He recognised a journalist in the courtroom, and tried to draw his attention. The journalist, however, pretended not to have heard him. After the rebel -- accused of a very grave crime -- tried again, the journalist whispered, “Mujib bhai, we can't talk. There are intelligence people all over the place.”
That was probably the threshold. The infuriated leader thundered, “Anyone who wants to live in Bangladesh will have to talk to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman!”
Everyone, including the judges, now gave Mujib their uncompromising attention. That was an event that occurred on 19 June, 1968, the opening day of the trial named 'State vs. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and others'.
The historic trial, better known as the Agartala Conspiracy Case, was put forward by the government of the then East Pakistan, accusing Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and 34 others of sedition to overthrow the government. The court hearings were held in a small building in Dhaka Cantonment.
This building was converted to a museum, named Bijoy Ketan Museum, in 1999, inaugurated by Lieutenant General Muhammad Mustafizur Rahman.
The more than 60-year-old building – with the initiative of the heads of Bangladesh Army – had recently gone through a vital restoration, done by Engineer S. M. Shaheedullah. Nazneen Haque Mimi, interior consultant of Journeyman, conducted the renovation. The present director of the museum is Brigadier General A.S.M. Mushfiqur Rahman (P.S.C.); the deputy director is Major Md. Abdul Zawad.
A giant white sculpture based on the Liberation War in front of the building and a long terracotta work -- stretching from one end to the other – immediately lends the intended ambience and emotions.
As one walks past the well-maintained large lawns on both sides of the path, s/he enters a circular chamber, the reception area. Entering the renovated and redecorated reception, you are now inside the museum.
One of the many changes the museum has seen is the removal of the old false ceiling. “The ceiling of this building is very high, but previously the height was hidden due to false ceiling,” Mimi informed. “We decided to get rid of that in order to make use of the impressive height.”
Indeed, a museum should have a mesmerising and awe-inspiring impression. Having the ceiling at a great height helps to bring about the necessary vibe.
Other than the ceiling -- and the floors, which are now tiled -- Mimi has also changed the display boards.
“Previously, the display boards depicting the histories of Liberation War were smaller. Recycling the old materials, we have now made them larger, and consequently the font and typography is more readable, complete with improved graphics,” she said.
Bijoy Ketan Museum focuses on the people and the events that surrounded Agartala Conspiracy Case. However, it will be wrong to state that it has stuck to only one subject matter: it is a museum on the entire Liberation War in general.
One section of the museum houses about 84 arms pieces that were used in the war. The arms lie on a raised platform, bound by tempered glass walls for security. This gallery also provides much detail into the different events that occurred during the war, with display boards telling stories of the major battles, operations, attacks, milestones, etc.
But of course, the main attraction of the entire museum is the room where the trial took place. The room, unlike the others in the building, did not see much change.
“The room has been kept in its original state. The details have not been disturbed,” Mimi said. “Besides meeting the objective of preserving history, the room also gives a feel of antiquity.”
The bench is marked with majestic seats of the three judges who conducted the trial. Adjacent to the bench is the witness stand. In front of the judges are the steel chairs of the accused, separated from the spectators on the right with a wooden bar. Electric fans borne on long rods descend from the high ceiling. Beautiful old-fashioned lanterns hang from the ceiling. It was in this very room that our founding father and his compatriots fought for their freedom. It was in this witness stand where some of the state's witnesses had cried, revealing that they turned approvers after being tortured and forced.
The room stands as a testament to an important chapter in Bangladesh's history.
Near the historic courtroom there are galleries displaying various documents of the trial and possessions and objects of some of the heroes of the Liberation War.
Take for example the trophies of Sergeant Zahurul Haq, who was one of the accused. The sergeant, who was shot dead by guards in the cantonment while in prison, was a champion swimmer.
With so much history and glory -- and with the improved ambience and decor -- this museum is definitely worth a visit.
Bijoy Ketan Museum is open from Thursday to Tuesday from 3pm to 8pm. On Saturdays, along with the regular time, it is also open from 10am-12pm.
Special thanks to Nazneen Haque Mimi, interior consultant, Journeyman. For more information about the interior, email firstname.lastname@example.org