The Hindu Business Line
MILESTONE Dhaka’s biggest jail shuts down; open to public as a museum
Founder Mujibur Rahman also spent years in a cell
Many of Bangladesh’s most significant political prisoners have been incarcerated within the walls of the twocentury old Dhaka Central Jail. Now the prison, that has borne witness to much of the country’s brutal history, has opened to the public as a museum.
The last inmates of the 228year-old prison in the capital’s old Mughal quarters were relocated in July this year, and the gates of the 35-acre facility opened, allowing people to explore the jail for a 100 taka ($1.25) ticket, rather than being arrested first.
Over the last two centuries, the jail — the biggest in Bangladesh until it closed — has been a central stage for much of the country’s history Scores of mutineers were hanged and their bodies left to rot in the 1860s, following a rebellion against the British, which became known as the Sepoy Mutiny.
Bangladesh’s founding leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman spent years in one of the jail’s cells, leading the country’s budding separatist movement from there until the 1971 independence. In November 1975, just months after Rahman was assassinated in a coup, army officers stormed the jail and killed four top political leaders, plunging the country into prolonged military rule.
Sheikh Hasina and her sister — the only members of Rahman’s family who survived the coup — were among the first visitors to the newly opened jail.
The premier, who regularly visited her jailed father during the 60s, appeared overwhelmed with emotion as she visited the tiny cell where Rahman spent years. Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan said there was a plan to turn the old jail into a “historical and entertaining place,” with schools, shopping centres, a park and a museum.
“The number of inmates were almost tripled than its capacity, the authorities therefore built the new jail and transferred them,” Jail official Ashraful Islam Islam told AFP.
Several visitors who said they had spent months, even years, incarcerated in the jail without facing trial, said the facility reminded them of the harshness of the country’s criminal justice system.