Bangladesh: August 15, Then and Now

 

 

by R Chowdhury          8 August 2021

 

The Awami administration under Sheikh Hasina Wazed observes August 15 as Mourning Day. On this day in 1975, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, then President and Hasina’s father, died in a military coup that ousted the BAKSAL dictatorship. The day has been made a national holiday. From 2009, when Sheikh Hasina returned to power, said to be under an India-induced orchestration, the “mourning” has been extended for the whole month of August. In addition, the year 2020 was declared the “Mujib Borso” to commemorate the birth centenary of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. The celebration was extended until March 2021, to coincide with the Golden Jubilee of Bangladesh’s independence. The Borso, however, continues, the surging Covid-19 notwithstanding.

Let us revisit the history, for the benefit of the younger generations, as well as to refresh the memory of the elders who had experienced the creation of the country and its aftermath under Sheikh Mujib.

  1. August 15, 1975

Facts 

  • President Sheikh Mujibur Rahman died in a military coup. Most of his family members and a few soldiers also became victims of the early morning military action and a resulting crossfire. Sheikh Hasina and Sheikh Rehana, daughters of Mujib, survived as they were vacationing in Europe at the time.
  • Abdur Rab Serniabat, minister and brother-in-law of Sheikh Mujib, and a few at his residence died in a simultaneous military action.
  • Sheikh Moni, powerful nephew of Mujib, also died in a separate action,
  • Khandakar Mushtaque Ahmed, an Awami League veteran and longtime close associate of Mujib, took over as the new President.
  • Immediately, a cabinet was formed by the members of the Awami League, many of whom belonged to the previous Mujib cabinet.
  • Tawfiq Imam, then Cabinet Secretary, conducted the Oath-Taking ceremony of the new president and his cabinet.
  • All the above formalities were done when Mujib’s dead body was still bleeding on the stairs of his house.
  • With the lift of curfew for a few hours for the Jummah prayer–it was a Friday–the city streets were filled with jubilant crowds hailing the coup and the fall of Mujib. No remorse noticed. No tears seen. No Innalillah heard.
  • The coup and the fall of Sheikh Mujib was instantly hailed by the whole nation.

(What happened at the residence of Sheikh Mujib on that fateful morning was recorded in the book Three Military Coups and Some Untold Facts by Lieutenant Colonel (Retired) M A Hamid, psc.  The story was related to him by Major Bazlul Huda who claimed to have been at the residence of Sheikh Mujib on August 15, 1975. Please see the story in the Appendix at the end). 

Military Support

The service chiefs of the time

  • When under attack, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman called then Army Chief General K M Safiullah for help. The General did not. He rather suggested that Mujib should escape by scaling the back wall. Safiullah later acknowledged in the Daily Star and the Weekly Chitrali that he was helpless because he found the whole army was supportive of the coup.
  • The moment Brigadier Khaled Mosharraf, the Army Chief of the General Staff, learnt that the main guns of the tanks that were out for the coup had no ammunition, he immediately ordered shells for the guns.
  • Immediately after the coup, the chiefs of Army, Navy, Air Force, Bangladesh Rifles, Police, Ansar, even Rakkhi Bahini went to the Dhaka Radio Station to announce their support for the coup and loyalty to the new president. Their declarations went in the national radio. It would be ludicrous to think that “a handful of officers,” who staged the coup, forced them to do so.
  • If the military was not supportive, what prevented it from immediately crushing those “handful” of men? The army, Air Force, Naval Headquarters, Bangladesh Rifles, Police, Rakkhi Bahini, Ansars had a combined force of about 50,000 in Dhaka and Savar at the time. With equivocal support from the Air Force fighter/bombers, the tide could have easily been turned, if so desired.

Political Support

  • The post-coup administration was formed entirely by the Awami League members of the parliament, most of whom were in the Mujib cabinet. (No coup leader was seen within miles of the new administration, an unprecedented example in the history of successful coups/revolutions. Perhaps, to those patriots and dedicated souls, termed as “Surja Sontans” (Divine children), August 15 was to save the nation, not to run it).
  • Veteran Awami League leader Abdul Malek Ukil said about the fall of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman that the country was relieved of a Zalim Feraoun (Oppressive Faroah). Malek Ukil was the Speaker of the House and later became the President of the Awami League.
  • Another former Awami League Speaker, Humayun Rasheed Choudhury, said in the mid-1980s that Mujib’s sins could not be cleansed even if he was hanged a hundred times (The Weekly Suganda).
  • Following the August 15 coup, newspapers and TV channels were filled with greetings from various political, educational and cultural groups from all over the country. One may visit the media archives–national and international–to ascertain the facts.
  • “ঐতিহাসিক নবযাত্রা” (Historic March Forward)—that’s how the editorial of the daily Ittefaq, dated August 16, 1975, went. It wrote, Bangladesh defense forces accomplished a historic task to bail the nation out of the deprivation and disappointment of the past three and half years.

 Public support

  • People swarmed the city streets in thousands in jubilation and celebration of the success of the coup, in other words, at the ouster of the Mujib regime. The scenario could be compared to the victory day celebrations on December 16, 1971. Sharmin Ahmad confirms it in her book Tajuddin Neta O Pita (June 2014) p. 212:

পঁচাত্তরে মুজিব কাকুর জনপ্রিয়তা ছিল শূন্যের কোঠায়। তার নেতৃত্ব সম্পর্কে হতাশাগ্রস্থ জনগণ তার স্বৈরশাসনের অবসান কামনা করেছিল। যারা অতীতে একই নেতার জন্য প্রাণ আহুতি দিতে পর্যন্ত প্রস্তুত ছিল, তারা হত্যাকাণ্ডের প্রদিবাদ করেনি।মানুষ এই হত্যাকাণ্ডে উল্লাস প্রকাশ করেছে। হত্যাকান্ডকে সমর্থন করে স্লোগান দিয়েছে। (In 1975, uncle Mujib’s popularity went down to zero. Dismayed at his leadership, they wanted the end to his dictatorship. The same people who were once ready to sacrifice anything for him, made no protest at his death. They hailed his killing, gave slogans at his downfall)”

  • No Innalillah…was heard upon the news of Sheikh Mujib’s death. In fact, people heaved a sigh of relief with an Alhamdulillah. They thanked Allah; they had been saved!
  • It was declared a Day of Deliverance by Ataur Rahman Khan, another veteran leader of the Awami League and a latter-day Prime Minister.
  • Not an iota of resistance or protest from any quarter was seen following the coup or death of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. One may check the media reports of the times in the archives for facts. The 75 million people of Bangladesh were not at gunpoint not to mourn the death of Mujib, if they so desired.
  • “জনসাধারনের স্বস্তির নিঃশ্বাস (sigh of relief for the people),” wrote the Ittefaq, a pro-Awami, prestigious and largest circulated Bangla daily, on August 16, 1975. It likened the celebration to an Eid, the greatest Islamic festival. People offered special prayers and distributed sweets on the day. Such celebrations were also reported from Bangladeshi communities abroad.
  • Humayun Ahmed, a popular writer/director, wrote of his experience of the day:

শেখ মুজিবুর রহমানকে হত্যা করা হয়েছে, রাস্তায় মিছিল বের হয়েছে। দুর্ভাগ্যজনক হলেও সত্যি, সেই মিছিল ছিল আনন্দমিছিল। (Sheikh Mujib was killed, roads were filled with processions. The reality was that it was the jubilation of the people).”   

Diplomatic Acknowledgment

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

 

  1. Why Such Reaction?

The reasons are not far to seek. Let’s consider a few facts:

Few leaders in history received so much love, such adulation and such welcome as did Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on January 10, 1972 upon landing in Independent Bangladesh from his Pakistani protection. He was still their hero. He was their “Bangabandhu.”

Few in the crowd knew how Mujib tried till the last moment to save the unity of Pakistan, how eagerly he desired to occupy the seat of authority in Islamabad, how he dismissed Tajuddin Ahmad’s repeated request of declaring independence on the night of March 25, 1971 ((Please see Tajuddin Ahmad Neta O Pita by Sharmin Ahmad, 2014, pp 59,60,148). And worse of all, how he quietly surrendered to the Pakistani junta thinking of self and his family. The seventy million Bengalis who reposed their trust on him did not figure in his thoughts. They were left at the gunpoint of the marauding forces. Behind the surrender, another factor perhaps worked in his mind: avoiding an impending liberation war, which he never wanted.  Mujib never used the world “স্বাধীন বাংলাদেশ” অথবা “স্বাধীন পূর্ব পাকিস্তান।” “স্বাধীনতার সংগ্রাম” পর্যন্তই ছিল তাঁর হুঙ্কার। (Mujib never used the words “independent Bangladesh” or “Independent East Pakistan.” He called for the struggle for independence, as a warning to the Pakistani Junta).

Bangladeshis would soon discover the real Mujib and turn their love into hatred.

Bangabandhu turns Banga-Shatru?

Well-known Indian journalist and writer Khuswant Singh wrote in the Illustrated Weekly of India about Sheikh Mujib, “In 1970 he (Sheikh Mujibur Rahman) was the most-loved man by his people, and millions of others in India and elsewhere. Within a couple of years, he had lost much of his charisma and lived in a cocoon of self-spun esteem. He came to regard honest critics as traitors and sycophants as loyal friends. It was a classic case of folio de grandeur. He was blissfully unaware that the very people who called him ‘Bangabandhu’ or ‘Bangapita’ to his face were behind his back called him ‘Banga-Shatru’”

In his A book, a coup, some thoughts, former Ambassador and Secretary to the Government Syed Muhammad Hussain wrote about Mujib, “The smoke from his most expensive brand Erin pipe tobacco created a veil across his eyes and his senses, and he could not see for himself, nor were his ‘honorable’ bandoleers honest enough to keep him informed about the people and about their ever-growing problems and the rising tide of disenchantment through deprivation, neglect and unkept promises.”

Anti-Mujib Rally

On January 2, 1973, Mujahidul Islam Selim, Vice President of Dhaka University Central Students Union (DUCSU), at a Paltan rally in Dhaka, withdrew the “Bangabandhu” title given to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and cancelled his life-long membership of the DUCSU, publicly tearing off the page from the register. It was the same student leader who granted him the DUCSU membership the previous year. Selim had further asked all offices to remove the pictures of Mujib. Among other slogans at the rally, “Banglar Mir Jaffor, Sheikh Mujib (Sheikh Mujib, the Traitor of Bangladesh) was the loudest. Motia Chowdhury, a fiery Chatra Union leader (later a minister in Hasina cabinet), desired to make a dug-dugi, hand-held drum, and shoes with the back skin of Mujib. The rally was in the wake of the killing of some activists of the Student Union at Mujib’s order while they were demonstrating anti-American slogans for the Vietnam War. (See the Dainik Songbad January 3, 1973). Muldhara Bangladesh (www.muldharabd.com) compiled a comprehensive list of political and social repression committed in 1972-1975.

Rashed Khan Menon (another Hasina minister) of the Workers Party issued a statement on August 29, 1975 saying, “For the past three and a half years, the people suffered under the detested and anti-people regime of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and prayed every moment for its fall. August 15 had accomplished it.”  Younger generations need to dig the media archives and familiarize themselves with the Bangladesh of 1972-1975, the supposed “Golden Period” of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

Few may disagree that whatever little benefit of independence, freedom, democracy and harmonious development people of Bangladesh enjoy today—to be precise, before the present Hasina regime–was largely attributed to the August 15 political change.

Man-Made Famine

The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Guardian of London, the Far Eastern Economic Review and many other international media houses highlighted Mujib’s highly corrupt administration, under which 1.5 million people perished in the man-made famine of 1974 and its aftermath. Men and animals struggling for eatables in the city wastes were common sights. Poor women could not come out in the open as they did not have much to cover themselves. Dead bodies had to be buried with banana leaves.

   

City street scenes in Mujib-made famine in 1974.

Nobel laureate Professor Amartya Sen attributed the Bangladesh famine of 1974 to faulty economic policy and corruptive system. It was not cause by a sudden decline in the food supply due to natural causes; it was man-made, he asserted. Naturalist Charles Darwin took the theory further. “If the miseries of our poor be caused not by the laws of nature,” said Darwin, “but by our institutions, great is our sin.” Indeed, there was no dearth of relief goods, which remained hoarded in the warehouses of the ruling coterie, to be dispensed on political expediency or sold in the black market.

To contrast the hungry and emaciated multitude dying in the streets and countryside, Mujib celebrated marriages of his sons– Sheikh Kamal and Sheikh Jamal–in royal style at his official residence Gonobhaban in July 1975. So was Mujib’s birthday in March the same year. Official notices were sent out in advance to all offices, organizations and establishments to “celebrate the occasion” and present themselves before the “god” to pay their homage. The writer recalls watching the ceremony on the television screen how the processions paraded in front of the 32 Dhanmodi house, on the balcony of which the god took the salutes. On that day of heavy downpour, ladies in rain-soaked saris and salwar-kameez presented an unpleasant sight and the TV cameras generously focused on their curves. Few could dare to face the consequences of non-compliance.

Rakkhi Bahini

Mujib’s personal force of Rakkhi Bahini killed more than 30,000 political opponents. Enayetullah Khan of the prestigious Holiday put the figure at 38,000. A S M Abdur Rob of Jatiyo Samajtantrik Dal claimed that over 40,000 of his cadre were killed/disappeared during that period. Mujib himself bragged in the parliament of the killing of Siraj Sikdar, a top leftist leader.

Can one imagine how many additional lives would have been lost had there not been August 15?

At the end of 1974, Emergency was clamped in the country. Fundamental Rights were suspended. All but four government-controlled newspapers were cancelled. Political activities were banned. Anyone not toeing the official line was either in jail or not seen again.

The political openness and the media freedom we see in post Mujib Bangladesh were gifts of August 15.

BAKSAL

As if he did not have enough, Mujib made an eleven-minute constitutional coup on January 25, 1975 to make himself the omni-powerful President, showing the exit door to the sitting president Muhammad Ullah. In addition, he re-designated himself the “Father of the Nation.” The New York Times of January 26, 1975 termed it a “death knell on the nascent democracy in Bangladesh.” Reportedly, there was a plan, through the Awami-aligned Chatra League route, to make Mujib a Lifelong President.

August 15 stopped that dream of an extended repressive autocracy in Bangladesh.

The last nail on a virtual coffin of the nation came in the form of Bangladesh Krishak Sramik Awami League (BAKSAL), Mujib’s supposed Magnum Opus. BAKSAL was a socialism inspired one-party government. All other political parties were banned. The military and the bureaucracy were politicized by forcing them to join it. The country was divided into 61 political districts, each to be administered jointly by a BAKSAL governor and a BAKSAL Secretary, chosen personally by the leader. The system was to take effect on September 1, 1975.

Noted historian and author K Ali wrote in his book New Nation regarding Sheikh Mujib, “He was out and out a despotic ruler and snatched away fundamental rights of the people by introducing absolute dictatorship under a one-party system–there was hardly any doubt that the measure (one-party rule) was taken only to establish his permanent rule in the country without any opposition.”

August 15 stopped that dreadful path of governance.

Social scientist Azizul Karim wrote in the Bangladesh Strategic & Development Forum of June 4, 2005: “The period of AWAMI-BAKSAL rule was full of barbaric atrocities.” Its rule was “basically murder, rape, looting, oppression, plunder, famine, capitulation to foreign exploiters, white terror and, above all, betrayal of the spirit of the liberation war.”

 

  1. August 15 Under Sheikh Hasina

In one of her first official acts, Sheikh Hasina declared August 15 as National Mourning Day and holiday. It has since been observed as such.

For 21 years, five successive governments acknowledged and accepted the political change in 1975 and treated the coup leaders as heroes who saved the nation from a destructive slide. Things changed when Sheikh Hasina Wazed, daughter of Sheikh Mujib, gained power through a largely conspiratorial coup in 1996. Following a political and partisan trial, some of the coup leaders soon faced judicial murder. Hunt continues for the rest.

While observing the Mourning Day, the Awami League and its supporters start and end with their leader’s heavily edited version of the March 7, 1971 speech, a 10-second oratory: Ebarer songram swadhinotar songram… In an article, “Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, A Man of Ten Seconds?” R Chowdhury explains how it was a ten-second bluff. (Please see http://southasiajournal.net/%EF%BB%BFsheikh-mujibur-rahman-a-man-of-ten-seconds/).

Before joining politics, Sheikh Hasina expressed to at least two prominent personalities– Serajur Rahman of BBC and a senior official of the Forces Intelligence– that her only objective was to avenge her father’s death and establish his image. She did exactly those two things and nothing much for the country. Surja Santans have been hanged and people see Mujib’s statues everywhere around the country. Hasina’s Bangladesh knows nobody but Mujib, as if the land failed to produce any other leader. Sir Salimullah, Maulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhasani, A K Fazlul Haq, H S Suhrawardy, Abul Mansur Ahmad, Tajuddin Ahmed, Ziaur Rahman and many others who left marked contributions for the country and its people have been whipped out or pushed to the sideline.

The Mourning

The entire country is made to observe the day in “forced” weeping and other programs for Mujib. In a competition to outdo each other among the Awami sycophants, the country now gets flooded with crocodile tears. Government and Corporate Offices, business establishments and educational institutions are required to report their activities, less they face the wrath of the regime.

Now the whole month of August is the mourning month.

2020 was declared the Mujib Borso, a 600-crore extravaganza. The Mujib Borso continues through 2021. No end in sight of the Mujib “worshiping,” either forced or voluntary.

One may wonder, where were these people on August 15, 1975? Where was their Mujib love then? What happened to their tears that day? Why only 18 persons could be gathered for Mujib’s final rites?

One needs to revisit Mujib’s “Golden Rule” of 44 months and see the reality, rather than chasing myths and fictions. One may recall the exterminated 40,000 patriots at the hands of Rakkhi Bahini, and loss of 15 lakh people from Mujib’s famine and decide where the mourning is due, if at all. One may also ask why this boy had to travel 150 miles to reach Dhaka’s Mirpur Camp for a grub! (Ref: Eric Piper/Mirrorpix, December 6, 1974).

Finally, can one visualize what would have been the scenario if there was no August 15, 1975?  M M  Azizul Haq painted a grim picture of the country in his article Indemnity Rohit: Kar Sarthey? (Repeal of Indemnity: In Whose Interest?)” in the Daily Inqilab on November 1, 1991.

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Writer is a former soldier and freedom fighter in the War of Independence of Bangladesh.

 

Appendix

Major Bazlul Huda’s Story, as told to Lieutenant Colonel M A Hamid, psc. (An English translation by this writer follows).

“… মেজর হুদা আক্রমণের প্রথম থেকেই প্রত্যক্ষভাবে জড়িত ছিলেন। তার সাথে আমার অন্তরিক পরিবেশে কথাবার্তা হয়। তিনি এইভাবে ঘটনার বিবরণ দিলেন। আসুন শ্বাসরুদ্ধকর মূহুর্ত থেকে ঘটনা কিভাবে গড়িয়ে গেল, প্রত্যক্ষদর্শী মেজর হুদার মুখ থেকেই শোনা যাক

মধ্যরাতে মেজর ফারুক আমাদের অপারেশনের ব্রিফিং দেন। পরিকল্পনা অনুযায়ী আমরা ভোর ৫টার মধ্যে ৩২ নং রোডের বাসার চতুর্দিকে অবস্থান নেই। তবে আমি একটু আগেই পৌঁছে যাই গার্ডদের সাথে কথা বলার জন্য। বাসার গেইটের সেন্ট্রিডিউটি করছিল ফার্স্ট ফিল্ড আর্টিলারির সৈনিকরা। তারা আমাকে চিনতো। আমি অগ্রসর হয়ে তাদের বললাম, দেখ ভাইরা, সরকার পরিবর্তন হয়েছে। শেখ মুজিব এখন আর প্রেসিডেন্ট নন। তাকে আমরা বন্দী করে নিয়ে যাবো। আমার সাথে মেজর ডালিম, মেজর পাশাও আছে। বলাবাহুল্য আমরা তিনজনই রেজিমেন্টের পুরানো অফিসার। ডালিম কমান্ডিং অফিসার ছিলেন, আমি ছিলাম এ্যাডজুটেন্ট। আমার কথায় তারা সবাই রাজী হয়ে গেল। আমি তাদের শান্ত থাকতে বলে নির্দেশ দিলাম, আমার অনুমতি ছাড়া এখন থেকে কেউ যেন বাসার ভিতর না ঢুকে। এই বলে আমি বাসার পাশে একটি মেশিনগান স্থাপন করতে যাই।

এরিমধ্যে মেজর মহিউদ্দিনের নেতৃত্বে বেঙ্গল ল্যান্সারের সৈন্যরা বাসায় পৌঁছে ভেতরে ঢুকতে চেষ্টা করলে তাদের মধ্যে জোর কথা কাটাকাটি শুরু হয়ে যায়। তাদের চিৎকারে শেখ কামাল সতর্ক হয়ে ওঠেন এবং দোতলা থেকে ছুটে নিচে রিসিপশন রুমে অটোমেটিক রাইফেল নিয়ে অবস্থান নেন, সৈন্যরা বাসা আক্রমণ করতে এসেছে টের পেয়ে তিনি তাদের উপর গুলিবর্ষণ করেন। এতে সৈন্যদের একজন নিহত কয়েকজন আহত হয়।

দোতলার উপর থেকেও একই সময় প্রবল গুলিবর্ষণ হতে থাকে। তাদের গুলির প্রত্যুত্তরে উপস্থিত সৈন্যরা সঙ্গে সঙ্গে তার দিকে অবিরাম গুলিবর্ষণ শুরু করে। এই সময় পরিস্থিত নিয়ন্ত্রণের বাইরে চলে যায়। প্রবল গুলিবর্ষণে রিসিপশন রুমে শেখ কামাল মারা পড়েন। তার সাথে একজন পুলিশ ডিএসপি মারা যান। প্রবল গোলাগুলিতে উভয় পক্ষে লোকজন হতাহত হয়।

গোলাগুলি বন্ধ হলে আমি ঘটনাস্থলে ছুটে আসি এবং খোলা গেইট দিয়ে দোতলায় বাসার ভেতর প্রবেশ করি। আমি দোতালায় সিঁড়ির ধাপে এসে দেখি শেখ মুজিবুর রহমান সিঁড়ি দিয়ে নেমে আসছেন।

আমাকে দেখেই তিনি চিৎকার দিয়ে ওঠেন, ‘তোরা কি চাস্, তোরা কি করতে চাস্?’ ‘আমি আপনাকে নিয়ে যেতে এসেছি।শেখ সাহেব আরো রেগে যান, ‘তুই আমাকে মারতে চাস্? কামাল কোথায়? তোরা কামালকে কি করেছিস্?’ ‘স্যার, কামাল তার জায়গায়ই আছে। আর আপনিতুই তুইকরে বলবেন না। আপনি বন্দী। আপনি চলুন।এবার শেখ সাহেব গর্জন করে উঠলেন, ‘কি, তোদের এত সাহস? পাকিস্তান আর্মি আমাকে মারতে পারেনি। আমি জাতির পিতা। আমি বাঙালী জাতিকে ভালবাসি। বাঙ্গালী আমাকে ভালবাসে। কেউ আমাকে মারতে পারে না।বেশ কিছুক্ষণ তিনি আবোলতাবোল বকতে থাকেন। তখন আমি বললাম, ‘স্যার, এসব নাটকীয় কথাবার্তা রাখুন। আপনি চলুন আমার সাথে। আপনি বন্দী।শেখ সাহেব এবার নরম হয়ে আসেন। বললেন, ‘তোরা আমাকে এইভাবে নিয়ে যেতে চাস্? আমার তামাক আর পাইপটা নিতে দে।

এই বলে তিনি তার শয়নকক্ষের দিকে পা বাড়ান। আমিও তার পেছন পেছন যাই। মেজর মহিউদ্দিনও সাথে। আমার হাতে তার তামাকের টিন দিয়াশলাই নেই। তখন তাকে আর কোন টেলিফোন করতে বা সময় ক্ষেপণ করতে দেই নাই। কথাবার্তায় মাত্র মিনিট তিনেক সময় নষ্ট হয়। কামরা থেকে বেরিয়ে তাকে নিয়ে আমি সিঁড়ির বারান্দার মুখে উপস্থিত হই। তিনি সামনে, আমি তার একটু পিছনে বাঁ পাশে। মেজর মহিউদ্দিন দুতিনজন সেপাই আমার পিছনে। বারান্দায় নামতে এক পা দিতেই পেছন দিকে সিঁড়ি সংলগ্ন রুমের করিডোরে ঘরের ভেতর থেকে কেউ রাইফেল থেকে আচমকা গুলি ছোঁড়ে। আমার ঠিক পেছনে দাঁড়ানো সেপাই আহত হয়ে পড়ে যায়। আমি মেঝেতে শুয়ে পড়ে পজিশন নেই। শেখ সাহেব দাঁড়িয়েই থাকেন। সিঁড়ির নিচে / ফুট দূরে দাঁড়িয়েছিল কয়েকজন কালো উর্দিপরা সৈনিক। তারাও সঙ্গে সঙ্গে সামনে থেকে একঝাঁক গুলিবর্ষণ করে। গুলি শেখ সাহেবের বুকে আঘাত হানে। তিনি সঙ্গে সঙ্গে ধপাস করে সিঁড়ির উপর পড়ে যান। সৈন্যরা কামরা লক্ষ্য করে আরো গুলি ছুঁড়লো। এর পরপরই ঘরের ভেতরে বাইরে এলোপাথাড়ি বেশ কিছুক্ষণ গোলাগুলি চলে।

ঘটনা ঘটে গেল আমার চোখের সামনে একেবারে অপ্রত্যাশিতভাবে। আমি নিজেই ঘটনার আকস্মিকতায় হতভম্ব হয়ে যাই।

শেখ সাহেব তখন মৃত। তার বুক দিয়ে সিঁড়ি ভেসে প্রচুর রক্ত গড়িয়ে পড়ছে। তাকে অবস্থায় রেখে আমি নিচের দিকে যাই। দেখি সবাই ভয়ে উত্তেজনায় কাঁপছে। আমি তখন কি করি বুঝে উঠতে পারছিলাম না। যে সৈনিকটি আহত হয়েছিল তাকে ধরাধরি করে হাসপাতালে পাঠাবার ব্যবস্থা করলাম। সময় বাসার একজন কাজের ছেলের গায়েও গুলি লাগে। তাকেও হাসপাতালে পাঠালাম।

আমি নিচের দিকে তাদের একটু দেখতে গেলাম। এমন সময় দোতলার রুমের জানালা থেকে হঠাৎ আবার এক ঝাঁক গুলিবর্ষণ করা হলো। এতে গেইটের কাছে দাঁড়ানো বেশ জন সৈনিক আহত হলো। সঙ্গে সঙ্গে আবার চতুর্দিকে গুলিবর্ষণ শুরু হয়ে গেল। সৈন্যরা উত্তেজিত হয়ে উঠলো। একজন সৈনিক সাহসে ভর করে দোতলায় শয়নকক্ষের কামরায় জানালার ধারে পৌঁছে তাজা গ্রেনেড নিক্ষেপ করলো। এরপর সব শান্ত হয়ে এলো। কিছুক্ষণ পর আমরা কামরাটির দরজা ঠেলে ভেতরে প্রবেশ করলাম। সেখানে দেখি গ্রেনেডের আঘাতে কামরার ভেতরে জড়ো হওয়া সবাই নিহত হয়েছে। তাদের মধ্যে ছিলেন বেগম মুজিব, শেখ জামাল, শেখ রাসেল, বেগম কামাল বেগম জামাল।

জামাল গুলিবর্ষণ না করলে এরা সবাই রক্ষা পেয়ে যেতো, কারণ শেখ সাহেব মারা যাওয়ার পর এরা সবাই কামরার ভেতর জীবিতই ছিলেন। গোলাগুলিও বন্ধ হয়ে গিয়েছিল।

আমার চোখের সামনে এভাবে ঘটনাগুলো ঘটে গেল। বলা যেতে পারে সম্পূর্ণ আকস্মিকভাবে এবং কামাল, জামালের হঠকারিতায়। আমরা এভাবে তাদের মারতে চাইনি।

হুদা আরো বললেন, মেজর নূর সম্পূর্ণ ঠান্ডা মাথায় শেখ সাহেবকে গুলি করেছে বলে যেসব সংবাদ আমাকে উদ্ধৃতি দিয়ে প্রচার করা হচ্ছে, এসবই সম্পূর্ণ মিথ্যা বানোয়াট। মেজর নূর বাসার বাইরে মিরপুর রোডের রক্ষা ব্যবস্থায় ছিলেন। তাকে সময় ঘটনাস্থলে দেখেছি বলে মনে হয় না। এমনকি কোন কোন বইতে রিসালদার মোসলেম উদ্দিন শেখ সাহেবকে গুলি করেছিল বলে উল্লেখ করা হয়েছে। আসলে সেও সময় ঘটনাস্থলে ছিল না। মৃত্যুর সময় আমিই শেখ সাহেবের পাশে ছিলাম, ওরা থাকলেতো আমার চোখে পড়া উচিত ছিল। যারা সিঁড়ির নিচ থেকে গুলি বর্ষণ করে তারা আরমার্ড কোরের সৈনিক ছিল। একজন NCO ছিল। তবে তাকে আমি চিনিনা। তারা সিঁড়ির উপর করিডোর থেকে গুলি হওয়ায় ভীত সন্ত্রস্ত হয়ে ব্যালান্স হারিয়ে শেখ সাহেবের প্রতি গুলি বর্ষণ করে বলেই আমার মনে হয়। আমি শেখ সাহেবের বাঁ পাশে ছিলাম। ব্রাস ফায়ারে আমিও মারা যাওয়ার মত অবস্থা হয়েছিল।

শেখ সাহেবের বাসায় অপারেশনের সময় মোট তিন দফায় গোলাগুলি হয়। প্রথমবার গেইটে ঢুকবার সময় শেখ কামালের সাথে। দ্বিতীয়বার দোতালার সিঁড়ির মুখে যখন শেখ সাহেব নিচে নেমে আসছিলেন। তৃতীয়বার দোতালার দোতলার রুম থেকে যখন শেখ জামাল গুলিবর্ষণ করে। এতে বেশ জন সেপাই হতাহত হয়। তখন আবার গোলাগুলি শুরু হয়। রুমের ভিতর গ্রেনেড নিক্ষেপ করা হয়।

শেখ নাসের মারা যান নিচে অন্য একটি কামরায় আলাদাভাবে। তিনি কামরা থেকে বোধহয় মুখ বের করেন। সঙ্গে সঙ্গে তার উপর গুলি বর্ষণ করা হয়। আমি দেখিনি। মনে হয় তিনি পরে বাথরুমে ছুটে গিয়ে সেখানেই মৃত্যুমুখে পতিত হন। মূহুর্তে যুদ্ধ উন্মাদনায় সৈন্যরা বিভিন্ন রুমে ছুটে গিয়ে গুলি ছুঁড়ে, কিন্তু একটি রুম ছাড়া অন্যগুলোতে কেউ ছিলেন না।

কর্নেল জামিল মারা যান বাসা থেকে সামান্য দূরে সোবহানবাগের দিকে যে রোড ব্লক ছিল সেখানে। তাকে বাধা অতিক্রম করে অগ্রসর না হওয়ার জন্য সৈন্যরা নির্দেশ দেয়। তিনি না থেমে গাড়ী থেকে নেমে বরং উত্তেজিত হয়ে গালাগালি দেন। এমতাবস্থায় তার মাথায় গুলি করা হয়। পরে গাড়ীটি ঠেলে শেখ সাহেবের বাসায় আনা হয়। কেউ কেউ বলেছে মেজর নূর তাকে গুলি করেছে। তবে আমার তা মনে হয় না॥

লে: কর্নেল (অব🙂 এম হামিদ পিএসসি / তিনটি সেনা অভ্যুত্থান কিছু না বলা কথা [ শিখা প্রকাশনীফেব্রুয়ারি, ২০০৩ পৃ: ২৫২৮ ])

Below is an English translation of the text.

“At midnight, Major Farook gave an outline for the operation. Accordingly, we came to House No. 32 (Sheikh Mujib’s residence) and surrounded the place. Before we took position, I went and talked to the military Guards. They belonged to 1 Field Artillery Regiment and knew me. I told them that the Government had been changed and Mujib was no longer the President. We have come to arrest Mujib and take him. Major (Shariful Haq) Dalim and Major (Abdul Aziz Pasha) are with us. All three of us were former officers of the regiment. Dalim was the Commanding Officer and I was it’s Adjutant. They agreed to join us. I told them to keep quiet and asked them to see that nobody entered the house without my permission. I then went to fix (station) a Machine Gun near the house.

“Meanwhile Major Mohiuddin arrived with troops of Bengal Lancers and tried to enter the house. As Artillery soldiers tried to prevent them, there developed a verbal duel between the two groups. Hearing the noise, Sheikh Kamal got alarmed and came down from upstairs. Picking an automatic rifle from the Reception Room, he took position. When he understood that the military came to attack, he started firing indiscriminately. One soldier died and a few were wounded. 

At the same time, intense automatic firing started coming from upstairs. The (angry) soldiers returned fire continuously. Situation went out of control. Kamal and a Deputy Superintendent of Police died in the Reception Room. There were considerable fatalities in the crossfires.

After the firing stopped, I ran to the place and went in. At the entrance of the stairs I found Sheikh Mujib coming down from upstairs. After seeing me, he shouted at me, “What do you want ? What do you want to do with me?”

“We came to take you, Sir,” I said. 

“You want to kill me?” Sheikh Saheb asked in outrage. “Where is Kamal? What did you do with him?”

“Kamal is at his place, Sir. And please do not use demeaning language.” He was addressing us as Tui..Tui. “You are under arrest. Please come with me.” Sheikh Saheb was outraged and roared, “What, you have such audacity? The Pakistan Army could not kill me. I am Father of the Nation. I love Bengalis and Benglalis love me. Nobody can kill me.” Mujib kept uttering disjointed words for sometime. I said, “Sir, please stop the drama. You please come with me. You are in custody.” Mujib softened and said, “You want to take me like this? Okay, let me take my pipe and tobacco.?”

“So saying, Mujib proceeded towards his bedroom. I followed him. Major Mohiuddin also joined me. I took his tobacco and matchbox. We did not allow him to use the phone or waste any further time. This altercation already wasted about three minutes. After he came out of the room, I brought him to the steps and were descending. I was behind him to his left. Major Mohiuddin and a few soldiers were behind us. As we were about to step down, suddenly someone from  inside the house and through the corridor started firing at us. A soldier behind me fell wounded and I quickly ducked on the floor and aimed to return the fire. Mujib  remained standing. Six to seven feet below the steps stood a few black uniformed (Lancer) soldiers. They also started returning fire, in fact, towards us. A few bullets hit Mujib in the chest and he collapsed on the steps. The soldiers also started firing at the room from where the fire started. The firing from both sides continued for a while.

 “Everything happened before my eyes. So fast, unexpectedly. I was perplexed.

“Sheikh Saheb was dead, streams of blood from his chest flew down the steps. Leaving him in that state, I went down. Everybody was shaky, what with fear, what with excitement. Due to the suddenness of the action, I didn’t know what to do. Later, we brought the wounded soldier down and I sent him to hospital. A house servant also received a bullet injury and I sent him to hospital too.

“I went down to check the things. At that moment, brush fire restarted from the room upstairs. A few soldiers standing at the gate were wounded. The soldiers became agitated and brush fire continued from all sides. A brave soldier went upstairs and stealthily reached below the window of the room from where the fire was coming and lobbed a grenade inside. Everything became quiet. After a while, we opened the door and went inside. All inmates were dead. They included Begum Mujib, Sheikh Jamal, Sheikh Russel, Mrs. Kamal and Mrs. Jamal. 

“If Jamal did not restart the brush fire, all of them could have been saved. They were all alive inside even after Mujib was dead and the firing stopped. 

“Everything happened before my very eyes, in an abrupt manner, so unexpectedly. All because of the preemptive brush fires by Kamal and Jamal. We did not want to kill them like this.

“Huda further dismissed the rumors that he had said Major Nur cold bloodedly fired at Sheikh Mujib. They were totally false and fabricated. Nur was managing the road block outside the house on the Mirpur Road. I do not remember seeing him at the scene of the incident. Even some books mentioned Risaldar Muslemuddin to have fired at Sheikh Saheb. The fact was he was not at the scene at all that day. I was the one by Mujib when he died. If any of them were present, I would have seen them. Those who fired at Mujib from the foot of the stairs belonged to the Armour Core (Unit). There was an NCO (Non-Commissioned Officer, usually a Havildar or Naik), but I did not know him. My understanding is, they got frightened when the brush fire came from inside the room upstairs. They lost balance and returned fire. I was at the left side of Mujib and could have been killed (if I did not duck in time). 

  “During the operation at Mujib’s house, firing took place in three installments. First, Kamal started firing when the troops were entering the gate. Second, from upstairs when Sheikh Saheb was coming down the steps. Third, by Sheikh Jamal from inside the room (through a window). There were a few fatalities of soldiers from those fires. Finally, firing commenced from the soldiers, and later grenades lobbed inside the room.

 Sheikh Naser (brother of Mujib) died in another room. Perhaps he streaked his head outside the room and immediately received bullet fire. I did not see it (heard). Perhaps he quickly retreated to the room and died there. The outraged and somewhat uncontrolled soldiers kept firing in all directions, in all rooms. Except for one room, all others were empty though. 

 “Colonel Jamil (Chief Security Officer of Mujib) died away from the house, at the roadblock (on Mirpur Road) near Sobhanbagh. The soldiers manning the roadblock asked him not to cross the barrier. He did not heed. He became arrogant, came out of his car and started shouting at them calling names. At that point, he was fired in the head. His dead body was put back in the car, which was pushed to the driveway of Mujib’s residence. Some people say, Major Nur fired at him but I don’t think so.”

—-Three Military Coups and Some Untold facts by Lieutenant Colonel (Retired) M A Hamid, psc. Shikha Prokashoni. February, 2003, pp 25-28.   

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