Graves of three language martyrs traceless | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, February 21, 2009 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, February 21, 2009

Graves of three language martyrs traceless

No steps taken to identify graves of Salam, Rafiq, Ohiullah

The graves of two of the five officially recognised martyrs of the Language Movement have been lost due to neglect by the authorities concerned.
Language martyrs Abdul Jabbar, Abul Barkat and Safiur Rahman were buried in Azimpur Graveyard and their graves have been preserved. But the graves of Abdus Salam and Rafiq Uddin Ahmed were lost in course of time.
The grave of another martyr, Ohiullah, an eight- or nine-year-old boy, who was recognised through private initiatives and is awaiting official recognition as a language martyr, is also traceless.
Jabbar's grave, though reserved since 1952 in Azimpur, also remained unidentified till 2002 as the authorities did not take any initiatives to find it.
None of the previous governments felt the necessity to put up a sign or plaque to help visitors know about all the martyrs.
The grave of Salam, who was a peon at a government office, could easily be preserved, as his brother Abdus Sobahan knew the location. But Sobahan died in 2000 and no-one else now knows the exact location.
"We could not afford to reserve the grave. None of the governments also took any steps to that end," said Abdul Karim, Salam's younger brother.
The grave of Rafiq, who was the first martyr of the movement, remains unidentified since his burial. His parents Abdul Latif, who died in 1962, and Rafiza Khatun, who died in 1989, waited till death to see their son's grave.
Ohiullah was killed on February 22, 1952 by the Pakistan police on Nawabpur Road when he was watching a procession. His grave was not found as the police hid his body, but records suggest a boy was buried in Azimpur during the Language Movement.
According to different books and writings including "Bhasha Andolaner Shaheedera" [martyrs of the Language Movement] published by Bangla Academy, and Bangla Ki Kore Rashtra Bhasha Holo [Bangla becoming the state language] written by MR Mahbub and published by Bhasha Andolan Museum, Ohiullah is known as the son of a mason, Habibur Rahman, but none of the family has ever been identified.
Preservation of the graves of Barkat, who was a student of political science at Dhaka University, Safiur Rahman, who was an employee of Dhaka High Court, and Jabbar, who ran a shop in his village market, was possible thanks to the initiatives by their families and relatives.
Shafiqur Rahman, son of Safiur Rahman, said they could reserve the grave as his uncle late Dr Ashzadur Rahman hid the bodies of his father and Barkat in the operating theatre of Dhaka Medical College Hospital with the help of his friends. Ashzadur was a medical student during the movement.
"My grandfather Mahbubur Rahman received the body after giving a bond to the government that they would not do any procession with the body," said Shafiqur quoting his mother Akila Khatun.
"My uncle buried the body in the night and reserved the grave by giving the authorities Tk 101," he added.
Ayenuddin Barkat Totu, nephew of Barkat, said their family took the body after signing a bond to the government and reserved the grave with the help of Barkat's maternal uncle late Abdul Malek, sister late Nurjahan and sister-in-law late ASM Mahmudul Hossain.
During an investigation by The Daily Star, names of five martyrs -- Salam, Rafiq, Jabbar, Barkat and Safiur Rahman -- were found in the burial records of Azimpur Graveyard.
Ohiullah's name is absent, but burial of an unidentified boy aged between five and 10 was found in the record book. The record, registered on February 24, 1952, says the boy died on February 22, 1952 at DMCH. It matches with reports of different newspapers published that time.
Record Keeper of Dhaka City Corporation Abu Zafar Md Elias said names of five Language Movement martyrs including the unknown boy were recorded in the book-2 of 1952. The name of Salam who succumbed to his injury on April 7, 1952 and was buried the next day was recorded in the book-3 of 1952, he added.
On the other hand, all the three identified graves were found on the list of reserved graves of Azimpur Graveyard. Among those, the grave of Jabbar was identified in 2002.
According to the list, the serial numbers of Barkat's grave is 3917, Jabbar's 3918 and Safiur's is 3941.
Barkat and Safiur's graves were reserved by their families but reservation of Jabbar's grave is a mystery, as his family did not do it and no official records are available about it.
AHM Asad Nayan, Jabbar's cousin, who identified the grave, said he took help from Dr Sirazul Islam, who was a surgeon of Rajarbagh Police Hospital and took part in the namaz-e-janaza of Jabbar.
Nayan and Md Nurul Islam Badal, son of Jabbar, said they did not know whether the grave was reserved or not as their family could not do it.
The families of Salam and Rafiq, on the other hand, blame the previous governments for not identifying the graves and demand proper steps in this regard.
They say the government should take initiatives either to find out the graves or keep all the graves in a particular place like the seven war heroes [Bir Shresthas].
"It's almost impossible for me to identify the grave now as the graveyard has entirely changed in course of time. But I heard from my brother that it was located under a mango tree," said Abdul Karim, Salam's brother.
Sculptor Rasha who drew the picture of Salam based on his family members' narratives in 2000 said he met Sobahan in 1998. Sobahan told him that they received a letter from the municipality in 1954 to reserve the grave giving Tk 101 but they could not afford that, Rasha added.
Echoing the demand of Karim, Rafiq's younger brother Khurshid Alam said they had applied to the municipality many times to identify the grave in vain.
Dhaka City Corporation Mayor Sadeque Hossain Khoka told The Daily Star on February 17 it is very tough to identify the graves now as it should have done this long ago.
Bangla Academy can take an initiative in this regard and they would help the Academy, added Khoka.
Director General of Bangla Academy Syed Mohammad Shahed said he doesn't know if there were any initiatives to identify the graves by the Academy and till now they do not have any plan in this regard.

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