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A Hero's Death

Julfikar Ali Manik

This is the story of a hero who stood by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's side. In the early morning of August 15, when no one at the establishment was brave enough to come to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's rescue, Col Jamil Uddin Ahmed, the then director, Directorate of Forces Intelligence, embraced martyrdom at Sobhanbagh Mosque, becoming the lone army-men who rushed to save the Father of the Nation and his family members. Afrozaa Jamil Konka, daughter of the valiant army officer Col Jamil, can still vividly recall the dawn of August 15, the day her father was killed by Bangabandhu's murderers. "We used to live in Ganobhaban at that time. In the early morning I woke up to whispers--my parents were talking to each other," Konka says. Her mother asked her father whether "he was really going". Col Jamil, who was kept hostage in Pakistan during our glorious Liberation War, said to his wife, "Bangabandhu's life is at stake, I have to go." As the whispers got louder, Konka, who was then only 12-years-old, walked into the master bedroom where her parents were talking. "I saw my father get dressed in civil uniform; he quickly got down the stairs, and we followed him." Col Jamil then asked the Presidential Guard Regiment (PGR) to march towards Bangabandhu's house. Little did Konka know what was going on: "I got to know later from my mother that at 4:45 in the morning Bangabandhu called our house up and asked for my father. My father only said, 'Yes sir, I am coming right away'." Bangabandhu told Jamil: "I am in danger. Who knows who have attacked me; Jamil, save me!" Jamil did not waste a second; called the Chief of Army Staff (CAS) Gen Shafiullah and other important organisations such as now-defunct Rakhkhi Bahini. "My father told Gen Shafiullah, 'I am going to house no 32, you send in force'." Before he headed off to Bangabandhu's house, Jamil picked up his loaded revolver and tried to call Sheikh Mujib again, but the line was down. "My father wanted to go with the convoy of the Presidential Guard Regiment, but there wasn't enough jeeps to take the troops. So, he told the troops to march ahead and rode a red Nissan Prince and went off towards Dhanmandi," Konka says. Before he got into the car, Mrs Jamil asked him one last time, "Do you really have to go?" Col Jamil replied, "Are you crazy? Bangabandhu is in danger and I won't go!" He lit a cigarette, drank a glass of water and told his wife, "Take good care of my daughters." Konka and her mother walked behind the car and stared till the car disappeared in the darkness of the night. "When we turned round, one of the guards at Ganobhaban gate told my mum,

Col Jamil Uddin Ahmed

'Madam, you let him go!'" The family never saw Col Jamil again. When Jamil's car came near Sobhanbagh, he saw that the PGR convoy was not moving any further. He got down near the mosque and asked a soldier why the troops were not moving. "A lot of trouble ahead, sir," replied the soldier, who was standing before a barricade, which included tanks. But Col Jamil remained undeterred. He walked to the barricade and asked a Subeder-Major, who was manning the barricade, and said, "I am Col Jamil, obey my command, remove the barricade and let the PGR convoy move." Sure that he had almost convinced the Subeder-Major, Col Jamil walked back to his car and told his driver Ainuddin to start driving. "Sir, please don't go," Ainuddin replied. "Get down, if you are scared, and let me drive," Jamil said. By that time Major Bazlul Huda turned up from the dark and said, "Who is this?" "This is Col Jamil," he said. According to Col's Jamil's driver, Ainuddin, Huda wasted no time and told the SubederMajor: "Shoot him!" The Subeder refused to obey Huda's command, he said, "No sir, I can't'." Huda then took up a gun and rained a barrage of bullets at the back of Col Jamil's car; Jamil said Laa ilaha illallah thrice and embraced a hero's death. Ainuddin ran for his life, leaving the imam of Sobhanbagh, the lone civilian witness, behind. Ainuddin turned up at Jamil household at 11 in the morning. "He was crying. My mother asked him where he has left my father," Konka says. Distraught, Ainuddin said, "I told sir many a time not to go there, but he did not listen to me." Ainuddin ran out of the house. "We still did not know what happened to my father," Konka says. The Jamils at Ganobhaban knew that Bangabandhu was assassinated. "After seeing off my father, between 6.30-7 in the morning my mother turned the radio on and we heard that Bangabandhu was murdered and as far as I can recall Major Dalim announced it," she says. From then onwards, Mrs Jamil called the Ganobhaban office several times and whoever answered it said, "Jamil bhai is around, don't worry." About 2pm in the afternoon, a call came from the CAS Gen Shafiullah himself, whom Col Jamil asked at dawn to send troops to Bangabandhu's rescue. Mrs Jamil answered the phone and all Shafiullah could say was, "Bhabi, Jamil bhai (even though Jamil was a Colonel and Shafiullah was a Major General, Jamil was senior to Shafiullah ) ", Mrs Jamil fainted;

the receiver fell from her hand. Jamil's three daughters still did not know what had happened to their father. An army officer turned up a few moments later and told them that it was not safe for them to stay at Ganobhaban. They fled to Jamil's brother's house in an army jeep in the middle of the curfew. "We were in a state of denial, we could sense that my father was murdered, still we did not want to believe it," Konka says. The confirmation of Jamil's death came from Brig Gen Khaled Mosharraf. A negotiation with the murderers to retrieve the dead body of slain Col Jamil started. The murderers talked to Brig Gen Mosharraf and agreed to hand us over his dead body on the ground that Col Jamil was an army-man. "My uncles went to road no 32 in Dhanmandi and received my father's dead body. It was brought back by my uncle's car, the whole time it was cordoned off by the killers," Konka says. No one was allowed to see Jamil's face. Konka sneaked down to the street and saw his father's feet come out of the window. "All I could do was touch them," Konka says. The body was taken to Khaled Mosharraf's house. As there was a curfew, we could not get the burial shroud. The final rites were done at Mosharraf's house; "There was this beautiful white bed sheet that my aunt had brought from the US. It was used as a burial shroud," Konka says. Before the body was headed for the burial, the killers and their cohorts allowed Jamil's family members to see his dead body on one condition: No one was allowed to cry, no one would make a single sound. Surrounded by gun-totting killers, the family was allowed to see Jamil's body one last time. It was kept at Brig Gen Khaled Mosharraf's garage and when Col Jamil's eldest daughter broke into tears, the soldiers raised their guns and told her to get back into the house. "My father's body was still bleeding," Konka says. The coffin was wet with the blood of the hero. Col Jamil was buried at a graveyard in Dhaka Cantonment on August 16 at 1 in the morning. "During the liberation war, we were kept hostage in Pakistan. When the war was over and we were about to be repatriated, the Pakistan Army offered my father with higher rank and additional facilities as he was a senior officer of the Inter-service Intelligence, but he refused, saying, 'I want to go back to my country and serve'," Konka says. After Col Jamil's death, during the tumultuous days of 1975, the Swedish government wanted to give the Jamil family political asylum but Mrs Jamil refused, saying, "Jamil is lying here, I won't go anywhere else, leaving him alone." On the 40th day of Jamil's murder, Mrs Jamil realised that she was expecting their fourth child. Karishma Jamil, slain Col Jamil's fourth daughter, has never seen her father. After becoming the Chief of the Army, Gen Zia sent a condolence letter to Mrs Jamil, calling Col Jamil a martyr. "But why didn't he bring my father's killers before justice?" Konka asks. She now wants recognition for her father's sacrifice. Col Jamil's lone sacrifice did not go win vain, Bangabandhu's killer's have been brought to the book. "We don't want money from the nation, all we want is Col Jamil's recognition for bravery and sacrifice," she says.