Indira called KGB to verify ‘Chinese’ hands in Bangabandhu killing

Indira called KGB
Indira Gandhi perhaps swiftly suspected Chinese involvement, not CIA, in the 1975 Bangladesh coup which led to the tragic death of the Father of the Nation Sheikh Mujibur Rahman along with his family members. Leonid Vladimirovich Shebarshin the then KGB resident in India indicated as such in his book, ‘The Hand of Moscow: The notes of the chief of Soviet intelligence.’ Apart from the ‘Chinese’ factor, his narratives and attitude call for fresh scrutiny to understand the ongoing debate on foreign elements in the fateful events of 1975.

Shebarshin, who was later promoted as KGB Chief (1989-91) under Mikhail Gorbachev, unpredictably commented that “I should say, that such events cannot be easily forecasted…. How could one forecast that a young Major, who was offended at someone’s wedding, would not be nursing his insult, but would gather his friends and march to kill the “father of the nation” and proclaim an Islamic republic?’’

According to research by Prothom Alo, the “forecast’’ factor of the “such events”, as described by the ex KGB Chief, does not match the undisputed forecast given by the then RAW chief Mr Rameshwar Nath Kao. After his first meeting with Mujib in December 1974, he sent one of his senior RAW officers to Dhaka in March 1975 to brief further about a possible coup. Mujib was informed, Kao wrote in the Indian weekly Sunday (23-29 April 1989) that: “conspiracies against his life were being planned in two units of his army, namely the artillery and cavalry. Unfortunately, the Shiekh ignored all these warnings.”

The materials quoted here are from Shebarshin’s 1992 book and have been translated from Russian and provided to the Prothom Alo upon request by Dr Svetlana Chervonnaya, a Moscow based historian and researcher, who was personally acquainted with the ex KGB chief Shebarshin. She has a copy of the book with his inscription. In 1990s he approached her to ask if she had any opportunity to help him publish his book in the West. “To spill the beans, people of his background had to become defectors,” Ms Chervonnaya told this author on Sunday from Moscow through an e-mail.

Shebarshin was well-versed in Indian subcontinent politics and Sino-US relations as well. He was fluent in English, Urdu, Farsi and Hindu languages. He shot and “killed himself” with a pistol in 2012. The foreign powers at work in the shadows leading up to the coup are still being uncovered. Following the incident, most pro-Soviet news agencies worldwide reported it to have been backed by the CIA, an allegation constantly denied by the US. The US suspects that allegations of CIA’s involvement, as widely covered by the Indian press during the Emergency, may have been instigated by the Indira government.

When the visiting US senator Thomas Eagleton pointedly asked Mrs Gandhi on 21 August 1975: Do you believe that CIA was involved in Mujib’s murder? She has replied twice: we do not have such information. Now for the first time, after 41 years, the public domain has come to know of India’s apprehensive attitude concerning a possible Chinese involvement.

“I remember that on that day at the [Soviet] embassy we had a meeting of the party committee [‘partcom’]. As usual, we were discussing everything and nothing in particular…. In the morning, the officers [of KGB station] received their assignments, a request was sent to the Centre for information from Dhaka, I still remember the irritation I felt with this [party meeting] distraction from the real business.” It is also on record that RAW Chief Mr Kao, at the behest of Indira, met President Mujib to warn him about an impending coup. The President, however, paid no mind. The American papers also document their attempt at a warning although the details are yet to be unearthed.

A number of US declassified papers show US and Indian officials occasionally apprehending and talking about a possible coup or disorder in Bangladesh. Mr Shibershin wrote: “By 1975, relations between India and Bangladesh had aggravated. The earlier consensus had given way to suspicion, mutual reproaches and conflicts. At the dawn of 15 August, five officers of the Army of Bangladesh, leading an army squadron, burst into the palace of the President of Bangladesh, killing the “father of the nation” Mujibur Rahman, his relatives and the Prime Minister Mansur Ali. [Ali was actually killed in jail on 4 Novemeber.] Bangladesh was proclaimed to be an Islamic Republic. The events took India by surprise.”

However, the ex-KGB chief recalled in his memoirs: “Suddenly an officer on duty reports: there is a telephone call from the office of Prime Minister. One of Indira Gandhi’s assistants would like to see me at the office as soon as possible.” The national award winning soviet intelligence chief LV Shebershin has however brushed aside the possibility of any Chinese involvement in Bangladesh coup in his meeting with the Indians. Talking to the top aide of Ms Indira, “I said honestly that I have no grounds for such conclusion.”

Another of his narrations seem to indicate that he had no idea about the Bangladesh coup beforehand whereas it is a matter of great curiousity as to how the RAW Chief did not share this information with him. He was 27 when posted in Pakistan in 1964 and was rewarded for playing a pivotal role in the signing of the 1966 Tashkent pact. In early 1971, he was sent as a deputy KGB resident in India and during the Emergency (1975-77) he served as a KGB resident.

Leoned wrote: “I am quickly looking through the incoming information: nothing of substance, mostly wild guesses, deliberations and fears. I am going to the Office.” He did not reveal the identity of the caller he met that day but it may have been PN Dhar, the then principal secretary of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). Dhar acted as a close aid of Indira under PN Haksar in 1971 who soon replaced him and became head of the PMO. Initially the KGB resident was reluctant to rush to the PMO and discuss Bangladesh.

“I say that at the embassy there is a charge d’affaires ad interim (Ambassador VF Maltsev on leave), likely I have been invited through a misunderstanding; I am saying that I am ready to contact the charge d’affaires and have no doubt that he will arrive in half an hour.” Shibershin added further:

“The situation (in Dhaka) is interesting, but needs to be ascertained.” But he quickly decided to go when he was told by the caller that he has received “an instruction from the top (he had only one boss – Indira Gandhi) to meet with him”. He indicates that it was the PM herself saying “This is another thing, I think, – it is now clear.” LV Shebarshin wrote: “In the course of that first conversation I had nothing to satisfy the interest of the Indian.”

It may be recalled that in 1975 the Soviet leadership command in Moscow informed Communist Party of Bangladesh (CPB)’s top hierarchy there is no such proof that the CIA was instrumental in toppling Mujib. This proposition was still questioned by senior pro-Soviet leaders like Manjurul Ahsan Khan whether they (KGB) were competent enough to gather the correct intelligence. Ex-KGB agent Vasili Mitrokhin was reportedly given capital sentence in his absentia for his defection. He, with the clandestine help of Britain’s MI-5, brought the important documents into the UK and in 2005, of which the Cambridge historian Christopher Andrew, wrote “The Mitrokhin Archive II, The KGB and the World”. It confirmed that KGB in 1975 did harbor the belief of CIA’s involvement in the coup without any basis.

Lawrence Lifschultz, a distinguished US journalist, had in the beginning, possessed a similar belief that the CIA was not involved but has since then found strong evidence suggesting otherwise and has adjusted his position accordingly.

Mitrokhin notes

Christopher Andrew and Mitrokhine wrote in their book that in a newspaper interview after his retirement from the KGB, Shebershin spoke “nostalgically about the old days, about disinformation-forging documents, creating sensation for the press”. They have noted further that “the KGB claimed to have planted over seventy stories in the Indian press about CIA subversions. The Delhi main residency claimed that, thanks to campaign, Mrs Gandhi had raised the question of CIA operations in India during (October 1974) her talks with Kissinger.” The book claimed that Indira herself was convinced that the CIA was plotting her overthrow which she told Fidel Castro in 1973 at a banquet in Delhi. Indira also wrote a letter to the PM of Sri Lanka Sirimavo Bandaranaike about CIA plotting and she took it seriously and set up a committee to investigate.

By the summer of 1975, her suspicions of a vast conspiracy, aided and abetted by the CIA, had grown to ‘something close to paranoia.’ The Bangladesh coup, according to the said book, ‘further fuelled Mrs Gandhi’s conspiracy theories. Behind their murders she saw once again the hidden hand of the CIA.’

The China factor

Farooq and Rashid, the two top plotters of the Mujib killing, met the US political counselor on 21 October 1975 in Dhaka and sought the supply of US arms to prevent possible Indian intervention in Bangladesh. The following day the then US Ambassador Boster sent a cable to the Washington where it was stated that the duo is not expecting “adequate support’’ from China or Pakistan to thwart the Indians.

Later (20 November, 1975) in Bangkok, when the killer group was awaiting American visas, Farook Rahman told the US political officer: China has demonstrated its military muscle in the borders to warn India. Interestingly, the Indian officials told Henry Kissinger in 1974 in Delhi that they have intercepted a West Pakistani code message which indicates that President Yahya Khan was expecting military help from the sea and northern borders of China. Kissinger quickly replied: “we were not there.” Upon return from his secret visit in China in July 1971, Kissinger wrote to Nixon: Chou think that “India was responsible for the present turmoil in East Pakistan.” Chou also “recalled the Chinese defeat of India in 1962 and hinted rather broadly that the same thing could happen again.”

Kissinger concluded: “the Chinese detestation of the Indians came through loud and clear. Conversely, China’s warm friendship for Pakistan a firm and reliable friend was made very plain. The lesson that Chou may have been trying to make here was that those who stand by China and keep their word will be treated in kind.” But no overt military support was provided to West Pakistan by them in 1971. However, Chinese PM Chou recognised Bangladesh immediate after the August coup and declared the establishment of a diplomatic mission in October.

Source : The Hand of Moscow: Notes of a Chief of the Soviet Intelligence Service & Prothom Alo

Bangabandhu had no illusions about Pakistanis

#bangabandhu : Even in the early days of Pakistan, Bangabandhu had understood that there was no alternative to attaining independence. Consequently all his activities were directed at attaining independence for the country. After independence, the establishment of BKSAL was also aimed at the welfare of the nation. Many of his policies were later adopted by Zia and Ershad.
M Nazrul Islam’s “Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Souvenir 3” compiles articles by educationists, journalists, judges and other intellectuals who elaborately explain Bangabandhu’s times and his political philosophy. Justice Golam Rabbani in his article says: On May 8, 1947 Sharat Bose and Abul Hashim had made a move for an independent Bengal but it could not be realized because of the hindrance of Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Mohammad Ali Jinnah.
Soon after the creation of Pakistan in 1948, the Bengalis of East Bengal, which is now Bangladesh, opposed the Pakistan government’s proposal of making Urdu the only official language of Pakistan. Bangabandhu was part of the protests against imposing Urdu. “Soon, unknowingly he was the center of activities,” Justice Rabbani writes about Bangabandhu in the early days of Pakistan.
Rabbani further writes: “During the Liberation War, Bangabandhu was imprisoned but he remained in the hearts of all Bengalis. He was the inspiration for the Freedom Fighters.”
The deceased editor of the Bengali daily, Dainik Sangbad, Bazlur Rahman, in his article writes about a meeting between Bangabandhu and Communist Party leaders Moni Singh and Khoka Roy in 1962. During the meeting, Singh and Roy raised the issues of democracy, autonomy and the rights of workers and peasants. Bangabandhu told them that the Pakistanis were not going to accept any demand, peacefully. Everything would have to be fought for.
Despite disparaging remarks about BAKSAL, both Zia and Ershad incorporated four issues from BKSAL’s programme. They are: National unity, routing corruption, family planning and increasing production. These were to form part of Zia’s 19-point programme and Ershad’s agenda, too.

Bangabandhu crying like a child on that day to see off his daughters


“Bangabandhu cried like a child on that day. Those who heard him crying from close range they could hardly check their tears witnessing that Father of the Nation drenched deep in tears for his wards (offspring). Only exception was Bangamata as she was tearless then. She had an inherent quality to bury deep in her heart unlimited pains although her face was badly pain-stricken for loosing anything big.”

Bangabandhu’s private secretary Dr Mohammad Farashuddin said this in an exclusive interview with BSS recalling the fond memories of the incident relating to seeing off both of their daughters by Sheikh Mujib and Begum Mujib at Kurmitola Airport on July 30, 1975, a fortnight before their gruesome assassination, on August 15 the same year. With tears the seasoned bureaucrat went back to his memoirs of 1975.
“The day was 30th July, 1975. Bangabandhu and Bangamata came at Kurmitola Airport to see off their eldest daughter and incumbent Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, both of her kids Putul and Sajeeb and youngest daughter Sheikh Rehana. I was with them then. Bangabandhu cried like a child bidding farewell to them and Bangamata was motionless in speechless pains,” he added.
Sheikh Hasina’s nuclear scientist husband Dr M Wazed Miah was then engaged in research work in nuclear reactor science in a nuclear research centre in Karlsruhe city in West Germany then. That day Sheikh Hasina along with both of her kids and younger sister Sheikh Rehana went to Germany to live with her husband there.
There was no ward to console Bangabandhu then as the signs of deep pain reflected on his face after he bid farewell to both of his daughters, said Dr Farasuddin asking him as to why he has broken down in such a manner to an incident of happiness when his daughter was going to her hubby’s place of work and her kids getting an opportunity to have their father’s warm lap.
Dr Farashuddin quoted Bangabandhu as replying, “My son (Babare), you won’t understand what has been going on in my heart right now as I am turning blue in pain inside.”
Terming the incident of both the daughters of Bangabandhu going abroad a fortnight before the August 15 carnage as a miracle, Dr Farashuddin who was like a son to Bangabandhu couple, said, “They (both the Bangabandhu’s daughters) would have been the victims of the brutality had they not been gone abroad on that day and we would not have gained today’s independent and sovereign Bangladesh.”

He (Bangabandhu) was more of father figure than a legislator: Indira

Prime Minister Indira Gandhi with Sheikh Mujibur Rahman
Former Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi saw Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman closely and made some candid remarks about him from political and personal points of view. In one of the remarks Gandhi made in her biographical book, “My Truth”, reflected that she was also overwhelmed in seeing the caring father figure of Bangabandhu, which overshadowed all other amazing characteristics of the Father of the Nation.
“He was a very sentimental, warm-hearted person, more of a father figure than a legislator,” Gandhi wrote in the book, in which she also noted some historical truths while talking about her unequivocal support to the people of this country during the War of Independence in 1971. Gandhi was aware about the deteriorating political situation in the erstwhile East Pakistan, but did not have the updated information in detail about the fast changing situation in Dhaka.
“At first, the only thing we knew was that the Pakistanis were fighting instead of accepting Mujib (Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman) as the elected Prime Minister,” she wrote. However, as days passed by and updated information started to come up, the world came to know that people of the then East Pakistan began war for independence in the name of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Referring to this history, the former Indian premier wrote in her book, “Whatever they (people of Bangladesh) did, they did in his name and for him.”
Gandhi realized that something extraordinary was going to happen in the then East Pakistan as she described in her book that the war in 71 was not an ordinary war and it was a political matter rather than a religious one.
However, she wrote, “We kept out of it as long as we possibly could” though “there was a persistent demand for action and some people felt that we should have moved our troops there.”
Gandhi recalled in the book that she was elected the leader of the Congress Parliamentary Party and the prime minister of India for the third time in succession merely a week before the black night of March 25. In September 1971, Gandhi visited Moscow followed by a three-week official tour in October to European countries “to tell people there that if they had any influence on the Pakistanis, they should try and get them to act more reasonably.”
From the very beginning of the war, Gandhi was confident about the independence of Bangladesh: “I had no doubt in my mind that the Bangladeshis would win their freedom. Not the slightest doubt.”
The political and personal role of Indira Gandhi in the War of Liberation in 1971 has been highly appreciated by the people of this country. But her role was officially recognised by the government of Sheikh Hasina when the country celebrated its 40th independence anniversary in 2012. The government conferred the Bangladesh Swadhinata Sammanona on Indira Gandhi posthumously for her “outstanding contribution” to the country’s independence from Pakistan. Gandhi was, in fact, the first foreigner who was given the highest state honour.

‘Bangabandhu’s killers plotting to turn Bangladesh a failed state’

The killers of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman are still hatching conspiracy to turn Bangladesh a failed state, freedom fighters, academics and civil society members in Rangpur said. Rangpur City Mayor and valiant freedom fighter Alhaj Sarfuddin Ahmed Jhantu said the anti-liberation forces and the killers of Bangabandhu are still hatching conspiracies to turn Bangladesh into a failed state.
As part of the new conspiracy, they carried out the recent militant  attacks, killing innocent foreign and local citizens to destabilise the country, he said. Vice-chancellor of Begum Rokeya University Professor Dr AKM Nurun Nabi said Bangabandhu was assassinated at such a crucial time when he had engaged himself in restructuring the war-torn nation with the spirit of the War of Liberation.
“We would never get independence without Bangabandhu,” he said and asked all to become united for resisting the anti-liberation forces who assassinated Bangabandhu to reverse our hardly-earned independence. Legendary freedom fighter Taramon Bibi, Bir Pratik, said the pro-Pakistani perpetrators assassinated Bangabandhu as part of a deep-rooted conspiracy to reverse the spirit of the War of Liberation and destroy dream of independence.
“I cannot believe even today that Bangabandhu might be killed on the just-liberated soil where the great leader sacrificed and spent every moment of his whole life for serving the purpose of the Bengali nation,” she said. President of Rangpur unit of Ghatok-Dalal Nirmul Committee Dr Mofizul Islam Mantu said the pro-Pakistani killers took control of state power after assassinating Bangabandhu, frightened the people and putting many of the freedom fighters and politicians into jail.
“Bangladesh has already achieved the status of low middle income state on its way to become a middle income country by 2021 and a developed nation by 2041, taking proper revenge of Bangabandhu’s assassination,” he added.
Assistant Professor of Begum Rokeya University Dr Tuhin Wadud said the deep-rooted conspiracy to reverse independence and spirit of War of Liberation through assassination of Bangabandhu finally failed.
“The nation has already completed the trial of Bangabandhu’s killers and executed most of them while the process for bringing back the fugitive killers is going on,” he said.
Rangpur district Commander of Bangladesh Muktijoddha Sangshad Mosaddek Hossain Bablu said the conspirators assassinated Bangabandhu, the most popular world leader of the time, stunning the nation and the whole world community. Chilmari upazila chairman Shawkat Ali Sarker, Bir Bikram, said the perpetrators wanted to bury spirit of the War of Liberation in a bid to revive Pakistan through killing the architect of Independence Bangabandhu and his family members.
“The common people remained indoors as military, paramilitary and police forces were patrolling the cities and towns, imposing indefinite curfew and arresting many during the post August 15 assassinations,” he said.
Amidst the most insecure situation people tried to bring out processions at many places to protest the killing of Bangabandhu, Panchagarh District Muktijoddha Commander Mirja Abul Kalam Dulal said. Former Treasurer of Begum Rokeya University Professor Mozammel Haque said the perpetrators created a reign of terror then through arresting Bangabandhu lovers, freedom fighters and were spreading propaganda to create panic in the society.
Valiant freedom fighter and cultural personality Akbar Hossain said Bangladesh is successfully moving fast to become Sonar Bangla as dreamt by Bangabandhu under dynamic leadership of his daughter Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
By Mamun Islam