In his book “The Trial of Henry Kissinger” noted journalist Christopher Hitchins, former editor of Harper’s magazine, wrote “Kissinger had received some very bad and even mocking press for his handling of the Bangladesh crisis, and it had somewhat spoiled his supposedly finest hour in China. He came to resent the Bangladeshis and their leader, and even compared (this according to his then aide Roger Morris) Mujib to Allende.”
“As soon as Kissinger became Secretary of State in 1973, he downgraded those (the US diplomats stationed in the US Consulate in Dhaka) who had signed the genocide protest in 1971,” the book says. About Kissinger’s trip to Bangladesh, Hitchins says, “In November 1974, on a brief face-saving tour of the region, Kissinger made an eight-hour stop in Bangladesh and gave a three-minute press conference in which he refused to say why he had sent the USS Enterprise into the Bay of Bengal three years before.”
“Within a few weeks of his departure, we now know, a faction at the US embassy in Dacca began covertly meeting with a group of Bangladeshi officers who were planning a coup against Mujib. On 14 (15) August 1975, Mujib and forty members of his family were murdered in a military takeover. His closest former political associates were bayoneted to death in their prison cells a few months after that,” the book says.
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United States Secretary of State John F Kerry pledged Bangladesh to help in repatriation of the most-wanted fugitive Rashed Chowdhury, one of the convicted killers of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who is living in the USA illegally. The information came from the report on Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali’s visit to the US in last December.
Cabinet secretary Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan after the cabinet meeting on Monday briefed media about the report. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina presided over the meeting. The report said the US secretary of state is impressed at the steps has been taken by Bangladesh government to contain terrorism.
The cabinet approved the draft of International Finance Corporation Act (amended)-2015 and Bangladesh Palli Unnayan Board Act 2015 (amended)-2015. The secretary said both the acts are already in practice. After incorporating some additions and deletions, both the acts will be translated in Bangla, the secretary added.
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The reactionary forces who captured the state power immediately after Bangabandhu’s demise rightly understood that the deceased Mujib is more powerful as the deep rooted image of Bangabandhu cannot be wiped out from the heart of the Bengali unless an ill-designed anti-thesis against Mujib’s ideology could be introduced. So, they initiated the process of history distortion with a view to demeaning Mujib’s image.
The irony is that the major beneficiary of Bangabandhu’s killing was the valiant freedom fighter General Ziaur Rahman. In spite of being a freedom fighter, Zia did not hesitate to be a part of the blueprint of the evil forces. The reactionary forces speculated that if the new generations, who had not witnessed the war of independence, could be kept in the dark concerning the history of our liberation and the contribution of Bangabandhu, they would be successful one day. To serve this purpose, keeping Zia in front they started to distort and fabricate our war history. Not only this, the process of tarnishing the image of Bangabandhu had also begun during Zia’s regime.
Reactionary forces have brought many baseless accusations against Bangabandhu. The following paragraphs attempt to counter some of these allegations.
BAKSAL formation:Many have claimed that it was none but Bangabandhu who killed democracy and established authoritarian rule by introducing BAKSAL. On the surface, this seems to be true. But this becomes half-true if we objectively analyse the rationale behind introduction of BAKSAL. In fact, it could be argued that democracy loving Bangabandhu was bound to embrace authoritarian rule in accordance with the demand of the time. The very objective of BAKSAL was to establish socialism following Soviet model. At that time, socialism had a special appeal to the common people. If we analyse the Russian experience then it can be claimed that Soviet model was a proven model for economic emancipation. Within a short span of time the backward feudalist country Russia became one of the superpowers providing the poor with all sorts of basic needs. Besides, BAKSAL was formed in a democratic way through proper discussion in the parliament, and many people of the country, including leading intellectuals, journalists and other professional, welcomed it. However, right now, no conclusive remark on BAKSAL is possible as it died at its infantile stage.
Question of Secularism:Ideally a secular state should be indifferent to religion-religion should be the private domain of a citizen. But to Bangabandhu, secularism meant restricting the communal politics and giving equal emphasis to all religions. For this, 1972 Constitution banned religion based politics. Religion based communal politics leads to extremism and anarchism disturbing communal harmony. Analysing the consequences of activities of religion based parties worldwide we can claim that banning such politics was a pragmatic spirit of our Constitution. However, Bangabandhu defined secularism is no way anti-Islamic. We can observe that during his time, as the leader of a major Muslim country by dint of population, he was very eager to build good relationships with other Muslim countries and Bangladesh became a prominent member of OIC. Even before Bangladesh received recognition from Pakistan, he invited and received Z A Bhutto in Bangladesh just to improve the bilateral relation with the major Muslim country in the sub-continent. In this context, J. N. Dixit, who was stationed as Deputy High Commissioner of India after our independence has stated that Mujib believed Bangladesh should give priority, not just to its Bengali linguistic and cultural identity, but also, to its Muslim identity. So defining Bangabandhu’s secularism as atheism is mere propaganda.
Declaration of independence: This debate was initiated during Zia’s regime. The context of our liberation had not been created in a day. Rather it had a long history starting from the Language Movement in 1952. It was not that one fine morning in March 1971, an unknown major (Zia was then a mere major in the East Bengal Regiment!) declared independence and people started the war. The fact is, prior to our liberation war, for about half a decade under the magical leadership of Bangabandhu, people were fully motivated to be emancipated from Pakistani colonial regime.
Historical evidences suggest that Zia did not announce it first. On March 27, 1971 Major Zia transmitted a declaration of war on behalf of Sheikh Mujib. But prior to this, shortly after midnight, on March 26, Bangabandhu reportedly sent this message to East Pakistan Radio:”This may be my last message. From today, Bangladesh is independent. I call upon the people of Bangladesh wherever you might be and with whatever you have, to resist the army of occupation to the last. Your fight must go on until the last soldier of the Pakistan occupation army is expelled from the soil of Bangladesh and final victory is achieved.”
Moreover, the proclamation of independence of the provisional government also confirmed Bangabandhu’s declaration.
The historic March 7 address of Bangabandhu can also be treated as a declaration of independence. However, the recent historical verdict of the apex court, perhaps has resolved the issue.
Rakkhi Bahini issue:The objective of formation of Rakkhi Bahini was to support both the army and police forces to maintain some semblance of law and order in the war-ravaged country. After independence, some leftist extremists inspired by the Naxalite movement were engaged in various underground activities including killing, which, in turn led to total collapse of law and order of the country. Besides, the defeated “Islamic political fanatics” went underground and started their destructive politics by joining other extremist groups. The law and order situation became so bad that even in broad day light these groups dared to kill their political rivals. In this context, killing of four sitting members of parliament at that time can be cited. In this critical context, Bangabandhu decided to form Rakkhi Bahini, a paramilitary force. Perhaps Bangabandhu wanted to promote freedom fighters and so most of the members of Rakkhi Bahini were recruited from freedom fighters. In addition to police forces, creation of additional forces was not unprecedented in anyway. In this context, existence of National Guard in USA and RAB in Bangladesh can be mentioned. The Rakkhi Bahini worked successfully to control the political anarchism as initiated by the extremist groups. In 1974, it successfully carried out an operation against hoarders and smugglers. However, in some cases Rakkhi Bahini committed excesses and these should have been prevented.
Submissive foreign policy:The reactionary forces recreated the anti-Indian sentiment in the mindset of the citizen and tried to portray Mujib’s foreign policy as submissive towards India. But the fact is, Bangabandhu wanted to maintain friendly relationship with India along with Russia in the context of bi-polar international political setup of that time. It may be mentioned that both Russia and India supported our war of Independence while USA supported Pakistan. So, after independence, it was nothing wrong to keep close tie with these two friendly countries. But Mujib’s government in anyway, was not submissive towards India. In support of this assertion we may point out the fact that within the shortest time of Mujib’s return from Pakistan jail, he could successfully compel the Indian government to take back their armed forces who fought side by side with our freedom fighters. On the bilateral relationship between India and Bangladesh, the observation of Dixit was, “… even though Sheikh Mujib knew that during those early days of Bangladesh’s existence the country needed India’s assistance, he did not wish Bangladesh to become dependant on its large neighbouring giant, India, who could unduly influence its politics. For this reason Sheikh Mujib wanted the Indian “connection and influence’ to lessen over time.”
In conclusion, it may be stated that, although Sheikh Mujib was a great leader, he was not by any stretch of the imagination a prophet, or superhuman. As a politician too, no doubt he had some limitations. Researchers in future will hopefully unveil this using authentic history and considering the socio-economic and political context of that time, both nationally and internationally. But distortion of history with a view to tarnishing the great leader cannot be acceptable at any cost.
– ANWARUL KABIR –
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e-NewsDesk- DHAKA, Dec 15, 2014 : The nine-month long War of Liberation waged by the people of Bangladesh in 1971 will for ever remain recorded as one of the most glorious chapters in human history. The sovereign and independent People’s Republic of Bangladesh, as it stands today, is the outcome of an arduous struggle of the people under the leadership of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
The very nomenclature of the country, the declaration of independence, proclamation of the glorious War of Liberation, the national flag- the crimson sun on the canvas of green and the inspiring national anthem – all these we owe to his inspiring and unique vision and courage. He served to shape the history and aspirations of his people. He rejuvenated them with the indomitable and unbending spirit of Bengalee Nationalism, charged them with unprecedented courage, valour, resilience and granite-like unity and triggered off an armed struggle for freedom- the like of which the world rarely witnessed before.
As usual, the Victory Day is a joyous celebration for Bangladeshis all over the world, in which popular culture plays a great role. TV and radio stations broadcast special programs and patriotic songs. The main streets have been decorated with national flags. Different political parties and socioeconomic organizations undertook programs to mark the day in a befitting manner, including the paying of respects at Jatiyo Smriti Soudho, the national memorial at Savar near Dhaka. the nation observed the Martyred Intellectuals Day commemorating the murders of the country`s golden sons and daughters on this day in 1971 just before the ultimate victory on December 16 after nine-month war with the Pakistani occupation forces.
Liberation War: Initiation
The Liberation War did not start overnight. It had been brewing for 23 years. Ever since the birth of Pakistan in August 1947, the Bengalees first felt ignored in the scheme of the country’s governance and gradually found themselves deprived and exploited by the power elite dominated by the West Pakistani bureaucrats, the military and the big businesses.
Although they constituted the majority of the country’s population, the Bengalees of the eastern wing had a very poor representation in the civil services and the armed forces and had almost no place in commerce and industry. At the political level, their voice was stifled in the name of security of the realm and the bogey of mighty Hindu India’s constant threat to the existence of Islamic Pakistan which had its two wings separated by nearly 1200 miles of Indian territory. The Muslims of the eastern wing were regarded as inferior Muslims and no effort was spared to cleanse them and make them as ‘good as the Muslims of West Pakistan.
By 1958, Pakistan went under military dictatorship blocking normal avenues for a political resolution of the constitutional issue. In September 1965, Field Marshal Ayub Khan fought his country’s second costly war with India, exposing the military vulnerability of the eastern wing, and also made a costly experiment with democracy in getting himself elected as President through a ridiculously limited franchise of 80,000 ‘basic democrats’ It was against this background that Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman put forward in 1966 his historic six points which, in effect, structured the foundation for East Pakistan’s future independence. The proposal suggested:
1. Pakistan should be a federation of states with parliamentary system of government;
2. Only defence and foreign affairs should remain with the federal government;
3. There should either be separate currencies for the two wings or one currency for the whole country with its inter-wing flow to he regulated by the reserve banks of the two wings;
4. Taxes to be levied only by the regional governments, but a specified portion will automatically go to the federal account;
5. Separate accounts to be maintained for foreign currencies earned by each region; and
6. A separate militia or a paramilitary force to be created for the eastern wing.
Historic genocide and bloodshed
The Liberation War which resulted in the secession of East Pakistan from the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and established the sovereign nation of Bangladesh. The war pitted East Pakistan and India against West Pakistan, and lasted over a duration of nine months. One of the most violent wars of the 20th century, it witnessed large-scale atrocities, the exodus of 10 million refugees and the displacement of 30 million people.
The people quickly woke up to the warnings their leader had sounded time and again about the evil designs of the Pakistani military and the directives Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had issued about building up resistance with whatever they had. They soon turned their anger into determination to beat back the occupying military at their own game. That meant no immediate direct confrontation at the strategic positions of the enemy troops, but employment of guerrilla tactics to drag them out of their fortresses and force them to spread out into the country-side which was the freedom fighters’ home ground.
On 16 December 1971, Lieutenant General Amir Khan Niazi, CO of Pakistan Armed Forces located in East Pakistan signed the Instrument of Surrender. The Instrument of Surrender was a written agreement that enabled the surrender of the Pakistan Eastern Command in the Bangladesh Liberation War, and marked the end of the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 in the Eastern Theater.
The surrender took place at the Ramna Race Course in Dacca on December 16, 1971. Lieutenant General Amir Khan Niazi and Lieutenant General Jagjit Singh Aurora, Joint Commander of Indian and Bangladesh Forces, signed the instrument amid thousands of cheering crowds at the race course. Air Commodore A. K. Khandker, Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Bangladesh Armed Forces, and Lieutenant General J F R Jacob of the Indian Eastern Command, acted as witnesses to the surrender. Also present were Vice-Admiral Mohammad Shariff, commander of the Pakistani Naval Eastern Command and Air Vice-Marshal Patrick D. Callaghan of the Pakistan Air Force’s Eastern Air Force Command, who signed the agreement. On behalf of Bangladesh, Air Commodore A. K. Khandker acted as witness to the surrender. Lieutenant General Jacob Rafael Jacob, Chief of Staff of the Indian Eastern Command, along with the other commanders of Indian naval and air forces, acted as witnesses on behalf of India. Aurora accepted the surrender without a word, while the crowd on the race course started shouting anti-Niazi and anti-Pakistan slogans.
Participation of ‘Muktibahini’ (Freedom Fighters)
Mukti Bahini or Liberation Army, also termed as the “Freedom Fighters” was a guerrilla force which fought against the Pakistan Army during the Bangladesh War of Independence in 1971.
The earliest move towards forming the liberation army came from the reading of declaration of independence by major ziaur rahman of East Bengal Regiment on behalf of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. He had defected after the 25th March crackdown of Pakistani Army on Bangladeshi Forces. In the declaration made from Kalurghat Betar Kendra (Chittagong) on 27 March 1971, Zia assumed the title of “provisional commander in chief of the Bangladesh Liberation Army”.
Statistics of Freedom Fighters
Maj. Gen. K.M. Shafiullah, the commander of Sector-3 and later commander of S-Force during the War of Liberation, and later the first Chief of Army Staff of Bangladesh Army gives as estimate in his book “Bangladesh in Liberation War” as follows:
14th December is observed as Intellectual Martyrs Day in Bangladesh in memory those bright souls who fall victim to a brutal military regime two days before West Pakistan surrendered.
The martyred intellectuals include Munir Chowdhury, Dr Alim Chowdhury, Muniruzzaman, Dr Fazle Rabbi, Sirajuddin Hossain, Shahidullah Kaiser, Gobinda Chandra Dev, Jyotirmoy Guha Thakurta, Santosh Bhattacharya, Mofazzal Haider Chowdhury, Khandaker Abu Taleb, Nizamuddin Ahmed, SA Mannan (Ladu Bhai), ANM Golam Mustafa, Syed Nazmul Haq and Selina Parvin.
President, Prime Minister and Opposition Leader each year pay their respects at the Mirpur Intellectual Martyrs Mausoleum in the morning. Hundreds of people also gather at the Memorial to honour the intellectuals who were murdered in the killings fields of Rayerbazaar in the very last days of the War.
Bir Sreshto: The Most Valiant Heroes
The Bir Sreshtho title is the highest military award of Bangladesh. It was awarded to seven freedom fighters who showed utmost bravery and died in action for their nation. They are considered martyrs.
The Bir Sreshtho title was awarded by the Bangladesh Gazette 15 December 1973. It has been given to seven people. Listed below are the people who have received the Bir Srestho.
Shaheed Lance Naik Nur Mohammad Sheikh Shaheed Flight Lieutenant M Matiur Rahman Shaheed Naik Munshi Abdur Rouf Shaheed Md. Ruhul Amin Shaheed Sepoy Hamidur Rahman Shaheed Sepoy Mostafa Kamal Shaheed Captain Mohiuddin Jahangir
Ek Shagor Rokter Binimoye (Video) Singer: Swapno Rai, Lyrics: Gobind Halder, Tune: Apple Mahmud
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Bangladesh emerged as an independent nation in December 1971 after a horrendous ethnic genocide inflicted by the Pakistan Army beginning March 1971 on the Bengali East Pakistan even though the Pakistan Bengalis constituted Pakistan’s majority population.
The genocide was vicious and brutal leading to the slaughter of nearly a million Bangladeshis. It was meant to stifle the Bangladeshi demands for independence.
The Pakistan Army genocide onslaught on Bengali East Pakistan was launched to nullify the General Elections results which would have swept the Awami League of Sheikh Mijibur Rahman into power in Pakistan. The Pakistan Army had the tacit support of Pakistani prominent leaders like Zulfiqar Bhutto.
Bangladesh emerged as an independent nation soaked in blood and violence. The Pakistan Army can be said to have virtually wiped out a generation of the best intellectual brains of Bangladesh.
The whole of 2013 has witnessed Bangladesh engulfed in a series of externally funded or inspired violent demonstrations operating with dual political objectives.
The first objective was to pre-empt or prevent the International Crimes Tribunal War Crimes trials of Bangladeshis who collaborated with the Pakistan Army in its genocide against Bangladeshis who happened to be their fellow citizens and co-religionists. These Bangladeshi collaborators of the Pakistan Army genocide were predominantly of the Jamaat-i-Islami. The first execution has taken place and some more are awaited.
Bangladesh’s present ruling Awami Party cannot be faulted for exorcising the Bangladeshi psyche of the ghosts of its genocide and cleansing the political ethos if violence which still persists. Bangladesh’s Generation Next has widely welcomed and supported these moves of the Government.
The second political objective operating in Bangladesh is to somehow prevent or discredit the January5 2014 General Elections ordered and being considered as per the existing Constitution. Spearheading incessantly this unending disruptive strikes and violence is the main Opposition Party, the BNP, which presumably feels politically toothless by its main coalition partner the Jammat-i-Islami being debarred by the Supreme Court from contesting elections. Jammat-i-Islami the largest Islamist party in Bangladesh
In essence what Bangladesh is witnessing today are some shades of the Liberation War 1971, Then it was a violent war being fought for liberation and independence. Today it is a political war with more violence than dialogue as Bangladesh’s Generation Next aspires that the ruling Government goes firmly ahead with exorcising the ghosts of Liberation War 1971. Then too the Islamist parties were on the wrong side of history and now too they are on the wrong side of history.
Contextually, it is curious and surprising that the United States and China as two major countries calling for ‘all inclusive’ General Elections are overlooking the fact that the main Opposition Party, the BNP has obdurately dug in its heels to ensure that General Elections as scheduled are not held or even if held as per the Constitution, then the outcome stands discredited. The ostensible demand being made is for a caretaker government when that provision in response to a Supreme Court ruling was constitutionally amended.
It is open to question as to why the United States with flurry of US officials visits to Dhaka and China with its ‘friendly’ advice have not been able to prevail over the BNP not to boycott the Elections. Is there some sub-surface geo-political game going on by these two?
At this crucial juncture, it would be appropriate to recall the United States and China’s record in the Bangladesh Liberation War 1971.
United States Sordid Record of Permissiveness in Pakistan Army’s Genocide in Pakistan
The United States dislike of the Awami Party stems from its role in the creation of Bangladesh. The United States record was rather ignoble and permissive of the Pakistan Army genocide of 1971.
Even today enough media reports are available suggesting that the United States perceptionaly desires that a BNP-Jamaat-i-Islami coalition should emerge as the new Bangladesh Government. So much so that reports indicate that one of the reasons for the current US-India stand-off is the widely differing political perceptions on Bangladesh.
Coming back to the sordid record of the United States in the 1971 Liberation War, I would like to quote a few excerpts from a brilliant book that has come out “The Blood Telegram” by Gary J Bass. It details the open revolt by the US Consulate in Dacca in 1971 headed by Archer Blood. Their despatches reflect the US sordid record in not restraining the Pakistan President and the Pakistan Army from ghastly atrocities being observed by the US Consulate officials and being reflected to Washington.
Read these damning excerpts from this book:
“The cable ( Blood Telegram to the State Department0 – the most radical rejection of US policies by its diplomats- blasted the United States for silence in the face of atrocities, for not denouncing the quashing of democracy, for showing ‘moral bankruptcy’ in the face of what they called ethnic genocide”
“As its most important international backer, the United States had great influence over Pakistan. But at almost every turning point in the crisis Nixon and Kissinger failed to use that leverage to avert disaster. Before the shooting started, they consciously decided not to warn the Pakistan’s military against using violence against their own people”
Nixon and Kissinger, always sympathetic to the Pakistan junta, were not about to condemn it while it was making itself so useful ( in opening a secret link to the Chinese leadership for the Americans ). So the Bengalis became collateral damage for realigning the global balance of power.”
“But Americans have been able to forget the legacy of 1971, the peoples of the sub-continent have not. The atrocities remain Bangladesh’s defining national trauma leaving enduring scars on the country’s politics and economy.”
The United States today has a lot to atone for and the least recompense is not to interfere in the internal political dynamics of Bangladesh. Their emphasis should not be on an ‘all-inclusive election’ but should have laid emphasis on ‘General Ejections be conducted strictly as per the Constitution’.
The emphasis on ‘all-inclusive elections’ is pressurising the present Government to yield to the BNP blackmail and thereby bring their preferred BN into the reckoning again.
China Opposed to Bangladesh’s Creation and was Complicit with the United States
China could not reconcile to the dismemberment of Pakistan and creation of the nation-state of Bangladesh. In this direction China twice used its veto powers to prevent the admission of the Bangladesh in the United Nations.
In the book quoted above it transpires that the United States in a bid to forestall the creation of Bangladesh prevailed on China to move Chinese troops to the India-Tibet border so that the Momentum of Indian Army and Mukti Bahini offensives racing for the fall of Dacca could be stalled. China did so and even issued ultimatums to India on specious grounds.
Fortunately both the United States and China could not reverse the tide of history and the Bangladeshi upsurge for liberation from the Pakistani brutal and suppressive yoke.
Chinese call today for all-inclusive elections is laughable when in China itself there is no democracy or inclusive political functioning. The Chinese ethnic and religious genocide in China Occupied Tibet is in no way less than the Pakistan Army genocide in Bangladesh in 1971.
In conclusion, at this critical juncture when Bangladesh Government and its Generation Next is engaged in exorcising the ghosts of its Liberation War1971 through the War Crimes Trials, they must remember the words of the Founding Father of Bangladesh, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who declared famously that: “ I have given you independence, now go and preserve it.
Bangladesh should never again allow itself to become “Collateral Damage” in any future geopolitical games.
Paper No. 5625 Dated 27-Dec-2013
By Dr. Subhash Kapila
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