In an interview with Dhaka Tribune, Sheikh Fazle Shams Parash, who now heads the Awami Jubo League, spoke about that fateful morning and also said it was time to raise questions about the masterminds and beneficiaries of the assassination
Sheikh Fazle Shams Parash is one of the survivors of the assassination of Father of Nation Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his family on August 15, 1975.
He is the eldest of two sons of Sheikh Fazlul Haque Moni and Shamsunnessa Arju Moni, who were killed on the same day. Moni, a Freedom Fighter, journalist and politician was Bangabandhu’s nephew. Parash’s younger brother, Sheikh Fazle Noor Taposh was a former MP and currently serves as the mayor of Dhaka South City.
In an interview with Dhaka Tribune, Parash, who now heads the Awami Jubo League, spoke about that fateful morning and also said it was time to raise questions about the masterminds and beneficiaries of the assassination.
Dhaka Tribune: What did you see on August 15, 1975?
Sheikh Parash: I do not remember much as I was only five years old then. Moreover, speaking on August 15 is difficult for me. I have never said anything on this subject in the past.
I remember waking up to the sounds of gunfire. It was still dark outside. Hail of bullets were coming through the windows. I woke up to find my brother on the bed. Taposh, who is now the Dhaka South mayor, was around four years old then.
We started crying and left the room only to find our parents lying on the stairway. There was chaos all around… my grandmother was wailing, banging her head on the wall. My mother was covered with blood, but my father only had, what seemed like a small bruise, on his throat.
We had a joint family with my grandmother, uncles and aunts living together. I remember my uncle Sheikh Fazlul Karim Selim and his wife trying to speak with my mother, who was still alive then.
“What will happen to Parash Taposh? Fatu please look after them,” is what she told my aunt, whose nickname was Fatu. It was a chaos; the whole family was dumbfounded. I was told later that my uncles, Selim and Maruf (Sheikh Fazlur Rahman Maruf) took my mother to the hospital. That was the last time I saw my parents.
However, with the whole family stunned, the shooting started to intensify again, when my aunt took me and Taposh to the dressing room and told us to lie down on the floor.
Back then, we used to live in a house on Road No. 13 in Dhanmondi, now it’s the building for Medinova Hospital. After a while we left the home, with our aunt and grandmother and took shelter at a house on the end of the same alley, which was probably the residence or office of an ambassador. I remember seeing troops entering our home and looting from that building.
Dhaka Tribune: Do you remember how early in the morning it was?
Sheikh Parash: Our house was attacked around 4.30am in morning. We left an hour later and took refuge in that house, that means it would be around 5.30am.
Dhaka Tribune: Those memories must still haunt you?
Sheikh Parash: Children at that age, go to school with their parents and do a lot of other things. That did not happen to us. We were raised by our uncles and aunts, who loved us a lot. But we did not get to know what it was like to be loved by our own parents.
Let me tell you an incident. I was then a student at the Udayan School, we were asked to write an essay on our mother. But I couldn’t write a single word. For me, it was the most horrible memory.
As a child, the August 15 killing left me kind of numb. I really couldn’t figure out whom I should mourn for. Three houses were attacked and a host of my relatives were killed. One of my uncles, Arif Sernibiat, who was only 10 years old, died; he and Sheikh Russell were buddies. Then there was Baby auntie, who was merely 15 years old.
I was in trauma for a long time. I have been away from politics because it would make me depressed. What struck me was, if a man like Bangabanadhu, who dedicated his whole life for the betterment of the people, could not succeed, then what can I do?
My maternal grandfather, Abdur Rob Serniabat was an honest and dedicated politician, he served as a minister, he founded the Krishak League. Everybody knows who and what my father Sheikh Fazlul Haque Moni was. And their lives ended just like that!
But then again, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s dedication amazes me. She is the daughter of the Bangabandhu and she lost most of her family.
It’s she who made me realize that our country is far greater than our personal issues and that’s why I am in politics now.
Dhaka Tribune: How do you evaluate the post-1975 political scenario of Bangladesh?
Sheikh Parash: The 1975 killings left the people in shock and awe. It was only after Sheikh Hasina’s return that the people got a chance to get organized. Sheikh Hasina returned to a country, which can only be described as a killing ground then. She devoted herself to make her father’s dream come true. Her sole objective was justice for Bangabandhu and building a nation that her father dreamt of.
All of what Bangabandhu achieved in his 25-year struggle will go in vain, if Bangladesh cannot rise as a sovereign and developed nation. And that’s exactly what Sheikh Hasina is doing for the last 40 years, to make sure that Bangladesh does not turn into a failed state.
Any one, who tried to speak for the Awami League, was oppressed, jailed or killed after the 1975 assassinations. Hundreds were killed. I think, this generation should ask who were the beneficiaries of those killings? How did a service-holder usurp power after an overnight coup?
How does a politician compare himself with Bangabandhu? Who created the controversy over declaration of independence in a clear bid to demean Bangabandhu? They not only usurped power, but rehabilitated, as well as awarded the killers. But the most dangerous thing they did was distorting history.
Sheikh Hasina made the secret documents by the then Pakistani administration on Bangabandhu public, to set the historical record straight for the new generation.
Dhaka Tribune: What do you have to say about the masterminds of 1975 killings?
Sheikh Parash: It took 35 years to get justice for Bangabandhu. It was not an easy thing. But the new generation has the right to know what happened behind the scenes. It’s not only the government’s duty, this is an issue of awareness. Our friends in the opposition simplifies the matter by raising the issue of Khondokar Moshtaque. But then again there are always people like him everywhere. There’s no reason to politicize it.
There were not only politicians among the conspirators, but also law enforcers, people from the military as well as foreign quarters. It’s about time for a detailed research on it.
Dhaka Tribune: How do you evaluate the current political climate in Bangladesh under Sheikh Hasina’s leadership?
Sheikh Parash: There have been several attempts to assassinate the daughter of Bangabandhu, including the August 21 grenade attacks. As I said in the very beginning, the attempts on Sheikh Hasina’s life were bids to turn Bangladesh into a failed state. Defying all the odds, she has made Bangladesh a mid-income state. She has made primary education free, set examples of women empowerment, ensured energy security. We now have our own satellite, the Bangabandhu-1, in space and some 25 million people have come out of poverty. We all have read about ‘Begum Rokeya’, Sheikh Hasina is the modern day Begum Rokeya of the whole world. Hat’s off to her.
Dhaka Tribune: As the chief of the Awami Jubo League, the youth affiliate of Awami League, what are the challenges the youth of this country will face in the coming days?
Sheikh Parash: We are probably heading towards a global recession, so we have to be prepared for it. The youth should not just depend on their job, which also the Prime Minister's Adviser Sajeeb Wazed Joy says. In my opinion, the youth should focus on developing skills and to try to become entrepreneurs. The expats have sent remittance while many of them lost their jobs abroad. Even in Bangladesh, there have been lay-offs. The youth needs to use their skills and as an organization, the Jubo League will assist the youth.
The youth needs to learn what patriotism is from the history of Bangladesh. In line with the ideology of Bangabandu, they have to shun corruption. Being in the teaching profession, I find many looking for shortcuts to success, but that’s not the way. Success can only be achieved through hard work. What they need to realize is that the country comes first, not personal interests.
Dhaka Tribune: Any memories with Bangabandhu to share with our readers?
Sheikh Parash: Once I was taken to the hospital after injuring my face. I remember a group of people in the Mujib coats (black waistcoats) in the room. Later, my grandmother told me that Bangabandhu came to visit me at the hospital straight from the Cabinet meeting. It goes to show how generous he was as a person. He was a kind-hearted person, who loved children.
I also have some lovely memories with his wife, Fazilatunnesa Mujib, whom I used to call ‘Apan Dadi’ (my own grandma). I really miss them; I would have learnt a lot from them if they were around for a little longer.