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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2648

Those Days At BangabhavanIn August 1975: Reminiscence (Part 1)

By Rabindranath Trivedi

“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. 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. 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. In the context of Bangladesh and Bangabandhu, Prof Abdur Razzaq rightly observed in 1980,”(Bangladesh: State of the Nation, PP4-5, 1981,DU)

Bangabandhu was a charismatic leader whose uncompromising leadership and political farsightedness led to the independence of Bangladesh. He was personally religious but traditionally and politically secular and he had great love for the Tagore and Bengali nationalism that contributed to the framing of a contribution that speaks of democracy, nationalism, socialism and secularism. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman did not believe that the people of Bangladesh could assassinate him,’ even at commonwealth Conference in Jamaica, he brushed aside remark of the Indian Prime Minister Shrimati Indira Gandhi that she had sensed some conspiracy against him’. But he told Madame PrimeMinister that’ they are my children’. It is unfortunate that Bangabandhu died a terrible death despite his unending love for the people of his country.

On August 15, 1975 Major Dalim broke the news over Dacca Radio that a coup had taken place : ‘Under the leadership of Khondakar Mustaque Ahmed,the armed forces have taken over . In the greater interest of the country, this step has been taken .Sheikh Mujibur Rahman has been detained and his government has been toppled....’ Hours later, in another broadcast ,the situation was clarified that the Bangabandhu had been killed at his residence in Dhanmandi during the army takeover.

It was learned later Bangabandhu was sprayed with bullets on his chest while he was coming down the stairs from his first-floor bed-room. Little Russell ran towards a bathroom to escape but was gunned down. It was then the turn of Begum Mujib,who was shot in her bed room. She was followed by her two daughters –in –law , married less than a month and two sons Sheikh Kamal and Sheikh Jamal.

I was monitoring all the world bulletins of BBC, Radio Peking, AIR and Radio Pakistan. Bangladesh electronic media said :

By the morning of August 15,1975 the assailants of the massacre became 'children of the sun' and obtained the concurrence of the Chiefs of Army, Navy and Air force, who in separate broadcasts, declared their allegiance to the new government of Khondakar Mushtaq Ahmed.

Other law enforcing agencies, BDR Rakkhi Bahini, and Police in their separate messages through Radio expressed their allegiance to the new President. Kh. Mushtaque.

On the evening of August 15, the Friday, a council of ministers was sworn-in. Former President Mohammad Ullah was sworn -in as Vice-President. Six State Ministers were also included in the list In a nation wide broadcast on the same day Khondakar Mustaq Ahmed propounded the doctrine of historic necessity ' He glorified the role of the coup leaders 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.

On the evening of August 15, a council of ministers comprising Justice Abu Sayeed Chowdhury, Professor Yousuf Ali, Mr Phani Bhusan Majumder, Mr Manoranjan Dhar, Abdul Momen, Mr Asaduzzaman, Dr. A R Mallick, Dr Muzaffer Ahmed Chowdhury, Abdul Mannan and Sohrab Hossain was sworn-in. Former President Mohammad Ullah were sworn-in as the Vice-President.

Six State Ministers were also included in the list. They were Shah Moazzem Hossain, Dewan Farid Gazi, Taheruddin Thakur, Prof.Nurul Islam Chowdhury, Nurul Islam Manjoor and K M Obaidur Rahman.

Phani Majumder, a heart patient, was in convulsion in the PG Hospital. When soldiers went to the hospital to take him to Bangabhaban, Kabi Jasimuddin, a fellow patient, held him tightly and would not let him to go. "He is a good man. Don't take him away," Jasimuddin pleaded. I was told later that he had to come down to Bangabhaban on foot from P.G.Hospital. It was then a political convulsion threatening the stability of the new regime .

The coup leaders were stationed at Bangabhaban. The regime was taken up by the ‘ins’ and’ outs’ game. Those who were very much’ in’ with the Mujib regime (pro-Soviet and pro-India forces) were out, and those who were against Mujib (pro-Peking -left and Islamic forces) were’ in’ with the new regime. Of the three partners of the coup, the politicians, junior officers of army and civil bureaucracy-the ‘ins’group of ousted bureaucrats became powerful.

They were put in key positions of the administrative posts. The’ins’ and’outs’ game were everywhere- in the administration, police, Banks and other non-government organigations, too. Sycophants, collaborators, protégé of former Ayub regime, Muslim Leaguers, pro-Peking intellectuals, journalists of all regimes frequently attended Bangabhaban. It was to be expected that the new regime would place its own men in key positions. Shafiul Azam,former Chief Secretary of East Pakistan in March 1971,was appointed to the specially created post of Secretary General,and Mahbubul Alam Chashi,former Foriegn secretary of Mujibnagar Government,was made Principal Secretary to President Kh.Mostaque.

The Foreign Secretary Fakruddin Ahmed was made Ambassador to Italy and Mr Tobarak Hossain be came the Foreign Secretary.The three key appointment reflected the character of the regime The then Cabinet secretary H T Imaam was out of power on the day, the new national dress and head-gear (Mostaque Cap) was announced. “The doctrine of historic necessity” had come once more to justify a coup d'etat- if the administrative structure of the country could not be changed by "rule," the intervention of the Army was an absolute necessity. (The Bangladesh Times August 16, 1975).

So with the changes in the BSS,a news agency of Bangladesh, The Bangladesh Times and the post of vice president. All these institutions likeThe BSS, The Bangladesh Times (now defunct) and the Vice President ( now repealed) of the Republic were manned by all ’Ullahs’ like Aman Ullah (BSS), AZM Enayet Ullah (The Bangladesh Times) and Mohammad Ullah (former president, minister ) respectively. Editor of The Bangladesh Times in its front -page editorial opined that “. The armed forces have accomplished a task of great historical significance which offers unique opportunity to the people to shape their destiny in a manner that will bring happiness and prosperity to their motherland.” ( Bangladesh Times , August 16,1975)

In course of time, what had been construed as a golden opportunity for the people would ,in fact, be 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.)Yet Mostaque concluded his address with “Bangladesh Zindabad" "Joi Bangla"- the cry of the defiance, the cry for victory was not him and his fellow conspirators. They were mortally afraid of the slogan with which thousands had died for the liberation of Bangladesh." (Khatib, 1981, p-13). On 20 August, Mostaque took over all power of the government , placed Bangladesh under Martial Law and imposed curfew all over the country.

It’s interesting to mention here that after the coup on August 15, 1975 a government was formed to project a civilian appearance, power lies with the coup leaders. They made Bangabhaban their own permanent residence and operated from a martial law control room located there. They replaced Major General Shafiullah with Major General Zia as the Army Chief of Staff.on August 24, 1975. General (retired) MAG Osmani, was appointed Defence Adviser to the President which created a mixed reaction in the minds of the people and a respectable image so far, it was learnt.

The following the Dhaka Coup day, August 16, 1975, I joined my new assignment at Bangabhaban. Mr. Toab Khan, Press Secretary to the President did not turn up at to Bangabhaban.He presently executive editor, the dalyJanakantha, Mr. Mahboob Talukder, Dy Press Secretary to President (now retired joint secretary), was silent. Tajul Islam, Director (PR) Water Development Board (WDB), took the charge of the Press Secretary to the President.

However, his posting to the post was not then notified or gazette in the government records. Fariduddin Ahmed, Sr. Information Officer ( later retired additional secretary) and Sabiuddin Ahmed, Information Officer, later Private Secretary to the PM Begum Zia and Bangladesh High Commissioner to the UK) joined Bangabhaban with great enthusiasm to serve the military regime. They put a question mark over my presence there at Bangabhaban.Kumar Shankar Hazra , Press-aide to President, told me confidentially that Mr. M A Chashi ,a man of sophiscation of foreign service,who used to attend my room at Bangabhaban and asked many thing about news and views of the press.

Some of my colleague told me ,be cautious ,when you talk to him, he is man who disappeared from Comilla Rural Academy on August 13. He popped up at the Dacca Radio Station on the morning of 15 August in the company of Khondkar Mostaque and Taheruddin Thakur. I was a bit shaky after knowing all these events. Taheruddin Thakur gave us guide lines about news and its feedback.

(To be continued)

Rabindranath Trivedi, Freedom Fighter, an ex civil servant of Govt of Bangladesh

Those Days At BangabhavanIn August 1975: Reminiscence (Part 1)
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