Saturday, August 24, 2019

None wanted to shelter Mujib's daughters: Mehjabeen Choudhury

  • Sumon Mahbub, bdnews24.com
    Published: 2011-08-15 15:44:04 BdST

"It was a phone call from the then deputy high commissioner in the UK that told us how the heavens had came crushing down in Dhaka."

That's how Mehjabeen Choudhury, wife of late Humayun Rashid Choudhury, Bangladesh ambassador to Germany in 1975, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's death in a coup on Aug 15, and the next few days spent with Sheikh Hasina and Sheikh Rehana.

Mehjabeen Choudhury. File Photo

Mehjabeen Choudhury. File Photo

On that fateful day, she recalled in an interview with bdnews24.com in 2011, Faruq Ahmed Choudhury called up from London and told everything in detail to Humayun.

"Immediately my husband tuned into radio BBC and Australian channels and we got the confirmation."

The two sisters were staying with Ambassador Sanwarul Huq in Brussels, ready to visit Ambassador Abul Fateh in Paris, when the news broke.

Ambassador Humayun then rang Ambassador Sanwarul -- pre-empting Fateh, who did the same soon after -- and invited them to come to Bonn, with which they agreed.

They had left Choudhury's house in Germany a few days ago and were at the residence of Sanwarul at Brussels.

When Sanwarul heard that Bangabandhu was killed along with his family members, he informed Hasina and Rehana of it and then almost forcibly turned the two sisters out of his house because the government had changed.

Mehjabeen said, "On that night, Sanwarul woke them up from sleep and told them Sheikh Mujib has been killed and asked the two sisters to leave his house."

Sanwarul called up Humayun and told him, "Humayun, your guests are here. I will not be able to keep them here." Humayun then asked Huq to send them back to Germany.

Recalling the situation prevailing that time, Mehjabeen reminisced, she asked, "How they will come? Nobody will help them. No one in the Belgian embassy will help them…nobody was to be found. All were underground out of fear and love for their jobs."

At that time, Tarek who was the counsellor in the German embassy, drove Humayun's personal car to the Belgian border to receive them. From there the sisters were taken to Bonn. They stayed at Humayun's house for five days and then left for Delhi.

Mehjabeen remembered, "Wazed Miah, Sheikh Hasina's husband, went to Carlsu to study on a scholarship. At the instruction of Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi, the sisters were sent to Delhi under the supervision of the Indian ambassador in Germany."

She recalled that the Indian ambassador went to Humayun's residence in Bonn, and in his presence, Humayun spoke to Indira Gandhi over telephone.

"Humayun told India Gandhi over telephone, 'You know everything, madam'. Indira's simple reply was 'you send them immediately to me'."

Mehjabeen then narrated their own sufferings after the sisters' departure for India. "Mushtaque prepared a list of to-be-executed people. Humayun's name was fifth in the list. He would be called back home, held at the airport and killed...we apprehended.

"Anyway, we were called back to Dhaka and Humayun was made OSD for 11 months. Then we were posted to Saudi Arabia…as punishment."

Mehjabeen recalled the time when the two daughters of Bangabandhu were brought back from Brussels, "I cannot describe their condition," she said. "They would cry and cry…and won't eat anything. It's a hair-raising memory…even now.

"We had no words to console them. After five days, they were taken to Carlsu in the official car. From there they were sent to India and we never saw them again. Those five days spent with them had so much of risk..."

"After independence, some Bangalees had fled to Germany and those people tried to raid our house because we had sheltered the daughters of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman."

Mehjaeben added, "Humayun was told that he had worked all his life in Europe. Now he will have to go to the deserts. Ziaur Rahman fixed an amount out of anger, and said that it had to be collected in three years."

She also recounted the words of her husband vis-à-vis the sequence of events: "It was my duty (to give shelter to the daughters of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman). I am not afraid of that. Only a man helps another in adversity. It is for humanity we did what we did, and it was proper for us."

[Born in Cumilla in 1933, Mehjabeen Choudhury died in Dhaka on Dec 20, 2018 at the age of 85]