As relayed to Enayetullah Khan on 16 August 1987
On August 16th, 1987 in an exclusive interview with Dhaka Courier Editor-in-Chief Enayetullah Khan, Sheikh Hasina spoke in details about her father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the political change over of 15 August 1975. On the occasion of the 47th anniversary of Bangabandhu's assassination, we reproduce the interview.
We met Sheikh Hasina at her residence at Mahakhali. It was quite early in the morning and she had not taken her breakfast yet. Barefoot and wearing a shuti sharee, the leader of Awami League and eldest daughter of Bangabandhu spoke to us for almost an hour. The subjects ranged from her childhood memories to the current trends in Bangladesh politics. She was frank, and surprisingly informal. Here we publish her views:
Bangabandhu was one man who loved this country and his countrymen, and there is no way to deny this tact. He had dedicated his life for the people of this country, and he died for them. The people did not get an opportunity to express their sorrow and anger after his murder because of the strict administrative control. The killers had not allowed the people to shed tears after his death. They were even afraid to pronounce the name of Bangabandhu. As a matter of tact, dead Bangabandhu was no less a worry for them. This is an irony of fate that Bangabandhu without whom the history of the country cannot be written, is now absent from the official history. They can make all such attempts, but how do you think they can write the history of this country without recognizing Bangabandhu's contribution? Who else had stood as fiercely for the rights and interests of the people of Bangladesh? During the Pakistan period, we were subjected to every possible discrimination. In the army, for example, they wouldn't recruit us, because they said Bengalis are short, they lack courage. Wasn't it Bangabandhu who stood up to fight for the interest of these Bengalis? The liberation war had continued for long nine months. Yes he was absent from the field of war, but it was in his name that the heroic boys of our land went to the war and embraced martyrdom. It was just one name Bangabandhu that inspired many million Bengalis to defy all threats. Joy Bangla was their slogan, and. it was not just Awami League's slogan. How ironic that Joy Bangla has now been banished by the authority. It seems as if the Awami Leaguers done had fought for the liberation war and the slogan was used by them only. No, it is not true. It is also most unfortunate that the killers of Bangabandhu are still free. They were given important diplomatic assignments, they have been promoted in their jobs. The self confessed killers, when they organize meetings to explain to commoners their massacre, are given police protection now.
The people who had assumed power did not let the people go into "protest movement" after Bangabandhu's death. But there had been individual protests. Mass movement did not take place because of the administration's strict control. Yes, I know movements are meant to be against control and authority. But you should give the people time to get organized. Look what's happening today. The spontaneous protest against the killing is a fresh proof that people had not forgiven the killers of Bangabandhu.
Some people speak about fall of Bangabandhu's government. No. His government did not fall, he was simply assassinated. As a matter of fact, l don't even call it a military coup. A coup is when the entire army participates. In case of Bangabandhu this did not happen. Some ousted officers and a section of the army had engineered the assassinations call this an act of banditry. They sneaked into the house at night and killed him.
Bangabandhu's killing was also politically motivated. Bangabandhu had liberated the country after twenty three years of hard struggle. During the liberation war, it became clear who was on which side. The forces in and outside the country who had aided and supported the genocide by the Pakistan army obviously did not want Bangabandhu to consolidate his authority inside the country. These people had opposed the liberation, they also opposed Bangabandhu alter the liberation. They started to conspire against him immediately after his return from the Pakistani prison. The famine of 1974 was only a phase of this conspiracy. You may recall, in 1973, because of the oil crisis, the world was undergoing its worst recession. It was followed by flood and cyclone. Bangabandhu did know about the impending crisis. He had made all efforts and made all arrangements to import food grains from abroad. But the ships carrying the grains did not arrive on time. I have seen my father worrying about this crisis. At the time of cyclone I remember he spent all night praying. A man who spends all night praying to save his countrymen from the scourge of cyclone how can he allow the occurrence of such a famine? Besides, rice had been sold at taka ten only for a few days. Most of the time it was sold at taka 3-3.50. How about now? Were things worse than what it is now? As a matter of fact when Bangabandhu was assassinated, the worst of the crisis was over. The country was stable. The conspirators had made all efforts, but when they saw they had all failed, they hatched up the conspiracy of assassinating Bangabandhu.
I tell you one thing. Had Bangabandhu wanted to stay in power at any cost, he could have done so through his Awami League- there was no second party in the country. And he could rule through his Awami League. But in order to unite all the patriotic forces, he had floated a common platform. He had wanted all of them to work untidily for a better Bangladesh. He had included the government officials he had invited the army in the new forum. He had hoped all would come forward to help build the country, l had spoken with Bangabandhu about this and he explained to me several times. Unfortunately he was not given the chance. There had been all kinds of propaganda against Bangabandhu, but the truth will come out one day.
The politics of assassination had started with Bangabandhu's murder. Now we have only assassinations, no more politics. Now you come to power not through politics, but you get into politics. We've never tried the killers of Bangabandhu. If a killer is not punished for his crime and instead given reward, naturally he will be encouraged, This process must be changed. We must learn to assume power through politics and must go through a proper democratic process. As long as the killers of Bangabandhu are not tried and unless we initiate a truly democratic process and we agree to come into power through political means, this process of conspiracy cannot be reversed.
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