution in the jail.

It was told in a report published in British newspaper "The Sunday Telegraph" titled "Sheikh Mujib flies in and sees Heath, Plea for aid" with a sub-heading "Gaoler 'Hid Sheikh'" by its diplomatic correspondent Ronald Payne on January 9, 1972.

The report said, "A Bangladeshi official said in London last night that Sheikh Mujibur Rahman avoided execution with the help of a gaoler (jailer). He knew Yahya Khan was about to abdicate, and he hid the Sheikh in his personal quarters for two days."

The report quoted Bangabandhu as saying "I was ready to die. The day I went to gaol (jail), I didn't know whether I was to live or not, but I knew that Bangladesh would be liberated."