15 August 1975: Brother-in-law Serniabat & family killed, including 4-year-old grandson
Not far from Sheikh Mujib's house, the Serniabats and Sheikh Moni were also under attack.
Major Dalim's killer team of Major Shahriar Rashid, Major Aziz Pasha, Captain Majed and Captain Nurul Huda got to Abdur Rab Serniabats' residence on 27 Minto Road at about 5.15am. There was only a police guard at the gate and probably to frighten him off the troops started shooting. A hail of bullets started coming from all directions. The gunfire awakened the household. Abul Hasnat Abdullah, the Cabinet Minister's 30-year-old son, looked out of his bedroom window and saw soldiers in black uniforms shooting at the house. Grabbing the sten gun he always kept with him, Hasnat ran down to the first floor to awaken his father.
The sun had not yet risen. We woke up and heard sounds of gunshots. My mother-in-law Amena Begum thought robbers might have attacked our home and insisted that we phone Bangabandhu [Amena's brother].
Shahanara Begum, wife of Abul Hasnat Abdullah
Serniabat calls Bangabandhu for help, but is shocked by what he hears
By now all the other family members had gathered in Serniabat's room. All bewildered by the turn of events. Amena asked her husband Serniabat to call her brother Sheikh Mujib for help and alert him of the attack. Abdur Rab Serniabat was already on the telephone trying to call Sheikh Mujib. The line was busy.
Meanwhile, Hasnat's wife Shahanara Begum took another telephone and dialled the number of Sheikh Fazlul Haque Moni. Moni picked up the phone.
'Some people have attacked our house, please do something', I told Moni bhai. He asked me whether they were in uniform. I told him there was no way to see that as bullets were raining down.
Shahanara informs Sheikh Moni regarding attack
A little later, Amena took over the phone and sought help from her nephew. Amena then insisted her husband call Sheikh Mujib again. When Serniabat tried again he managed to get through. But what came from the other side of the telephone shocked him further.
Father told Bangabandhu our house was being attacked by miscreants. My father told him to send help. At that moment I could hear someone shouting from the other end of the line. My father listened, He was shocked by what he heard. I got the impression that he had been informed that miscreants were also attacking Bangabandhu. My father didn't say another word. He put the phone down and sat on the bed. He just looked at me without talking.
Abul Hasnat Abdullah recalls his dad's last conversation
It seems your brother has not been spared either.
Serniabat informs wife Amena that her brother Sheikh Mujib is also under attack
Abul Hasnat's last ditch attempt to ward off attack
Hasnat went to a window and began shooting at the troops.
I just pulled the trigger and emptied the magazine. When the bullets were finished I ran upstairs to the store to get some more bullets.
The action saved his life. Moments later troops stormed the residence. They climbed the wooden staircase and went up to the first floor and broke the door which had been locked by the house helper.
Meanwhile Hasnat was in the loft desperately trying to break open the trunk where he kept spare magazines for his sten gun. As he tried to break the lock he could hear firing and the sound of boots approaching on the stairs. Leaving his gun on the floor Hasnat jumped and tried to squeeze himself through the skylight hoping he could escape onto the roof. He couldn't get through. So he jumped down and sat on the floor of the loft waiting for the men to come and kill him. Nothing happened.
In another account, Hasnat is believed to be hiding in the bathroom. The army had gone there, but they did not find him because of the darkness.
I heard his [Hasnat's] voice several times, warning those people not to come any further. I don't know where he went then.
Massacre of Serniabat family
The attackers seemed to know the house well. They broke the glass door, barged into the room and shouted "Hands up!". They destroyed the telephone set then made every one come down to ground floor with their hands up. The hostages were then taken to the drawing room. One of the army men enquired who were still upstairs, to which Shahanara replied she didn't know.
Abdur Rab Serniabat asked the attackers who was their commanding officer.
"What do you want? Why have you come here?" said Serniabat.
"We have no commanding officer," the reply came.
Shahanara was holding her 10-month-old son Sadek Abdullah (who later grew up to be the mayor of Barisal city) in her lap. Her elder son, 4-year-old Sukanto Abdullah Babu, climbed down the staircases to his mother, asking her to take him on her lap. She couldn't do this since Sadek was already on her lap. So Shahidul Islam Serniabat, Abdur Rab's nephew, held Sukanto in his arms. Shahidul had a big moustache and looked a lot like Hasnat so the killers may have mistaken him for Serniabat's son.
The attackers assumed that all the family members were present in the room. In a 20-minute long massacre that followed, the army officials - which included Major Shahriar Rashed and Captain Majed - rounded up all the residents and opened fire. Shahidul tumbled down on his face with Sukanto underneath. Abdur Rab Serniabat was hit in the chest and Shahanara on her back.
The attackers left the room. As they were about get in the vehicle, someone who was not hit by bullets started shouting from inside the house. The attackers returned. Major Shahriar Rashid, Major Aziz Pasha and Captain Huda and others opened fire again, indiscriminately.
My father-in-law was just beside me and I was taking my son [Sadek Abdullah] in my lap. I lied down behind my father-in-law's back. Four to five bullets hit my side.
My father-in-law fell on the ground.
Shahanara recalls the gruesome moment her family were shot
The attackers left.
After a while, some policemen came from Ramna police station after one of the security guards had called them. They started searching for Abdur Rab Serniabat. The police officials checked Serniabat's pulse and dropped his hand. He was dead.
Dead include a minor and two teenagers
Hasnat could hear shouts and occasional burst of gunfire. After a while the commotion died down and he could hear troops stomping out into the road. Hasnat waited a long time till everything was silent. Then very carefully he crept downstairs. He found the drawing room covered with blood, bodies and broken furniture. His wife Shahanara Begum, mother Amena Begum, brother Abul Khair Serniabat, 20-year-old sister Beauty, sister Rina Serniabat and domestic helps Rana, Rafiqul Islam, Lalit Das and Golam Mahmud were badly wounded and bleeding. His two young daughters, uninjured, were sobbing behind a sofa where they had hidden during the massacre. Lying dead on the floor were his 4-year-old son Sukanto Abdullah Babu, 13/15-year-old sister Baby Serniabat and his 11-year-old brother Arif, the family ayahs (maids) Potka and Laxmir Ma and his cousin Shahidul Islam Serniabat.
Of the 10 friends who had come along with the family from Barisal for the wedding of Sheikh Mujib's niece four days earlier, one (Abdur Nayeem Khan alias Rintu) was killed and five wounded.
Hasnat took his father's hand to check the pulse, but dropped the hand soon.
Shahan Ara asked her husband to see the condition of Sukanta Babu. He pulled Shaheed in order to separate Sukanta. Suddenly, a groan gushed out of his chest, as if he breathed his last.
Sukanta was bleeding from his nose and the body of Arif Serniabat, son of Abdur Rab Serniabat, was lay nearby. A bullet had pierced through Arif's head. Rab Serniabat's daughter Baby Serniabat's body was lying beside.
Abdur Rab Serniabat, his son Arif Serniabat, daughter Baby Serniabat, grandson Sukanta Babu, and relative Abdul Nayeem Khan Rintu were all dead.
The next day, the officer-in-charge of Ramna police station and other officials visited Abdur Rab Serniabat's home and took the surviving family members to Dhaka Medical College Hospital. Abul Hasnat Abdullah later escaped to India.
- Shahidul Islam Serniabat (1940 - 1975) Nephew of Abdur Rab Serniabat. Correspondent of 'Dainik Bangla' newspaper in Barisal.
- Baby Serniabat (1960 - 1975) Youngest daughter of Abdur Rab Serniabat. A class-nine student of Laboratory High School in Dhaka University.
- Arif Serniabat (1964 - 1975) Youngest son of Abdur Rab Serniabat. A class-four student of Laboratory High School in Dhaka University.
- Sukanto Abdullah Babu (1971 - 1975) Grandson of Abdur Rab Serniabat and son of Abul Hasnat Abdullah and Shahanara Begum. Was only four when murdered. Born in Gauranadi, Barisal.
- Abdul Nayeem Khan (aka Rintu) (1957 - 1975) A promising artiste and friend of Abdur Rab Serniabat's son who was killed during 15 August 1975 massacre along with Sheikh Mujib and his family. Son of late Abdul Khaleque Khan, founder chairman of Opsonin Group. Cousin of Amir Hossain Amu. Came to Dhaka from Barisal leading a cultural group to perform at a function during that tragic day.
I cannot forget their [i.e. family members] face to this day. Moments ago, they were having a chat, now they are all dead and cold.
He [Sukanto] came to our family during the 1971 Liberation War and left us with Bangabandhu in 1975.