It was 17 May 1981. Sheikh Hasina returned to Bangladesh from abroad after six years following the assassinations of most of her family members including her parents.
Sheikh Hasina and her younger sister Sheikh Rehana survived the carnage of 1975 as they were living overseas when Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his family members were brutally killed. Later on she moved to India. Sheikh Hasina returned to her motherland after spending six years in foreign countries.
Even before her return, Sheikh Hasina, in her absence, was made the President of Bangladesh Awami League in 1981 with consent from all concerned.
Sheikh Hasina's late husband Dr. M. A. Wazed Miah described in his book "Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Ke Ghire Kichhu Ghotona O Bangladesh" how Sheikh Hasina rose to the top leadership of Awami League. Dr. M. A. Wazed Miah was a prominent nuclear scientist.
While Sheikh Hasina and Wazed Miah were residing in India, at that time during 1979 and 1980 some senior Awami League leaders visited Delhi to see them. According to Wazed Miah's book, Awami League leader Abdur Razzaq visited them on his way to Kabul.
Awami League leaders Zillur Rahman, Abdus Samad Azad, Amir Hossain Amu and Syeda Sajeda Chowdhury also visited Delhi at that time.
Their aim was to convince Sheikh Hasina to take over the presidential role of Awami League. Wazed Miah stated in his book that Awami League leaders visited Delhi to talk to Sheikh Hasina about the party's conference which was scheduled to be held in Dhaka on 13 to 15 February 1981.
Sheikh Hasina was declared as Awami League's President in her absence. Wazed Miah wrote in his book that it was informed to them over phone from London on 16 February 1981 that Sheikh Hasina was elected President of Awami League during the party's conference on 13 to 15 February 1981. Some more phone calls came from Dhaka and London congratulating Sheikh Hasina.
Next day a lot of journalists based in Delhi took Sheikh Hasina's interviews and published her opinions and comments in a number of newspapers.
One week later some high profile leaders of Awami League of that time visited Delhi on 24 February 1981 including Abdul Malek Ukil, Dr. Kamal Hossain, Zillur Rahman, Abdul Mannan, Abdus Samad Azad, Korban Ali, Begum Zohra Tajuddin, Begum Sajeda Chowdhury with her husband Golam Akbar Chowdhury, Amir Hossain Amu, Begum Ivy Rahman, Abdur Razzaq, Tofail Ahmed and some other leaders.
Dr. Wazed Miah recalled in his book that Dr. Kamal Hossain and Sajeda Chowdhury were given the responsibility to finalize Sheikh Hasina's date to return to Dhaka.
It was later on decided that Sheikh Hasina would return to Dhaka on 17 May 1981. Abdus Samad Azad and Korban Ali along with Sheikh Hasina and her daughter Putul reached Calcutta on 16 May by a flight of Indian Airlines from Delhi. They arrived in Dhaka on 17 May.
Dr. Kamal Hossain told BBC that senior Awami League leader Abdur Razzaq had first proposed to make Sheikh Hasina the President of Awami League. Begum Tajuddin played historic roles for resurrecting Awami League and keeping the party united during those tough days, he added.
Dr. Kamal Hossain further said that Sheikh Hasina was brought back to Bangladesh to hold the presidency of Awami League as a symbol of unity and confidence on father of the nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Sheikh Hasina has been able to retain the trust of the country's people throughout her political career, Dr. Kamal Hossain commented.
It was Sunday, 17 May 1981 when Sheikh Hasina came back to Bangladesh after spending long six years abroad. Wazed Miah wrote in his book that the whole area from Dhaka Kurmitola Airport to Manik Miah Avenue was spilling over with jubilant people who had gathered to see Sheikh Hasina on her return.
Several newspapers reported that 10 to 12 lakh people had thronged to greet Sheikh Hasina that day. However, Awami League leaders and activists say that at least 15 lakh people had come together to welcome Sheikh Hasina back to her own country.
Different newspapers of Dhaka highlighted the news of Sheikh Hasina's return next day which was 18 May 1981. All the people greeted Sheikh Hasina with Joy Bangla, Joy Bangabandhu slogans. Sheikh Hasina told the people at that time, "I am not a leader. Rather I am an ordinary girl.
I will be working with utmost struggle and devotion to establish the ideals of Bangabandhu and materialize the Golden Bengal he had dreamed of."