Killed in Dhaka Central Jail 79 days after Sheikh Mujib killing

Tajuddin Ahmad request Red Cross protection

On 1 November 1975 Syeda Zohra and the children visited Tajuddin Ahmad in Dhaka Central Jail. It would turn out to be their last meeting. Two days later Tajuddin Ahmad and his three long-term colleagues were to be murdered.

As soon as we entered [Dhaka Central Jail], my dad said very clearly "We will not be kept alive."

He said that last night he had dreamt of 'Mujib bhai' who told him "Tajuddin, I don't feel well without you. You come along."

Rimi recalls her dad seeing Sheikh Mujib in his dream days before his own killing

Tajuddin had sensed something dark was unfolding in the background. He feared an onslaught was imminent. He told his family and others to bring the jail under Red Cross's supervision. He told them to send the message out as soon as possible as the jail might be attacked.

Tajuddin's 500-page diary

During the two and half months he spent in jail, Tajuddin Ahmad wrote all the details in a journal which totalled 500 pages. When Zohra met him on 1 November 1975 he told her about the journal. But People from intelligence was sat all around them so he told Zohra faintly and in broken sentences and symbolic language e.g. "diary, 500 pages, red cover, black border", etc. Zohra understood what he was trying to say. That he would be assassinated and that the diary was important.

Killers gain entry in high security jail after Inspector General receives phone call from President Moshtaque

One of the key witness to the murder of the four leaders was a jailor of Dhaka Central Jail, Aminur Rahman. Aminur was asleep when he was awaken by telephone ring around 2am on Monday 3 November 1975. It was the Inspector General (IG) of Police, A. T. M. Nuruzzaman. Aminur paid his respectful greeting. The IG informed him he was coming to jail and that "some army officers" would be accompanying him.

Shortly afterward, two vehicles turned up at Dhaka Central Jail. In one vehicle was IG Nuruzzaman along with 4 more people. In the other was 2 more people. They were carrying sten guns and 303 rifles. By now the jell bell began ringing repeatedly and a large crowd of jail staff had gathered near the gate, baffled as to what was going on.

President Moshtaque rang the jail and spoke with the Inspector General. Aminur overheard A. T. M. Nuruzzaman expressing shock and disapproval of what was being asked of him by President Moshtaque.

At one stage there was a call from the Bangabhaban [President's House] on my telephone.

"I am President Moshtaque speaking."

Hearing that I ran to IG [Inspector General] saheb telling him that President wanted to speak with him. IG sahib was replying with "Sir, Sir...". There was a lot of us then at the jail gate. The jail bell began to ring. Jail gate was packed with people. Doctors, officers, us, the sepoys who were all awoke were there. We don't know what transpired through phone. He [IG] was sometime saying "No", sometime "Yes", sometime "Naa" [no in Bengali]. We could only hear his response. He also said "That's not possible, Sir. It's not possible."

IG saheb later told me that he was ordered "Do it. Whatever they like. Allow them to do whatever they like."

Aminur Rahman,

With a chit (i.e. short official note) in his hand, the IG went to the office of Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of prisons Kazi Abdul Awal ans said "Let's go inside".

As soon as the jail gate opened two of the killers entered the jail with IG. At this point DIG Kazi Abdul Awal told the IG that it was forbidden to carry weapons inside jail. He should tell the men to keep their arms here.

The rest of the killers, objecting to the gate not being opened, stood hesitating. They too began to enter the compound. But DIG Kazi Abdul Awal kept on objecting. Just before entering the new cell, they pushed him over and abused him by uttering "Bloody bugger or something to that effect".

IG then gave the chit to jailor Aminur Rahman in front of everyone and told him to bring the four leaders to one room.

Last moments of Tajuddin Ahmad, Syed Nazrul Islam, Captain Mansur Ali, and A. H. M. Kamruzzaman

Aminur Rahman prepared one of the jail room for the gathering. He placed a wooden table in the middle with two benches, not chairs, on either side for everyone to sit on. One bench for the four leaders and the other for the visitors. Aminur then went to get the four leaders.

In one jail room was Syed Nazrul Islam and Tajuddin. When Aminur went to their room he found Tajuddin Ahmad performing wudu (ablution before prayer) and Syed Nazrul reading the Qur'an. It was nearly time for fajr namaz, the first of five daily Islamic prayer performed before sunrise.

We were all sleeping then. We woke up due to the ringing sound of the jail bell. The jail bell had been ringing since 2.30 am and it continued on and on and on. All inmates of the jail woke up wondering what was happening. In the room adjacent to mine, exactly in front, was Tajuddin saheb, Nazrul Islam saheb and Korban Ali saheb. At 3 am a lot of people entered [the jail]. They walked around, opened the gate, and we heard the sound. They were talking. One dialogue I heard someone saying "You sit here. People from outside have come to talk with you."

Inmate Mahbubuddin Ahmed recalls overhearing Tajuddin Ahmad and Syed Nazrul Islam being taking away

Gunned down first, then bayoneted to death

The four men were gathered in the new cell and sat on the bench on one side, with Captain Mansur Ali nearest to the door. They waited for their visitors. When they arrived, Aminur began introducing both parties. But before he could even complete the name of Mansur Ali, the killers began shooting.

Just as I was introducing them by saying "M..." [i.e. Mansur Ali] they started shooting immediately.

Aminur Rahman on the bloody killing

The killers fired away randomly, heavily, then they ran away. But suddenly they heard cries of "water, water" coming from the room. So they ran back. They bayoneted the leaders to make sure the 'job was done'. With that, the four leaders, the leaders of the first government of Bangladesh who led the birth of the country, were massacred. They died 79 days after their charismatic leader and long-term friend and colleague Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the Jathir Jonok (Father of the Nation).

Minutes later the adhan (call to prayer) was recited all over the city.

Just 10 or 15 minutes before the adhan [call to prayer], I heard the firing. It was all automatic guns, brush firing. Then some people ran away in double march and some people were crying "Water, water...". From that room I again heard something like a splashing sound. I understood they were being bayonet charged. That is, those who were crying for water were still alive. To make sure that they were dead, those who ran away returned and by bayonetting them they made sure they were dead.

Mahabubuddin Ahmed

The Mujibnagar government was formed with all the stalwarts of Awami League, including Mushtaq Ahmed. These political leaders had been jailed under the orders of the President Mr Mushtaq Ahmed. I heard about the jail killing from the President's utterances when I went to meet him on the morning of 4th November. On seeing me, he started crying and I was surprised. On questioning him he said to me, "Don't you know that last night somebody went inside the jail and killed them?" I asked him "How did they get into the jail?" He did not answer.

M. H. Khan, Chief of Navy Staff (1975)

And so, on 3rd November of 1975, they brutally murdered our four national leaders who have been the life-time political companion of Bangabandhu and who led the Liberation War in absence of Bangabandhu.

Not only in the Liberation War, but these four leaders have been beside Bangabandhu in all the movements. When Bangabandhu was kept in prison several times, these four leaders led the Awami League movements ahead.


Others targetted

It is said that the killers also looked for two more influential Awami League leaders - Abdur Razzaq and Tofail Ahmed - in Dhaka Central Jail on the night the assassinated the four leaders. But luckily for them they were not in Central Jail at that time. Razzaq was kept in Comilla jail and Tofail was in Mymensingh jail.

On 3 November [1975], six or seven armed army men tried to enter Mymensingh jail to kill me, but the then jail super did not allow them to enter the prison.

Tofail Ahmed