Bangladesh: November 7 Revolution Cannot be Separated from August 15


The Nov 7, 1975 Biplob

Can one deny that the August 15 Revolution and November 7 Sepoy-Janotta Biplob rescued Bangladesh from impending devastations? The deniers, if any, may visit Bangladesh of the time.

The Sepoy-Jonota Biplob (Soldiers-People’s Revolution) of November 7, 1975 was a historic event in the life of Bangladesh. It saved the country from a disaster created by Brigadier Khaled Mosharraf and Co. with their backers inside and outside the country. It also catapulted General Ziaur Rahman to the national stage. For the second time, the patriot soldier stepped forward, braving all odds, to bail the country out of the confusion and turmoil it was thrown into by vested quarters.

Zia Succeeded Where Mujib Failed

The first time was in March 1971. Then supreme political leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman talked big and loud on March 7, 1971: –Ebarer Songram Sadhinotar Songram, Muktir Songram, Tumra Durgo Gore Tulo, Rokto Aro Debo (Struggle this time is for independence, for freedom. Make your house a fortress. Will give blood for freedom) et al. But when the Songram time came, i.e., when the Pakistan military commenced its brutal massacre of the innocent Bengalis on March 25, 1971, Mujib chose to surrender to the military (the supposed enemy) while other leaders went into hiding. At that crucial juncture, Major Ziaur Rahman of 8 East Bengal Regiment cried out, “We Revolt” and fought the attacking military head-on. Soon, in a leadership vacuum, he stepped in and took control of the situation. He made the historic Declaration of Independence of Bangladesh from Chittagong. It had an electrifying effect, and the spirited public joined him in the liberation war. After nine months, and over a sea of blood, Bangladesh was born in December. During this entire period, Mujib and his family enjoyed royal hospitality of the Pakistan military. Zia succeeded where Mujib failed.

On November 7, 1975, the soldiers and the people placed Ziaur Rahman, initially an unwilling candidate, at the helm of the military and the nation. Within a few years, a “bottomless basket case” turned into a rice exporting country. Bangladesh became a country to reckon with among the neighbors, in the Muslim world and in the international community.

However, Zia’s success hurt some quarters. It did not go well with Mujib’s Awami League and its perennial backer India. For the AL, Zia’s success was a stark reminder of Mujib’s abject failures. Also, by declaring independence and leading the liberation war to victory, Zia stole the show at the cost of Mujib, who chose to absent himself from the war. On the other hand, New Delhi found that the independent minded Zia was an obstacle to its dream of a South Asian Akhond Bharat, in addition to subjugating Bangladesh to accrue its much needed economic and geopolitical benefits. Zia had to give his life in May 1981 in a plot suspected to be of an Awami-Chankya combine.

Another heartburn for the Awamis was that Zia’s assassination attracted more than two million mourners while the whole country celebrated Mujib’s fall. Only 18 persons could be gathered for Mujib’s final religious rites. To Hasina, Mujib’s daughter, Zia’s strong and successful legacy was intolerable. She attempted to condemn and destroy Zia, applying all the tools at her disposal–constitutional, legal and administrative–over the past 14 years of her illegal rule (because she assumed power through widely acknowledged fraudulent means). She also attempted to remove Zia from the country’s history. Anyone talking good of Zia was quickly penalized.

But can she really remove Ziaur Rahman from history and from the minds of the millions? Ground evidence doesn’t agree. It is a routine and popular slogan that Sara Banglar Dhaner Sheeshe, Zia Tumi Acho Mishe (Zia is enmeshed in each paddy of Bangladesh). Sheaf of Paddy is the symbol of Zia-founded Bangladesh Nationalist Party). Recent highly successful BNP rallies around the country testify Zia and his party’s enoromous popularity.

August 15

A coterie seems to ignore August 15 while discussing November 7. It is like accepting a child without acknowledging its father. November 7, November 3 (Khaled Mosharraf’s conspiratorial putsch) and August 15 looped together. The November 3 putsch was to undo the much-heralded August 15 Revolution, and November 7 was to restore the values of August 15. The quick failure of Khaled’s attempt at power grab is a testimony to the widely accepted national importance and rescue act of August 15. Anyone differing with this reality, needs to revisit the time and redo history lessons.

Zoglul Husain, an activist of Bangladesh’s independence in 1971 and an eminent political analyst and columnist, described Mujib as under:

“Mujib was a national traitor. The fascist Mujib regime killed 30 thousand patriots, perpetrated indiscriminate killings, torture, tyranny, oppression, repression, reckless plunder, caused an Awami-made famine, in which 1.5 million people perished, and above all, it sold out national interest and surrendered sovereignty to India. Mujib never wanted the independence of Bangladesh. On the night of 25 March 1971, he refused to declare independence, saying that he didn’t want to face the charges of sedition. He arranged with President Yahya Khan, his and his family’s safety, a hefty allowance for his family, and then surrendered. Yahya paid a monthly allowance of 1,500 rupees (about 5 lac Taka now) to the Mujib family for the 9 months of genocide and the freedom war. General Tikka Khan and other Pakistani military officers visited his family from time to time to look after them. Mujib’s mother was brought by helicopter to Dhaka for treatment by the Pakistan army. When Mujib’s daughter Hasina’s son was born in the army hospital, the military celebrated with sweets. Mujib thus collaborated with Yahya on the night of 25 March 1971, and he became the first collaborator and a national traitor since then.” 

The Tragedy of August 15

The tragedy of the August 15 Revolution is twofold. First, the objectives and accomplishments of the event have never been explained to the public. The coup leaders remained out of the country, and the follow up governments were busy minding their own business, ignoring the ladder that helped them climb where they were. Second, most people– the intellectuals, the writers, and the talk show hosts/guests shy away from discussing it. They seem to have succumbed to the feeling of “sensitivity” issue due to the one-sided drumbeating of a “murder” story by the Awami League and its sycophants. It was a national shame that the saviors of the country were made to walk to the gallows. The newer generation remained ignorant of why and what really happened on August 15? They are also subjected to distorted stories. Was it only a few unfortunate deaths? What about the benefits the day ushered: –-, the fall of an oppressive dictator, the return to multi-party democracy, the personal freedom, the human rights, the media freedom, the administrative accountability, and above all, an all-round prosperity?

We need to fix the history. Otherwise, history will not spare us. We have already started witnessing the signs.

For further studies on the subject, one may check the following links:

Bangladesh: National Revolution and Solidarity Day, its Significance and its Precursor (With inside stories) | South Asia Journal by Ariful Haq


R Chowdhury

November 7, 2022

Writer is a former freedom fighter of Bangladesh. He is an activist for democracy, human rights and freedom. Authored five books and co-authored half a dozen.