Opinion

August 1975 and Sheikh Hasina’s days in Europe


Published : 16 Aug 2022 08:09 PM

Wazed Miah departed Dhaka on March 12, 1975, to pursue a postdoctoral degree at the nuclear research centre in Karlsruhe, West Germany. He arrived in Frankfurt, West Germany, around 7:30 a.m. the following day through Delhi. He then went to his assigned workplace in Karlsruhe. During his stay here, Sheikh Hasina's brother Sheikh Kamal and Sheikh Jamal were married on July 15 and 18. However, despite being the family's eldest son-in-law, he could not attend both weddings because he did not get written permission from the institute's director.

 After the marriage of the two brothers, Sheikh Hasina and Sheikh Rehana travelled from Dhaka to Frankfurt, West Germany, on July 30, 1975, en way to the city of Karlsruhe. Dr Wazed opposed Sheikh Hasina's trip to West Germany because he could return to Bangladesh in a few months. Joy and Putul, on the other hand, were yearning to see their father. At one point, Sheikh Mujib persuaded Sheikh Hasina to go to West Germany.

With a lot of hesitation, Sheikh Hasina left the country with her children and younger sister Rehana. Sheikh Hasina's mother, Begum Fazilatunnesa Mujib, cried severely when departing. On that day, everyone was surprised to see her crying so much. No one had ever witnessed her sobbing despite the dangers. Sheikh Hasina was compelled to tell her mother, upon observing her sobbing, "Mom, I will not go if you cry like this."

They stayed in the ancient city of Karlsruhe on the German-Norwegian border for nine days. They toured the old town and the famous Black Forest during the nine days. The Black Forest is an ancient evergreen mountainous terrain that separates southwest Germany and France. The Brothers Grimm, the prominent German fairy tale collectors and authors, set a number of their fairy tales against the backdrop of this forest.

 On August 9, they left for Bonn at the invitation of Bangladeshi Ambassador to West Germany Humayun Rashid Chowdhury. They remained in two rooms on the third floor of the ambassador's Konigswinter villa in Bonn. Following World War II, the Allies partitioned Germany into East and West. East Germany belonged to the communist bloc, while West influenced West Germany.

 West Germany's capital was Bonn, whilst East Germany's capital was Berlin. Bonn was West Germany's leading centre of political activities from 23 May 1949 until 3 October 1990, after World War II. After the unification of the two German states, Berlin became the capital of a unified Germany.

 Europe's countries are geographically close enough that anyone who travels to one may also visit the surrounding countries. Wazed Miah intended to take Sheikh Hasina and Sheikh Rehana from Bonn, the capital of Germany, to Brussels, the capital of Belgium, at the recommendation of Ambassador Humayun Chowdhury. From there, he chose to go through Amsterdam to Paris.

 As planned, Ambassador Chowdhury spoke to Bangladeshi ambassadors to Belgium and France, Sanaul Haque and Abul Fateh, respectively. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib and Ambassador Sanaul Haque had a close relationship. Thus, they decided to travel to Brussels. As a result, Sheikh Hasina, Wazed Miah, their two children Joy and Putul, and Sheikh Rehana went to Brussels on the morning of August 12 after spending three days in Bonn. They spent the night at Ambassador Sanaul Haque's residence in Brussels. They departed Brussels early the next morning for The Hague at the invitation of the Belgian Ambassador. Because the Ambassador was in The Hague to discuss the export of Dutch milk powder to Bangladesh. They travelled to Amsterdam after a brief stopover in The Hague. They spend the night in a hotel after walking around Amsterdam.Sheikh Hasina and her sister Rehana spoke to their parents from Amsterdam on this day. Their discussion focused on how the Netherlands had reclaimed riverside land (Land Reclamation Project). But alas! Who knew that this would be their final conversation in this life!  

 The following morning, August 14, they awoke, ate breakfast, and went for another walk around Amsterdam. The driver who accompanied them, Mr Tanu Miah, was familiar with Amsterdam. He took everyone on a city tour. Tanu Miah once told Sheikh Rehana, "Apa, my cousin's name is Rehana, and she resembles you quite a bit."

Upon hearing this, Sheikh Rehana said, "Good, I am like your sister too". This conversation demonstrates that Sheikh Hasina and Sheikh Rehana readily accept individuals and know how to treat everyone, regardless of their socioeconomic status.

Along with sightseeing, Wazed Miah visited numerous Amsterdam stores to purchase tobacco for his father-in-law, Sheikh Mujib. Sheikh Mujib was a seasoned pipe and tobacco aficionado; Erinmore was his favourite tobacco. That afternoon, they returned to Brussels. They were scheduled to depart for Paris the next day. On the evening of August 14, everyone was invited to a candlelight dinner at the residence of Ambassador Sanaul Haque.

 Dinner ended about 10 pm. Then, at around 10:30 pm, Anwar Sadat, the second secretary of the Belgian embassy, took them to his house. Sheikh Hasina met Anwar Sadat's wife there. Both attended the same class at the same school in Dhaka. After conversing at that residence till 12:30 a.m., they returned to Ambassador Sanaul Haque's home in a car.

 Sheikh Hasina and Sheikh Rehana sat in the car’s rear seat. When Wazed Miah closed the car door, all of his left hand’s fingers became trapped in the gap and were seriously injured. He was worried about this accident and could not stop himself from thinking about it.  At one point, he decided not to travel to Paris the next day. Sheikh Hasina and Sheikh Rehana, however, disagreed. They spent the night at Ambassador Sanaul Haque's residence. Sheikh Rehana stayed up late that night chatting with Sanaul Haque's daughters. 

 The following day, Friday, August 15, was one of the most tragic days in Bengali history. Sheikh Mujib, Bangladesh's architect, was assassinated at his Dhaka residence, along with most of his family members. Although a few army stragglers were involved in the killings, it was the product of national and international conspiracies. 

 An old acquaintance Gisela Bonn, a German writer and journalist, informed Ambassador Humayun Rashid Chow­dhury about Bangabandhu's killing early in the morning. Other European countries' Bangladesh embassies called him with the same information.

Humayun Rashid Chowdhury called his colleagues Tariq A. Karim and Amzadul Haque to come home immediately after hearing the news of Bangabandhu's unexpected demise. At five o'clock in the morning, Amzadul Haque learned on the phone from the ambassador that Bangabandhu had been hurt or murdered, and he started crying profusely. He immediately left for Ambassador Chowdhury's residence. Ambassador Chowdhury provided his vehicle to Tariq A. Karim so he could accompany his wife. When Tariq A. Karim, his wife, and Amzadul Haque arrived at the residence, Humayun Rashid Chowdhury came from upstairs, acting strangely. As he entered the living room, he looked at the portrait of Bangabandhu with a bewildered look for a while.  Then he told them what he had heard about the situation in Bangladesh and the killing of Bangabandhu and his family. He also said that Sheikh Hasina is scheduled to travel from Brussels to Paris today. Due to security concerns, he believed it would be imprudent for them to travel abroad. Considering the circumstances, he chose to arrange for their return to West Germany, despite the risk involved.

They then discussed how to break the news to Sheikh Hasina. Amzadul Haque remarked that telling Sheikh Hasina about the event over the phone would be inappropriate. She might not be able to stand it. After some consultation, they agreed to tell Wazed Miah about Bangabandhu's killing without infor­ming Sheikh Hasina or Sheikh Rehana. 

Following the conversation, Ambassador Chowdhury called Ambassador Sanaul Haque to update him on the situation in Bangladesh. Sanaul Haque grew furious after hearing about the incident over the phone and stated, "By sending Bangabandhu's daughters here, you put me in danger." Humayun Rashid Chowdhury said, "We had no idea such an incident would occur. If you are in difficulties, let them depart for Bonn immediately." Then, he told Sanaul Haque that he would talk to Wazed Miah. 

Mrs Sanaul Haque awoke everyone from their sleep at 6.30 a.m.. She stated that Humayun Rashid Chowdhury had called for them from Bonn of West Germany. First, Sheikh Hasina went to speak. But Ambassador Chowdhury did not talk to him; instead, he wanted to talk to Wazed Miah. So Sheikh Hasina sent Wazed Miah within a couple of minutes.

 She was woken up very early in the morning, and Ambassador Chowdhury preferred to talk to Wazed instead of talking to her. Naturally, Sheikh Hasina was very worried. Wazed Miah quickly went from the third to the second floor and picked up the phone. Humayun Rashid Chowdhury said that there was a coup in Bangladesh early this morning. He requested him not to tell this to Rehana and Hasina. Instead of going to Paris today, he told them to come directly to his residence in Bonn. Wazed Miah was curious about his mother-in-law's condition after hearing about the event. He sat on the chair next to the phone after knowing her mother-in-law was no longer alive too.

     (To be continued)

 

Dr Abul Hasnat Milton is General Secretary, Australia Awami League and Public Health Expert