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20. Oktober 2010 3 20 /10 /Oktober /2010 20:29

August 15 in Retrospect: Walk the Memory Lane



August 15 is round the corner. On
this day in 1975, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, most of his family members and some
relatives died in a pre-dawn military coup. According to the Awami League
government-arranged trial, it was a “murder” or “assassination”. The defense and
others, however, argued that those deaths--including a few from the
attackers--took place in crossfire and could, at worst, be termed as casualties
of a successful coup. Nonetheless, unnatural deaths are not at all desirable and
it is extremely unfortunate that Sheikh Mujib and others had to die that

During the following 21 years, August 15 passed quietly and few
really bothered to recall the day. After Sheikh Hasina, the daughter of Sheikh
Mujibur Rahman, became Prime Minister in 1996, she initiated a trial for the
killing and made August 15 a ‘Mourning Day’. The process remained suspended
during the next 7 years of BNP plus Caretaker administration from 2001 to 2008.
Sheikh Hasina became Prime Minister again in January 2009 and quickly restarted
the process from where she left. Five of the accused coup leaders, who were at
hand languishing in Dhaka jail for long 13 years, were quickly sent to

The Hasina government reinstituted the ‘Mourning Day’ and August
15 has since been observed as such by the Awami League and its sponsored
supporters. On the other hand, most others consider it a ‘Day of Deliverance’
because the day heralded a new democratic beginning for the country, bailing it
out from the ugly clutch of an autocratic repression.

Walk the Memory

To understand the genesis of August 15, one needs to go back in
time to the Bangladesh of that period (1972-75), which those who lived through
and experienced can only visualize. Generations in their late forties and below
perhaps only heard or read about that period, again interpreting it from their
personal perceptions and political orientations. It will be totally illogical
and unfair to evaluate August 15 by those who did not walk that

Overtly though, the military coup of August 15, 1975 was staged
by a group of about two dozen young officers and participated by two half-sized
units, however, it seemed to have covert support of almost the entire
, as well as the whole nation. Following known facts corroborate

1. When under attack, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman called then army
Chief General Safiullah for help. According to Safiullah’s own admission, he was
helpless as he found that the whole army was supportive of the coup.

2. The moment Brigadier Khaled Mosharraf, then army chief of the
general staff, learnt that the main guns of the tanks that were out for the coup
were without ammunition, he immediately ordered shells for the

3. By 10 am on August 15, chiefs of army, navy, air force,
BDR, police, JRB (Jatiyo Rakkhi Bahini) and Ansars rushed to the Dhaka Radio to
announce their support for the coup and loyalty to the new president.

4. If the military did not support the coup, it could have
crushed that handful of officers and men within hours, if not

As for the public support for the coup, one may note
the following:

1. Hardly any Innalillah….was heard upon the news of
Sheikh Mujib’s death. In fact, people said to have heaved a sigh of relief with
an Alhamdulillah.

2. There was not an iota of resistance or
protest from any quarter anywhere following the coup or “killing” of Sheikh
Mujbur Rahman. One may check the newspapers in the archives for facts.

3. During the 2-hour relaxation of curfew for Jummah prayer on
August 15, 1975 (it was a Friday), people swarmed the Dhaka streets in thousands
in jubilation and celebration of the success of the coup. Similar celebrations
were reported from other parts of the country. The scenario may only be compared
to the victory day celebration of December 16, 1971.

4. People
offered special prayers and distributed sweets on the day. Such celebrations
were also reported form Bangladeshi communities abroad.


1. The post coup administration was formed entirely by
the Awami League members of the parliament; only exception was that former
president Justice Abu Sayeed Chowdhury was given the foreign ministry portfolio.
None of the coup leaders was seen within miles of the new administration.

2. Veteran Awami Leaguer Abdul Malek Ukil said on the fall of
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman that the country was saved form a Zalim Feroun. Malek Ukil
later became the President of Awami League and Speaker of the House.

3. Following the August 15 coup, newspapers and TV channel were
filled with greetings from various political, educational and cultural groups
from all over the country. Again, one may visit the media archives-- national
and international---to find facts.


The new government formed after the August 15 coup
was immediately welcomed and recognized by international community, including
India, the US, the USSR and the UK. China and Saudi Arabia accorded recognition
to Bangladesh for the first time.

The reasons for the overwhelming local
and international support for the August 15 coup are not far to seek. Following
facts may give an idea:

1. 40 Thousand Political Opponents
: According to various estimates, the Rakkhi Bahini, a
para-military political force and other draconian elements of Sheikh Mujibur
Rahman, killed 35 to 40 thousand political opponents and dissidents. Mujib
himself bragged the death of leftist leader Siraj Sikdar in the Parliament.
According to Professor Aftab Ahmed (a top former Chatra League leader) of Dhaka
University, nearly 42,000 political activists killed and about 86,000 jailed
between 1972 to 1975 (The Daily Star Nov 1998).

2. Half a
Million Lives Lost Due to Corruption
: The man-made famine of 1974-75 took
nearly half a million lives. There was no dearth of relief materials but they
did not reach the needy; they were hoarded at the AL leaders’ personal
warehouses instead, to be sold in the black markets or dispensed on political
expediency. Most dead could not receive the minimum burial rituals for want of
clothes. Men and animals struggled for food in the city garbage. To add to the
irony or insult, people witnessed the royal style weddings and birthday
celebrations at Gonobhaban, Sheikh Mujib’s official residence, around the same
time. Check NY Times of December13, 24, 1974 and January 26, 1975; the
Washington Post of November 8, 1974 plus other media sources.

Political Rights and Press Freedom Snatched: Under the emergency of 1974,
all fundamental rights were suspended, political activities banned, social
gatherings restricted and all but four government controlled media outlets were
closed. It was Morar Upar Kharar Gha!

4. Dictatorship
: In January 1975, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman amassed all state powers
to himself by changing the constitution in 20 minutes without any debate,
thereby becoming an absolute dictator.

5. One-Party Formed,
Democracy Buried
: In early 1975, Sheikh Mujib formed one-party BAKSAL
(Bangladesh Krishak Sramik Awami League), banning all other political parties.
For the first time, bureaucracy and military were politicized by allowing them
to join the BAKSAL. Sixty-one political Governors or Commissars were to take
post in 61 districts on September 1, 1975.

There is no doubt that
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman contributed greatly to the awakening of Bengalis in then
East Pakistan and he was a great inspiration for their fight for the
independence in 1971. However, he never himself talked of an independent East
Pakistan or Bangladesh. His demands and fight were for the autonomy of East
Pakistan, based on some Bengali civil servants-devised 6 Points, within the
framework of Pakistan. He did have a towering presence but not the intellect and
vision of Nehru, Gandhi or Mandela. In an overt pretense of greatness, he at
times showed characters of misunderstood complications. He failed to come out of
his narrow greed for self-glorification in one hand while blind weakness for
family and party members on the other. He and his followers took it granted that
Bangladesh was a personal property and everything of importance must bear his
name. He could never come to terms with Ziaur Rahman who dared to declare the
independence of Bangladesh after the Pakistani crackdown on Bengalis on March
25/26, 1971 and with Tajuddin who risked forming the Bangladesh government in
exile on April 17, 1971 and successfully steered it through the war of

On a closer look, Sheikh Mujib’s politics were hardly
without controversies, some of which proved to be very costly for the nation.
Let us revisit 1971 alone and pose a few questions to the nation:

Why did Sheikh Mujib request General Khadem Hussain Raja in Dhaka on the night
of March 6, 1971 to be taken into custody (if the accounts of Siddiq Salek in
the “Wintness to Surrender” to be believed)?

2. Why did Sheikh
Mujib come out with “…..Ebarer Sangram Swadhinatar Sangram, Ebarer Sangram
Muktir Sangram…...” and ended his speech with “Pakistan Zindabad” rather than
the much expected Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) of Bangladesh on
March 7, 1971?

3. Why did Sheikh Mujib choose to enter into a
protracted negotiation with the Pakistani military junta for the unity and
solidarity of Pakistan from March 15 to 24, 1971 even though he called for a
‘Swadhinatar Sangram’ on March 7?

4. Why did Sheikh Mujib
continue the dialogue---and publicly speak of its ‘progress’---with the
military, which was openly militarizing East Pakistan with an ominous evil

5. Why did Sheikh Mujib snub at the suggestion provided
by a representative (Capt Amin Ahmed Chowdhury) of senior Bengali offices in
Chittagong namely, Lt Col M R Chowdhury, Major Ziaur Rahman, Capt Rafiqul Islam
and others that a military crackdown on the Bengalis was imminent and if
permitted they could take counter measures?

6. Why should Sheikh
Mujib not take part blame for the Operation Searchlight by the Pakistanis aimed
at annihilating the Bengalis for not taking preemptive measures to counter it?
It was unthinkable for a politician of his stature not to visualize its advent,
the early warning from Chittagong notwithstanding. A timely political decision
and counter measures could have saved the lives of thousand of Bengalis on March
25/26, 1971 and then after.

7. Why did Sheikh Mujib choose to
surrender on the night of March 25, 1971 rather than make moves to lead the
nation for a liberation war? Reportedly, Tajuddin Ahmed, ASM Abdur Rob and
others went to his residence the same night requesting him to leave the house,
which Sheikh Mujib declined. Tajuddin and Rob said to have brought prepared UDIs
but Mujib refused to sign on the ground that the Pakistanis would then brand him
and try him as traitor. What a loyalty to Pakistan even at that crucial moment!

8. Why and how did Sheikh Mujibur Rahman call US Ambassador in
Islamabad Joseph Farland before his surrender at midnight on March 25/26, 1971?
Such a call at that juncture could only be possible with the help of Pakistan
military authority.

9. Why was the family of Sheikh Mujibur
Rahman allowed to stay at his Dhanmondi residence under the care and protection
of the Pakistan military during the entire period of the war, even though he was
being tried as a ‘traitor’ and two of his sons were in Mukti Bahini? The Sheikh
family was so peaceful and happy that Sheikh Hasina had son Joy during that
period. Few families in occupied Bangladesh having members in Mukti Bahini were
so fortunate!

10. Why did Sheikh Mujib never visit the wartime
Mujibnagar capital in Kushtia where Tajuddin formed the Bangladesh exile
government on April 17, 1971? Was it his disapproval of the Government-in-Exile,
which won the independence without him (Sheikh Mujib)? Perhaps, it was not in
Sheikh Mujib,s character to credit persons who outsmarted him, be that Ziaur
Rahman or Tajuddin.

Yet, Bangladeshis are forced to call Sheikh
Mujibur Rahman the “Bangabandhu” and “Jatir Pita” under a punishable law enacted
by his daughter!!

As the AL government and a section of people mourn
August 15, they should also pause and recall the killing of some 40 thousand
political opponents and loss of almost half a million lives in the ‘man-made’
famine (due to corruption) under Shiekh Mujibur Rahman.

A Obaid
July 30, 2010

Untold Facts Blog Archive Sheikh Mujib: Pakistan and
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