The Financial Express

Recalling the tragedy of August 15, 1975

| Updated: October 17, 2017 19:02:45

Recalling the tragedy of August 15, 1975
In 1975, we were about 34 years of age in respective professional positions after passing out of Dhaka University in 1961. The preceding years were a period of academic serenity, democratic pursuits and vibrant mother language movement  of 1952 that later paved the way for the liberation war and emergence of sovereign Bangladesh comprising the territories of erstwhile East Pakistan in 1971. The new country emerged on the world map with immense sacrifices and nationalistic and democratic hopes of the people of all strata. It was the will of Allah that we were close to the course of turbulent history following our sovereign status when the neo-elites were in their run to fetch opportunities. Now that we are above 74, there is no time left but to write this column on what we have seen, done and heard for the progeny truly without any twist, as contemporaries want.
A very pertinent question we face from enlightened young generation is why the then government of Pakistan in erstwhile West Pakistan had to release Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib on January 08, 1972 and why he was killed brutally by his own men along with some of his family members on August 15, 1975. It is a sad testimony to the lack of our sense of history that neither the political parties nor the university teachers who're involved in party politics on the campus addressed this question, but evaded it shifting responsibilities and blaming each other. 
There were bickering among the political parties and Bangladesh refugees who took shelter in the relief camps set up by the central government of India in its adjoining Indian states under humanitarian considerations. The politicians and people of West Bengal extended helping hands to us as Bengali-speaking brethren. We gratefully acknowledge their gesture.
As a matter of fact, the 1971 genocide had drawn instant attention of the world that supported our democratic aspirations expressed through December 07, 1970 election. Such aspirations were facilitated by Maulana Bhashani in erstwhile Pakistan and Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman emerged as the undisputed elected leader. The Yahya-Bhutto duo conspired to stifle Bengalis by armed attacks, which were fought back by the valiant freedom fighters within the country, and those coming from camps backed by the Indian government.    
Bangabandhu returned to his homeland, addressed the largest ever rally in Bangladesh on January 10, 1972. But the way the '16th Division' i.e. fake freedom fighters, changed their colours to become close to power and reaped benefits subsequently along with Mujibnagar employees  need to be revisited by the new generation. Bangabandhu became the Prime Minister of Bangladesh on January 11, 1972.  The formation of Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (JSD) favouring scientific socialism by breakaway elements of Awami League on October 31, 1972 was intriguing. It spread countywide speedily and destabilised law and order further in an already delicate situation of a war-torn country. But, communists under the banner of National Awami Party (Muzaffar) and Communist Party of Bangladesh (Moni Singh), who were at Kolkata, formed 'the national advisory committee' on September 08, 1971 and did nothing to stem the tide against the new government and famine of 1974. Instead, they pressed for Bangladesh Krishak Sramik Awami League (BKSAL) and succeeded on February 24, 1975.
A strong voice of constitutional opposition was raised by Maulana Bhashani-led National Awami Party founded by him in 1957 to draw attention of the Awami League government to prevailing crises. He undertook fast unto death and hunger march, which were regarded with respect by Prime Minister Sheikh Mujib.  
We have seen how Awami League/BKSAL Minister Khandakar Mushtaq conspired to create an immoral support base by breaking service rules and started as Minister- cum-Chairman. He divided erstwhile WAPDA into two Boards, doubling overhead expenditures by appointing persons of his own choice under different pleas when the need was to rehabilitate war-torn projects to make Bangabandhu popular.  It became more apparent to this writer after he joined the Bangladesh Red Cross Society's national headquarters as Director, Finance in February 1975. 
Khandakar Mushtaq's conspiracy  was finally exposed  through the killing of Bangabandhu to satisfy his lust for power to be the President of Bangladesh by self-proclamation and the civilian chief martial law administrator to whom army chiefs, police and others expressed their allegiance over radio.  The irony of fate was that there was hardly any one from the Awami League leadership who protested and came out on the streets although most of the these leaders fabulously benefited from the regime. Many of the members of the Mujib cabinet were sworn in the Mushtaq government.
Later the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) emerged as a party based on power. On May 30, 1981, President Ziaur Rahman was killed. General Ershad toppled the government of elected BNP President Justice Sattar through a military coup on March 24, 1982 and formed his Jatiya Party.
We deeply mourn the tragic killing of Bangabandhu along with some of his family members and pray for the salvation of their souls. Let Allah bestow peace on them. We urge the ruling elite to make soul-searching and shun 'a two-party confrontational politics'.
The writer is an economist and socio-political activist.

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