The brave heart
Shock, grief, rage, fear, desolation, and lying beneath it all, pride. It was a kaleidoscope of emotions for her in the aftermath of the August 15 carnage.
Her world turned upside down when Anjuman Ara Jamil heard her husband Col Jamil Uddin Ahmed had died in the hands of fellow servicemen.
As the madness of the bloody August 15 sank in, shock and horror gave way to worries how to raise three daughters and another one to arrive.
With time, the feeling of hopelessness ebbed to bring in a sense of pride that her husband laid down his life trying to save the father of the nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
However, the wait for over 34 long years to see the killers brought to justice was an agony prolonged.
In an interview with The Daily Star, Anjuman Ara recounted the days when she plumbed the depths of horror and despair.
She said she is happy that trial of the case filed for the August 15 killings is at last complete. At the same time, she is afraid subversives might attempt something sinister over delivery of the apex court verdict.
Narrating August 15, 1975, she said, "We were at the Bangabhaban. It was around 4:30 when someone called Jamil and said Bangabandhu's house had been attacked.
"Jamil got up and ready in no time. I pleaded with him not to go out, but in vain. He did not let fear hold him back. He told me, 'How can I stay home when I know Bangabandhu is in danger?'"
Their second daughter Afroza Jamil, a child at that time, joined her mother reliving the painful hours: "Abbu [father] rushed out in our red Nissan Prince car with driver uncle Ainuddin at the wheel."
Anjuman said she heard him murmuring to himself, "Who's ordered withdrawal of 200 troops from the President's Guard Regiment?"
Jamil was shot dead near Sobhanbagh mosque, on his way to Bangabandhu residence on Dhanmondi-32.
Quoting the then imam of Sobhanbagh mosque, Anjuman said a group of soldiers waylaid her husband in front of the mosque. As Jamil gave his identity, the troops told him, "Sir, there is shooting going on at the president's house, don't go there."
"Undaunted, Jamil ordered the soldiers to march towards Bangabandhu residence to save the president in danger," Anjuman quoted the imam as saying. She said she cannot remember the imam's name though.
As Jamil asked his driver to start the car, Bazlul Huda showed up and asked the soldiers, "Who is he?"
When the troops said he was Col Jamil, Huda went to the car and sent a volley of bullets ripping through Jamil.
Back home, Anjuman's nerves grew ragged as she heard from a radio broadcast that Bangabandhu had been killed.
"After Ainuddin [driver] returned in the morning, I asked him where his sir was. He said nothing and left the house crying.
"For long painful hours I had no clue about Jamil. At around 1:30pm, Shafiullah [army chief then] called. I asked if he knew where my husband was. From the other end, he could only say, 'Bhabi, Jamil Bhai'…..and I passed out.
"In the afternoon, an officer came to our house and said soldiers had revolted and that it would not be safe for us to be here. He and some others took us to my brother-in-law's house at Lalmatia.
"I thought maybe Jamil was somewhere in the house. As I started searching the rooms for him, my mother-in-law said, 'Stop looking for him. He is not here.' With tears welled up in her eyes, she also asked me to say prayers.
"At around 3:00pm, the officer came again and took us to the residence of the then chief of general staff Khaled Mosharraf. The instant I saw legs of a corpse peeping out from a Land Rover parked there, I knew those were my Jamil's as he had an unmistakably fair complexion. I ran towards the jeep, but someone stopped me.
"After giving him a bath, they said they were taking him for burial. I said I won't let go of him. But after a while, they took him away."
Struggling to fight back tears, Anjuman told The Daily Star she believes her husband spared the nation a great ignominy by trying to resist some bloodthirsty officers from killing the architect of independence.
She said she is proud that Col Jamil, who had just been transferred to DGFI from his position as military secretary to the president, went out in a blaze of glory.
Worrying for him was nothing new to her. She had her share of anxiety before when Jamil was hauled up for questioning in the 'Agartola conspiracy' case in the late 60s.
It all helped her become a self- reliant mother when everything seemed to have been stacked against her.
She worked as a supplier for Bangladesh Army around 1977-78. "There were times when I bought rods at Tongi and had those supplied to the army in trucks," she said.
Later, she became a construction contractor and built up buildings at Zia Colony and Savar.
"Solvency returned after years of hard work. I even managed to build us a house on a DOHS plot, and saw my all four daughters wed," said successful mother.
In 1996, she was elected a lawmaker in women's reserved seats.