When no one was willing to take the plunge, he knew what he needed to do. Col Jamiluddin Ahmed, who was posthumously promoted to Brigadier General and awarded the Bir Uttam in 2010, brought into play the old principle of duty to leader and loyalty to country.
When not a single soul came forth to save Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman from the murderers storming his home, it remained for Jamil to rush to the defence of the nation’s leader. He had not been part of the War of Liberation, for circumstances had compelled him to stay back in Pakistan despite that burning urge in him to go home and wage war against the enemy. When he came back, a repatriated Bengali officer, he knew he needed to make up for lost time.Jamil’s sense of duty and dedication to loyalty were a reassertion of old values. Bangabandhu was impressed enough to have him take charge of presidential security. And Jamil did the job with competence. When tragedy struck Bangladesh on August 15, 1975, Jamil had been in his position for a brief while but he did look forward to some quality time in the service of the nation’s founding father. Destiny was to be something else.
In the pre-dawn hours of a day that came enveloped in the deep darkness of conspiracy, Bangabandhu made frantic calls for assistance to the army chief of staff, to his political subordinates, to others. The army chief wished to know if the President could come out of his house. Those others were either too stupefied or too afraid to respond. Not so Col. Jamil. When the President made contact with him, seconds before the assassins put the phone connections into non-workable mode, Jamil knew that duty called the soldier in him. In his night clothes, without assessing the gravity of the situation, he got into his car and rushed to Road number 32, Dhanmondi.
Close to the presidential residence, Col Jamil was accosted by the soldiers, all accomplices to the gruesome killings. They did not want him to go any further. In their naïveté and their misconceived thoughts, they thought this brave officer, having observed the element of fear at work, would turn back and go home. Jamil was not the man to go home without fulfilling his mission. He had not forgotten his training. And on that deadly dark morning, he did not forget his country and the leader who had led it to liberty. He ordered the soldiers to get out of his way. They pumped their bullets into him.
Jamiluddin Ahmed died in harness, in the line of duty. His sacrifice in defence of Bangabandhu, the President of the Republic, was proof, if proof were needed, of honourable men in the military yet ready to do their duty without being asked. The shame that morning was with the men who murdered him and murdered Bangabandhu and his family. The shame lay with those men who, having grown into political prominence in the brilliance of Bangabandhu’s politics, pretended as if nothing had changed. They met in cabinet, some of them smoked cigars, some smiled even as their supreme leader lay dead, sprawled on the stairway of his home in Dhanmondi.
On that morning of blood and gore and fire and smoke, a whole world caved in. The lights went out across the land. For Col. Jamil, for Bangabandhu and his family, life ceased to exist. And yet the tragedy of their death would bring them alive in the pages of national history.
This morning, as you mourn the passing of the Father of the Nation and his loved ones, do not forget to say a little prayer for Brigadier General Jamiluddin Ahmed, BirUttam. He was one man who reminded us, on August 15, 1975, of the values ingrained in duty and responsibility. Those are the marks of a patriot. Jamiluddin Ahmed was — and is — a patriot whose bravery remains sketched in sublimity.
The writer is a senior journalist