In abode of love and grief

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Published on August 16, 2021
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Partha Pratim Bhattacharjee:

Amidst the grand public arrangements made across the country on the National Mourning Day, it is easy to forget that for Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, it is an immensely personal occasion, the intensity of which many cannot even begin to fathom.

While the nation commemorated outside, she spent most of her time at her home on Dhanmondi 32, in the room she shared with her sister Sheikh Rehana when they were growing up.

The room is kept under lock and key, even as the rest of the house has been turned into a museum.

This is the room Hasina chooses to spend her time in whenever she visits the house.

But there is more -- this is the room where no bloodshed took place, while carnage raged on in the rest of the house.

The historic residence of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman is for the premier a house where every brick emanates both love and pain at the same time.

It holds her most cherished memories of growing up, and is tainted with the darkest day of her life, when nearly her entire family was annihilated.

It was at the crack of dawn at 5:30am yesterday that the PM, adorned in a black-rimmed white handloom sari, walked in through the gates of her home on Dhanmondi 32. It was at this same time that the army tanks reached the gates of House 677 on this day in 1975.

First, she laid a wreath of roses and tuberoses at her father's memorial, commemorating the 46th anniversary of his martyrdom. A smartly turned out contingent of Bangladesh Armed Forces gave a state salute at that time, while the bugle played a tune of grief.

Then she walked over to the staircase where the unparalleled leader of the country's independence was killed.

She stood there for some minutes in solemn silence and then sprinkled red rose petals on the steps where once lay a pool of blood, spilling out of the 18 bullet wounds in Bangabandhu's body. It was at that moment that Hasina could not hold back her tears recalling her nearest and dearest whom she lost 46 years ago.

Talking to the Daily Star, Bangabandhu Memorial Museum curator Nazrul Islam Khan shared the heart-rending moments of Hasina's visit to her Dhanmondi house.

After visiting the staircase, Hasina went into her old room and spent around 45 minutes inside. The cream-coloured room has a bed and other plain furniture but the walls are empty save for an old gilaf from the Holy Kabah.

She spent the time inside her room offering prayers and reciting the Quran, saying little else out loud.

Her younger brother Sheikh Russel, who was also brutally shot to death, was born in this room.

She and her only sister Sheikh Rehana were in Germany that fateful August in 1975.

After her visit to Dhanmondi 32, Hasina went to the Banani Graveyard where her mother, brothers, and other dear family members were laid to rest. Standing before their graves, she raised her hands to the heavens, seeking eternal peace for their departed souls.

Along with Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, his spouse Bangamata Begum Fazilatunnesa Mujib, their three sons -- Sheikh Kamal, Sheikh Jamal, and Sheikh Russell -- and 14 others were killed in the bloodshed.

Except for Bangabandhu's body, all the other corpses were hastily buried in the cemetery in Banani on early August 16. Later in the afternoon that day, Bangabandhu's body was laid to rest beside the graves of his parents in Tungipara village.

Source: The Daily Star

Partha Pratim Bhattacharjee