My husband Moazzem Hossain came to my life silently and went away the same way. As it took some time for me to feel the joy of his presence in my life, it also took some time for me to feel the pain of his departure from my life. His love for me was endless. . . .I have never seen anyone as dutiful and generous as Moazzem in my life. His respect for his parents, love for his wife, offspring and siblings was incomparable. But above all, his patriotism and love for the people of the country surpassed everything.
One year after my marriage, he went to Bilet (England). He was a mechanical engineer and an employee of Pakistan Navy. He completed his studies from the Royal Naval College of Manadon, UK. He was a first class Marine Specialist. He took me with him when he was doing that special course. I noticed his anti-Pakistan mindset. Whenever there was any talk about the Pakistanis he would say, “You don't know how much they hate us, mistrust us! They say we are the illegitimate children of the Hindus and we have no right to call ourselves Muslims. They call us kutta (dog), gaddar (traitor). We don't get promotion -- they say we are “inefficient”. We get punished for making even a small mistake.”
After completing his training in England's Royal Navy College, Moazzem joined Pakistan's only cruiser ship named “Babar,” as a junior engineer. He was a sub-lieutenant then. Soon he became lieutenant. Then he became the chief engineer of a destroyer ship. I have seen how responsible, dutiful and hardworking he was. Although he didn't like Pakistan and the Pakistanis, nobody ever saw him ignoring his official responsibilities. If there were any trouble in the engine or boiler of the ship, he himself would get to work. There were many times when I waited for him to have lunch together, but he wouldn't come home. He wouldn't even come at night. Then the next day, at midnight, he would come home, covered in soot. . .
(. . .) The Bangalis had to face many adversities at their work. The Pakistanis never wanted the Bangalis to get promotion or earn a good reputation for their hard work. The Pakistani officers would get promotion bypassing the Bangali officers. This happened not only in case of the officers, the same happened to the “non-commissioned officers” as well. The lower ranking Bangalis had to face the worst type of discrimination. A Panjabi sepoy would clean the table while a Bangali sepoy had to clean the toilet. He could not tolerate such discrimination. Little by little, the fire of revolution sparked in his heart. Living in a lion's den, ignoring the fear of death, he started arranging a revolutionary organization. At first he was the number one accused in the Agartala Conspiracy Case, later his name came second. Because the prominent leaders of Pakistan said, “If a young man like Moazzem (he was 35 then), working in the Pakistan Navy, revolts against us, how do we face the world? Everybody would say was the Pakistan Intelligence Branch sleeping on the job?” Agartala Conspiracy Case was first named “State versus Commander Moazzem Hossain.” Around May of that year, they released Sheikh Mujib from the central jail and then arrested him again from the jail gate in the Agartala case and changed the name of the case to “State versus Sheikh Mujib.”
(…) But in whichever way they prepared the case, they knew very well who the main person was behind this. So they could not forget or forgive Moazzem. They didn't want to make the same mistake twice by letting him live. So in March 1971 they ordered the sepoys to catch him dead or alive. Many of his well wishers told him to run away. He said, “Why will I run away leaving behind the innocent people of my country?” Many suggested that he should go to India. He got very angry at this and said, “I will not go to India or let anyone from India come to this Bangla. If I must die, I would die in my own country along with my own people. That would be a happy death. And why would they kill me? I am no leader, I am a very ordinary person.”
(. . .) After being freed in the Agartala conspiracy case, he lived for only two years and one month. During this time he travelled through all the zillas of Bangladesh like a meteor, in order to inspire people in the spirit of nationalism. And the common people responded to his call. . . He didn't have much time left. One thing I want to make clear here -- Moazzem was never involved with the Awami League, or any party for that matter. None of the parties' policies ever impressed him. So he started his journey based on the Lahore resolution of 1940 and formed a committee in 1970 named the Lahore Resolution Implementation Committee. Members from many prominent parties joined the committee, believing in his ideals. So within one year the committee turned into a party. He named it the Nationalist Party (Jatiyotabadi Dal). I am unable to show any proof of this today because I do not know the whereabouts of the journalists who were present at that press conference. I had kept all the papers, leaflets, pamphlets, booklets, constitution, a map of Bangladesh, written and drawn by my husband, safe for all these years. But on March 5, 1990, after nineteen years of my husband's death, Mr. Rezaur Rahman came to take my interview. He took away all the papers (all of those were kept in a file) in order to present those on TV. It all happened in a very short time. So I gave him the main copies of the papers, not the photocopies. Now I don't have any documents. That interview was never aired on TV. I told Mr. Rezaur, “There is no point in taking my interview; you will not get permission to air it.” But he said he would make sure that the interview would be telecast. I didn't mind that the interview was not aired, but it hurts me more than his death could hurt me that I lost all the documents which were the last memories of my husband. . .
(. . .) The Pakistanis were very angry with Moazzem because he was freed in the Agartala case. They knew that he would not sit idly. So they planned to kill him. . .
(. . .) We passed the night of March 25, 1971 in anxiety. Although somehow we passed the night, the morning of March 26 still remains in our (my three children and my) memories. It appears as a terrifying nightmare. Around 6 in the morning, a team of army officers, assisted by a betrayer collaborator, surrounded our house and some of them entered the house. It was a three-storey building. We used to live on the ground floor, on the first floor lived my niece and her husband. That night we took refuge at the first floor. The whole place was wrecked within minutes by the army. Unable to escape, Moazzem hid in the bathroom. A group of army lined up all the men of the building outside while another group came to my niece and asked, “Bol Moazzem Shaheb Kanha?” (Where is Mr. Moazzem?) She looked at me and said, “Unlok niche rahta hay” (He is downstairs). They got angry at her answer and said, “Bol Mrs. Moazzem kanha?” Then added: “Moazzem ka Bangali banneka bohot shokh tha unko aachchhi tarha Bangali bana denge.” (Muazzem was very interested in being a Bengali. We'll ensure that he becomes a Bengali).
Till today I feel myself going numb when I remember those words. It was beyond my imagination that humans could be so cruel to one another. My niece Manju's answer was the same as before: “They live downstairs.” I wanted to say: “I am Mrs. Moazzem” but couldn't find a word. My younger son was asleep, the elder one was standing by the window… my six-year-old daughter was sitting beside me.
The army officers were firing continuously without any apparent reason. When it stopped, I thought they went away failing to find Moazzem. Then I pulled the curtains, looked through the window and said, “Manju, it is all over with me.” Saying this, I fell on the floor. Manju came running to me, covered my mouth with her hands and said, “Don't cry aunt, they were looking for you, if they hear your cry, they may come back and hit you and the children.” (. . .) Moazzem heard that the army officers were shouting my name. So he went to the army and said, “I am Commander Moazzem Hossain.” One of the army men said, “Apna jaan leke bhago”(Run for your life). Then they let all the men go. Five of them targeted their rifles towards Moazzem and said, “Bol Pakistan Zindabad.”(Say Pakistan zindabad) He proudly pointed his index finger towards them and said: “Ek dofa zindabad.” For he had only one dofa (demand) -- to liberate Bangladesh. Five rifles started shooting at once. He fell on the ground and said again, “Ek dofa zindabad.” (. . .) When I looked through the window, I saw that they were carrying him away. Although I looked for only one moment, I could see his shirt was totally soaked in blood. I couldn't see more as Manju called me at that time. I couldn't cry, but a fire was raging in my heart and eyes. I forgot to cry, forgot to pray or recite the Quran. . .
(. . .) It was like my life ended within a moment. My younger son was asleep. He knew nothing of what happened. When he woke up, everything was normal, nobody was crying. My elder son told him, “Bhaiya, they killed daddy and took him away.” My 8-year-old son looked at us with a blank expression; he couldn't understand what he had lost. But it was a severe blow for him to bear. Within 15 days he almost lost his ability to walk. Doctors said this could happen due to sudden grief. Nothing happened to me though. But till today I am tormented by pain and anguish. This pain may never go away. Is this the face of freedom for which my husband sacrificed his life and the soil of this country got drenched in his blood like the rising sun? Is this the liberation that he so yearned for, where there is no respect and security of women and no safety of people? Why the clamour of arms in our campuses? Does this mean that we are still not free, liberated? Who will answer my question?
Source: Smriti: Ekattar, Volume IV, edited by Rashid Haider published by Bangla Academy in 1991.
Translated from Bangla by Naznin Tithi of The Daily Star.