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The tears of the children
Publication Date : 11-07-2012
The tears of the lonely keep falling all the time. That is what you hear in an old song and that is what you sing all your life, if you have the willingness to understand the blighted nature of our universe. On Monday, though, when Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her sister Sheikh Rehana broke down in remembrance of the tragedy which struck their family in August 1975, it was time once again for us to recall the loneliness which often descends on our lives through the depredations of evil men. The daughters of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman wept. And we wept with them. Our tears, you might want to remember, ought to have coursed down our cheeks on the dark dawn when Mujibur Rahman, the father of the nation, and his family were mown down by the soldiers. On that morning of stunning, unmitigated disaster, we did not weep, we could not weep. Nearly four decades on, Sheikh Hasina and Sheikh Rehana have made us weep again, copiously. A certain purgation of emotions has seemed to come into our sensibilities.
But bigger than our collective tears as a nation, it is the loneliness of the children who have lost their eminent parents in man-made tragedy which assails us day after day. And it does because we have, in very large measure, been unable to bring the perpetrators of such tragedy to justice. When Bangabandhu's children weep, we know that there are yet the remaining murderers of the nation's liberator who need to march to the gallows. In early January 2010, justice was done, up to a point. There are the other fugitives who need to die in order for life to be restored to its sanctity. And that is a thought which shoots into you, into your sensitivities, as you hear Sharmin Ahmed speak to you of one of the greatest of men in our history. Tajuddin Ahmed, Bangladesh's first prime minister, was a hero for all of us, for all the right reasons. He led this nation to freedom through organising an unprecedented war of liberation. And then it was his free country which took away his liberty to live. Sharmin Ahmed and Simeen Hossain Rimi and their siblings keep telling us, through their tears, of the ingratitude in us that does not allow us to speak to the country of Tajuddin's place in our lives. Rimi collects her father's speeches, his diaries and gives them to us, to tell us what we should not have forgotten. Our amnesia shames us.
The children of Bangabandhu and four national leaders who were slain inside the jail -- Tajuddin, Mansur Ali, Syed Nazrul Islam and A.H.M. Quamruzzaman -- are our testimony to how we have failed them. Their fathers were all young men when they caused a revolution in the land between 1966 and 1971. These were brave men, for they informed the world that while the Bengali could be inclined to poetry by tradition, he could also take to the battlefield in defence of his self-esteem. And yet, in August 1975 and November 1975, their children wept. Sheikh Hasina and Sheikh Rehana were not fortunate enough to see the corpses of their parents and siblings. Sharmin, Rimi, Khairuzzaman Liton and Syed Ashraful Islam will never forget the spectacle of the bloodied remains of their fathers, the very men who were done to death by elements who should have remained loyal to them, from a sense of history and in line with the nation's constitution.
These children weep, will weep as long as they live. There are other children who have wept over the decades, have grown into adulthood in the midst of their tears. Brigadier Jamil's children remember the heroism of a father who responded to the call of duty in August 1975. The sons and daughters of General Khaled Mosharraf, Col. Huda and Col. Haider, as also the children of General Manzur and General Zia will live through the scars of their fathers' unnatural end. The military officers who went to the scaffold in the aftermath of the Zia assassination left behind children for whom the trauma of their passing remains a shadow on their lives. You cannot console them. You cannot stop the tears from flowing. You cannot explain to the offspring of Col. Taher and the offspring of the fifty seven army officers murdered by the assassins at the Bangladesh Rifles why their parents died the way they did. You cannot explain the ingratitude of a country to the descendants of those who caused it to be born.
It is a strange land we inhabit. Not a single officer or jawan of the Pakistan occupation army, having murdered tens of thousands of Bengalis in 1971, has been tried and sentenced to death. Not a single local collaborator of the Pakistanis, having cheerfully assisted their masters in picking off Bengalis, has gone through the legality of a trial and consequent execution. The children of the men and women these soldiers and these quislings murdered have lived with the pain of memory. They saw their fathers being taken away. That last glance, of the father turning back for a final glimpse of his family, is the trauma we as a nation will consistently go through. For their children, it is a recurrent nightmare.
They are brave children -- Sheikh Hasina, Sheikh Rehana, Sharmin Ahmed, Simin Hossain Rimi and all those who have watched the country their fathers loved beyond measure brutally put the bullet and the bayonet through the hearts of those courageous men. When the daughters of Bangabandhu wept in each other's arms on Monday, the children of all the other dead men wept too in the morbid silence of their homes. These tears are a reprimand for all of us. They shame us into remembering what we did not do when we needed to do it.
The writer is Executive Editor, The Daily Star