Bangladesh's Quest for Closure

Can the execution of Mujib’s assassins finally deliver the country from its darkest chapter?

01 April 2010
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s historic declaration of independence, 7 March 1971: “Our struggle this time is for freedom. Our struggle this time is for independence.”
JALALUDDIN HAIDER / DRIK / MAJORITY WORLD
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s historic declaration of independence, 7 March 1971: “Our struggle this time is for freedom. Our struggle this time is for independence.”
JALALUDDIN HAIDER / DRIK / MAJORITY WORLD

AQUARTER CENTURY AGO I met a man who calmly told me how he had organised the massacre of a family. He wasn’t confessing out of a sense of remorse; he was bragging about it, grinning as he spoke to me.

I was a young reporter on assignment in Dhaka, trying to figure out what had gone wrong with Bangladesh, which had emerged as an independent nation after a bloody war of liberation 15 years earlier, in 1971. The man I was interviewing lived in a well-appointed home. Soldiers protected his house, checking the bags and identification of all visitors. A week earlier he had been a presidential candidate, losing by a huge margin.

He wore a Pathani outfit that looked out of place in a country where civilian politicians wore white kurtas and black vests, and men on the streets went about in lungis. He had a thin moustache. He stared at me eagerly as we spoke, curious about the notes I was taking, trying to read what I was writing in my notepad. He sat straight on a sofa, his chest thrust forward, as if he was still in uniform. He looked like a man playing a high stakes game, assured that he would win, because he knew someone important who held all the cards.

Salil Tripathi lives in London, and is a contributing editor at The Caravan and Mint

Keywords: Bazlul Huda Aziz Pasha Farooq rahman Sheikh Mujibur Rahman massacre impunity Sheikh Hasina Bangladesh Dhaka Salil Tripathi
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