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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2678

Indo Bangladesh Relations and Coup in August 1975

By Rabindranath Trivedi - for Asian Tribune from Dhaka

PART- I: Coup in Bangladesh Killed Bangabandhu on 15 August 1975

Dhaka, 04 August, ( The August, the 8th month of the zodiac, named after the great Augustus, is full of ecstasy and sorrowful events in this subcontinent. August gave birth to two nation states as Hindus and Muslims, India and Pakistan, sixty years ago in August 1947. The August also mourned for Rabindranath who died on 7 August 1941(Thursday 22 Srabon 1348 Bengali year) and Founding Father of Bangladesh Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman who died in a coup along with his family members except two daughters on 15 August 1975.

With their death, these noble sons of Bengal had contributed to civilization and their endeavor for nationhood had earned both for themselves and the Bangalees an honoured place in the community of nations.

The East Bengal renamed East Pakistan turned into a perpetual colony of Pakistan. The political movement that was launched for Bengali language and for democratic rights on different occasions subsequently turned into a freedom movement and war of Bangladesh liberation in 1971. In the War of Liberation the great poet Rabindranath was a source of inspiration at all stages.

It is a volatile nation whose roots baffle the historians. Bangladesh, rightly observed an American political scientist,” is a country challenged by contradictions”. The history of the birth of Pakistan was associated with communal strife and bitterness. But Bangladesh is the product of the War of Liberation. It was a movement against the Pakistani military-bureaucratic oligarchy for the establishment of democratic rights.

I was moved by Tagore's posthumous volume where
"Death like Rahu" reveals:

“That whatever I grasped as truth was only a tissue of lies -

How could the laws of nature be so unnatural?

This I know in my heart of heart;

He who knows the world exists -His I-ness is witness of the world's existence:

He too exists in the ultimate I.'

Some scholars have translated those verses, yet the intrinsic meanining of those poems employs a statement of doubt and negation- asserts doubts and negation and ultimately transforming into a confident affirmation. Those poetic statements become a means of communicating quintessential truth and amazingly fine nuances of feeling. Not a word is extra; some, in fact, are really telegram in verses.

Since Rabindranath's last journey for the 'great unknown' on August 7, 1941 (Thursday 22 Srabon 1348 Bengali year) the world has rolled in her orbit sixty six times. Many waters have flown to the Bay of Bengal. Since his death in 1941, India was partitioned and Bengal was divided in 1947 and its accompanying bloodshed. West Bengal has indeed gradually lost her leadership of India in every field-- political, commercial, intellectual and artistic. The crux of the political problem was the Hindu-Muslim divide in Bengal. It is even today a congenital defect that has crippled both the communities and particularly the Hindus in East Bengal.

Bangladesh is a product of Bangla language and double secessions. Bangladesh is a nation state that changed its statehood and identity twice in less than a quarter of a century. The dramatic emergence of Bangladesh runs counter to conventional tenets of nationalism in South Asia."The most tragic death of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in a coup on the night of August 15,1975 continues to haunt Bangladesh. The Coup of August 15,1975 in which Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his family were assassinated, shows how easy it really is to change a government by such means.

The events of the three months following the coup, especially the power struggle in the week of November 3, 1975, have also shown that it is easier to change a government than to established and maintain an effective administration.” (Raunaq Jahan, 2005, p- 165)

The country is now bitterly divided internally. The struggle for democracy still persists. A democratic Bangladesh at peace with itself and the world will be a long time coming unless the legacy of Bangabandhu is faced honestly and there is national atonement for the brutal murder, former editor of the Bangladesh Observer, Mr.Obaidul Huq (Obaidul Huq, 1996, p-132) noted.

It may be recalled after six decades of partition of India Founding Father of Pakistan M.A. Jinnah was in favour of making Pakistan a modern secular state as evident from Jinnah's 11August, 1947 speech in the Pakistan Constituent Assembly (CAP). But Jinnah's strong advocacy of Urdu as the national language of Pakistan provoked the Bangali of East Bengal to think seriously about their position. Their cultural identity threatened.)"Non-Muslims would have stayed back in Pakistan if Quad-e-Azam M A Jinnah's reinterpretation of the two-nation theory had been carried out. Its ethos becomes secularism, not religion.

He said that Muslim ceased to be Muslims and Hindus ceased to be Hindus; they were either Pakistani or Indian. Mahatma Gandhi, in turn, declared that he would live in Pakistan and seek no visa to enter. Gandhi was shot dead by the extremists and Jinnah was abandoned by similar elements and left dying as a disillusioned man. Both leaders who were at the helm of political affairs then did not envisage that the minorities would have to quit because of their religion in the country to which they belonged. Both were dejected when the migration began, Kuldip Nayer writes.' (The Daily star, 17 Dec. 2004).

The sad demise of Mahatma M K Gandhi by bullets and Quid-I-Azam M A Jinnah by Tuberculosis in 1948 put minorities in East Bengal under a pecuniary situation . If Jinnah continues his office one more decade, minority in the subcontinent may not quit their ancestral homes. "Non-Muslims would have stayed back in Pakistan if M A Jinnah's reinterpretation of the two-nation theory had been carried out. Its ethos become secularism, not religion..” Jinnah unequivocally did not want a theocratic state run Mullahs. His statements about minorities are significant: I am going to constitute myself the Protector –General of the Hindu minority in Pakistan’. Speech after speech confirmed this. A cabinet was created; Jinnah had seven ministers in the cabinet, one a Hindu Mr. Jagendra Nath Mondal.

“ Had Jinnah’s vision prevailed- and found an echo in India- we would have been a very different South Asia… There would have been open boarder, free trade and regular visiting between the two countries. The lack of tension would have ensured that the minorities were not under pressure and, as both Jinnah and congress leaders like Gandhi and Nehru wanted, lived as secure and integrated citizens. The fabric of society would have been different,and a more humane subcontinent might have engaged: s land true to the visions of the leaders and spirit of the sages.”(Jinnah,Pakistan and Islamic Identity, OUP, 1997,P-183)
And the assassination of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib in a coup on 15 August1975 put under identity crisis.

Both Pakistan and Bangladesh , these two nations under subsequent military rules over decades raised the question "Can Pakistan Survive?" and " Fragility Thy Name is Bangladesh”. Pakistan Army has been in politics; lacking in legitimacy, soldiers in power are always on the defensive. They rely on Mullahs, the prayer leaders, to mitigate some of it. The most glaring examples of military-Mullah alliance was seen in East Pakistan during 1971 and in General Zia's regime during 1970s and 1980s , the two are natural and historical alliances”( M V Naqvi, DS,14 April 05) .

History repeats itself , what had been a possibility in M A Jinnah's Pakistan that was established in Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib's Bangladesh -a secular democratic state, a state which makes no difference between a citizen and a citizen, which deals fairly with all irrespective of caste, creed or community in its constitution of Bangladesh-1972 but subsequent military regimes in Bangladesh changed the course of the nation .

“This, I believe, is what makes Bangabandhu the central figure of our time. In assessing the state of nation, the prospect the nation has before it; it is relevant to go a little into what may be called the driving force behind the phenomenon that is Bangabandhu. From 25th March 1971 to 10th January, 1972 Bangabandhu is totally absent from the scene where unequal forces are locked in a deadly struggle. Bangabandhu and Bangabandhu alone is the symbol round which the adherents of the forlorn cause group themselves. And that is no accident says Prof Abdur Razzak of DU.And he opined: “In those dark days, in that testing time, among the millions who would constitute the nation, there was no misunderstanding and there was no ambiguity.

Bangabandhu alone was the symbol. But there have been other symbols in the long freedom struggle in the subcontinent.” To take only two examples: Gandhiji and M A Jinnah. Either of them could sway millions; make them do their biddings. Jinnah, a man of the highest integrity, of very great forensic skill, a dedicated public man, had after due deliberation, espoused a cause which he believed to be righteous and brought it to amore or less successful conclusion. MahatmaGandhi was different. He did preach love.

But that was because love was Dharma-Dharma for all men. He belonged to the world. It was accidental that he was an Indian. He was a medieval man in the best sense of the term. Important as this life was, it was with him but a mere appendix to the far more important life to come, the everlasting life in God. This is the difference, large as life, between Bangabandhu on the one hand and Jinnah and Gandhi on the other. Bangabandhu had forged an indivisible fusion between and the nation.”(Bangladesh: State of the Nation,Prof Abdur Razzak , DU, 1981 P4-5)

History repeats itself, what had been a possibility in M A Jinnah's Pakistan that was established in Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib's Bangladesh -a secular democratic state, a state which makes no difference between a citizen and a citizen, which deals fairly with all irrespective of caste, creed or community in the Constitution of Bangladesh-1972 but subsequent military regimes in Bangladesh changed the course of the nation and becomes a theocratic state. "Sheikh Mujib combined in himself the charisma of Fazlul Huq and the patent political skill of Suhrawardy.

He consolidated the party, discovered the nation. He built upon the foundations of his elders but the thrust, the originality of his own leadership is beyond dispute. .. He gathered around him a band of devotees, willing to lay down their lives for the cause and many did. He was the man of the people, as Bhashani was, and, a leader of youths where he resembled Suhrawardy. Unlike political philosophers, Abul Hashem for example, he lacked in creed but his vision was whole. Heroes and tragedies go together. Tragedy was perhaps inevitable in this case too, but the form it took will remain an eternal shame to the people. Students of Shakespeare will look for the tragic flaw in Mujib's character…. What failed him, or who failed him?

In Shakespeare's heroes, it is not always the fatal flaws, which work on these flaws. In the case of Sheikh Mujib, the last, perhaps the greatest and certainly the most tragic of our heroes, the tragedy stemmed, perhaps equally from both within and without. The greatness of a tragic hero is hardly diminished on account of the flaws. The flaws explain, however weakly that may be, but never justify, the huge waste, the tragedy of the fall. There is a time for mourning and a time for exegesis.

Apparently, we have already passed from the one to the other. At a farther remove from both, there is a time for the poet, for the raw life to be transformed into art, for lived experience to be rounded off into a poetic vision. When the time comes, a great tragic poet may find his hero in Sheikh Mujib. He will have enough material for his work. What I wonder about, is how will he provide the catharsis-"Calm of mind all passion spent"? This will be his supreme challenge, opined Zillur Rahman Siddiqui in 1982.

The successive post-1975 governments have changed the concept of nationalism from Bengali nationalism-characterized by ethno-linguistic identities and not by religious (Muslim) identity - to Bangladeshi nationalism-characterised by religious (Muslim) identity of the Bangladeshi majority- which make them distinct from the Bengali Hindus of the Indian state of West Bengal who never showed any interest in forming a separate state based on Bengali nationalism.

In August 1975, I was then at Bangabhaban, the president’s palace, I could recollect those early days of Martial Law. In a nation wide broadcast on the 15 August, Khondakar Mustaq Ahmed propounded the doctrine of historic necessity He glorified the role of the Armed Forces in the following words: The armed forces had to come forward in changing the government as it became impossible to bring a change.

The armed forces have opened up the gate of “golden opportunity’” before the countrymen by discharging responsibility with utmost sincerity. “In course of time, what had been construed as a golden opportunity for the people would, in fact, is a “golden opportunity” for the army - an all-embracing form, the Bishwarupa - for making or unmaking the government and the constitution of the country. “ Wrote Dr Aleem-Al-Razee in his book (Constitutional Glimpses of Martial Law in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh).

“In Bangladesh, the end of one dream marks the beginning of another. The Army crackdown in March 1971 ended the Bengali’s dream for a fully autonomous East Pakistan, but it immediately created a new vision, the hope for an independent republic of Bangladesh. Perhaps, so it is now, although the traumatic collapse of the Mujib regime--and the death of the founder of the state--would leave the Bengalis in a state of shock for a long, long time. …. Yet sooner or later, the young republic, long used to a succession of tragedies, will again start looking at its future ready to make a new beginning. Again, there will be new dreams, new dreams and new hopes,wrote Mr. S M Ali.

Since then three and half decades have passed. Bangladesh has been changed in her course of path under military regimes .The legacy of lies in the body politic of Bangladesh that It was just one of the many lies that caused Bengalis so much grief in 1975. “The result has been a deeply divided, wounded society. A whole generation of Bengali men and women, born after liberation, has come of age through a palpable process of a peddling of political untruth.”(DS, 15Nov.06)

What Maulana Abul Kalam Azad cites two instances of “blunders” committed by Nehru in dealing with League in 1946? As he mentioned in his book entitled ’India Wins Freedom’. The same ‘blunders’ in different perspective had committed by Nehru’s daughter, Prime Minister of India Mrs. Indira Gandhi in dealing with Bangladesh and Bangali Hindus in 1971. Her father Pundit Jawharlal Nehru, a scholar politician and liberal democrat, made Bengali Hindus uprooted -refugee in Andaman, abandoned railway wagons of West Bengal and dense forest of Madhya Pradesh. And his daughter Mrs.Indira Gandhi, tapped by her statesmanship image, made Bangladeshi Hindus ‘Stateless Citizens’ in India and ‘power less –vote bank-vested property holding-citizens in Bangladesh’

Prime Minister Mrs.Indira Gandhi could realise that only ‘go back all refugees’ would not dissolve the old congenital Hindu-Muslim issue. She had lately recognised agony of Hindus after August 1975.

When she replied a question to BBC interviewer on 20 August 1975 that “ Whatever be the new situation in Bangladesh, India will remain dominant in the affairs of Bangladesh, if Pakistan becomes a close friend of Bangladesh, she may cause harm to India and then Bangladesh will become an issue of trouble in the sub-continent. As a result, the subsequent circumstances will not be favorable to India. Replying a BBC question Mrs. Gandhi said, "Of course, had the Government of Bangladesh adopted the Islamic principles, the question of the Hindu minority would have arisen.

The Hindu minority might also leave Bangladesh for India creating new economic and political problems for India.”

Bangladeshi Hindus become the perpetual slaves in the hands of history, their fate have been a concern of US, EU, UNs and Amnesty International.. India had done her job in returning refugees to an independent Bangladesh. What a fateful event in the annals of history that Bangladesh could not break away from the past and remained steeped in the legacy of her history of the 23-year existence as theocratic-military regimes owned part of Pakistan.

Both Pakistan and Bangladesh, these two nations under subsequent military rules over decades raised the question "Can Pakistan Survive?" and " Fragility Thy Name is Bangladesh” The defeated Axis of 1971has been organising the forces of retaliation by extending money, men and materials in Bangladesh. In the post-August 1975 period, the attitude towards the minorities changed and Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh, collaborators of occupation Pakistan Army, and other right wing religious anti-independence forces became partners in the power game with BNP and the army assuming the role of ‘arbitrators’ in Bangladesh politics.

Unfortunately, for the last three decades, Bangladesh– India relations have passed through several ups and downs of the successive Generals-turned-politicians’ regimes.

The relations between Bangladesh and India have changed in several phases. Correspondingly, relations have changed the basic fabrics of the fundamental principles with the color and texture of their bilateral relations. We will continue to discuss some points in the following articles. (to be continued)

Rabindranath Trivedi is a retired civil servant, author and columnist.

- To be continued –

- Asian Tribune -

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