On November 15, Dr Azharul Haque left home for the hospital early in the morning although he knew his neighborhood had been cordoned off by the infamous Al-Badr Bahini

Syeda Salma Haque had her life figured out. Awaiting her firstborn at her home at  Hakim House on 22 Free School Street in Hatirpool with a loving husband, Salma was like any other woman in her early 20s in 1971. However, her life changed forever on November 15, 1971. Her husband Azharul Haque, a young promising surgeon, was picked up from his neighborhood by the Al-Badr Bahini along with another physician Humayun Kabir. Dr Azharul never returned home to Salma to see their child born in a free Bangladesh he had always dreamed of. He had secretly been treating people wounded during the war.

On this day [14 December] in 1971, renowned academics, doctors, engineers, journalists, artistes, teachers and other eminent personalities were dragged out of their homes, blindfolded and taken to unknown places and then brutally tortured and murdered as part of the blueprint of systematic execution of Bangladesh’s notable citizens.

On November 15, Dr Azharul Haque left home for the hospital early in the morning although he knew his neighborhood had been cordoned off by the infamous Al-Badr Bahini, a paramilitary group that had joined hands with the Pakistani military. Salma later heard from her neighbors that her husband was picked up by some unknown men.

Azharul Haque | Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

“ Part of me was telling me he might never return and part of me was telling me he would come back home. But the next day his body was found under the culvert near Notre Dame College along with the body of Dr Humayun Kabir,” she told Dhaka Tribune.

A few hours after Dr Azharul Haque was picked up, a group of five men, four of them armed, stormed into Salma’s house and asked questions about Dr Humayun Kabir and asked where her husband was. Salma thinks they came to her house to double check if they had picked up her husband or not.

Also Read- The day they took my brother away

The man in a baseball cap turned to her and said, ‘Don’t mind.” Then he looked at another armed man and there was a meaningful smile on his face. Salma told Dhaka Tribune that her memory was still so vivid in her mind and that shook her to the core.

I was scared for my life and my unborn child’s life. However, when they spoke in Bangla, I was slightly relieved, thinking they were Bengali, they were one of us and they would do no harm. But it was they who had taken everything from me,” she told this correspondent.

Photos of Syeda Salma Haque’s family adorn the wall of her home | Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

Dr Azharul Haque’s body was later taken to the Dhaka Medical College Hospital morgue, where one of the doctors present identified him.

Their son Nishan was born in January, in a war-scarred but free Bangladesh. Since then, life has been a never-ending war for Salma. She was not qualified to get her late husband’s pension as he was a young surgeon and had barely completed two years in his job at Dhaka Medical College Hospital before he was murdered. She was putting every single penny in use to raise her child and give him a better future. In 1973, Salma moved into a house arranged by the then government with a nominal rent at Elephant Road and has been living there since then. However, now she worries about being evicted because she claimed that a group was trying to claim ownership of this property and a legal battle was going on between the government and that group.

Salma never remarried. She spent her whole life with the memory of her late husband and her only son Nishan.

“ I was a person full of life. My husband’s murder left a void in my heart that no one can ever fill. I could never imagine anyone in his place,” she said.

Dr Azharul and Salma Haque met in the hospital when she was recovering from a gunshot injury in 1968. It was there that they fell in love. He treated the injured during the wartime in the hospital. He gave his life for his contribution to the liberation war of Bangladesh while he was going for work at his hospital.  Bangladesh was born out of strife and turbulence and owes its freedom to many martyred intellectuals like Dr Azharul Haque, patriots who never failed in performing their duties.

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