This article is being republished on the occasion of National Mourning Day
Some witness accounts from the court in the cases filed in 1996 in connection to the assassination of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the mortar attack in Mohammadpur on August 15 in 1975 paint a picture of how the coup was carried out from the cantonment.
Honorary Lieutenant Syed Ahammad (discharged) of the First Bengal Lancer Regiment:
Major Syed Faruque Rahman was the second in command the Commanding Officer (CO) was Major Momin at the time. The regiment was formed by A, B, C and Head Quarters squadron.
Syed Ahmed described that a few days before August 14, 1975, their CO went on leave and Faruque was acting CO.
“I was station sick and resting at the government quarters on August 14. This quarter was beside the regiment,” he said in his statement as a witness in the Mohammadpur mortar attack case.
After 2am, early August 15, a sepoy of the Lancer Unit came to his residence and said that Regimental Dafadar Major had asked him to go to Junior Commanding Officer’s (JCO) mess.
As Ahammad sent the sepoy to inform RDM to meet him, the RDM arrived asking for the key to the armoury saying that the Two Field Artillery is coming for a co-operation training.
Ahammad asked if they have permission from the Quartermaster Captain Delwar and asked to bring to him QMJ and the quarter guard commander. Within ten minutes they arrived and handed over a permission chit from Quartermaster Captain Delwar. Since Ahammad had the right papers he gave the chit to be deposited to the treasury and handed over the keys.
“Then I realised that the treasury has thousands of takas and rushed to the quarter guard to see if the money was safe and locked up properly,” he said.
From the guard commander, he heard that forces had left with arms and ammunitions. Tanks and artillery were also sent out for night training.
“I saw Major Faruque and his brother-in-law, Commanding Officer of Artillery Col Khandaker Abdur Rashid was speaking near the quarter guard, standing next to a Jeep that had an armoured gun,” he said.
Seeing Ahammad, Maj Fauque called him asked him to keep an eye on the regiment. “Close down all the gates. Make sure no outsiders are allowed to enter,” he ordered.
When both masterminds of Bangabandhu’s assassination steeped into the Jeep, Ahammad asked, “Sir, where are you going?”
Maj Faruque, sitting on the driver’s seat started the vehicle and replied: “We have to oust the autocrat government.”
Ahammad asked if Shafiullah knew the this and Faruque replied: “I do not think that is necessary.”
They sped out of the gates while Ahammad began locking it down.
Tanks rolled out
Squadron Dafadar Major (retd) Risaldar Abdul Alim: He was with the First Bengal Lancer’s B Squadron in August 1975. Major Firoz was the commander. Former Lieutenant Md Kismat Hashem took the charge of Squadron when Firoz was on leave.
Around 2pm on August 14, senior JCO Shamsul Haque arrived at the squadron office and informed that there will a night training that day.
After 9pm, 35 army men fall-in in front of the tank garage, as per orders. They cleaned 10 tanks as ordered by Kismat Hashem. When Maj Faruque arrived around 11:30pm in front of the garage and spoke to Lt Kismat, the squad was once again asked to fall-in.
“Tanks will have to go outside. Those of you who have tank driving training, raise your hands,” asked Faruque. Six drivers responded and they were separated into another line.
Faruque then read out the names of those who were to be inside the tanks and the officers who will lead the tanks. Forces took arms, ammunition, grenades with them.
Around 3:30am, forces and officers board the tanks and they begin to roll out of the garage and park in a line near the signal gate.
After about 30 minutes, Maj Faruque himself boards a tank along with Lt Kismat, Maj Ahammad Sharful Hossain who also get into tanks themselves and head out of the cantonment.
How the armed military leaves the cantonment
Lance Dafadar (retd) Bashir Ahammod: In his case statement he described how lower tier staffs of the First Bengal Lancers were kept in dark and abused during the assassination mission of the father of the nation. He was under the Headquarters Squadron. The then Major Mohiuddin was the commander and Maj Faruque was acting CO.
He said that around 4pm on August 14, Havildar Major Abdul Hai called a fall-in of the sepoys of Headquarters Squadron and said there will be a night parade.
At 8pm they fall-in in front of Ration Store, where Major Faruque and Major Mohiuddin were present. Bashir did not take part but was there.
Bashir while returning to the quarter guard, saw Faruque going there too. Risaldar Moslehuddin greeted him.
They were also joined by Major Mohiuddin, Major Ahmmad Sharful Hossain, Lt Kismat Hashem, Lt Nazmul Hossain, Major Nurul Haque, Dafadar Marfat Ali Shah, LD Abul Hashem Mridha and others.
All of them, following a brief discussion, moved to Maj Mohiuddun’s office.
“My room was just in front of Maj Mohiuddin’s office. I saw some Artillery officers there too,” he said. Bashir saw, Major Mohiuddinleave his office with two other officers.
Mohiuddin saw him and asked: “Whose is there?” When Bashir identified himself, Mohiuddin asked him to make tea and pakoras. “Send them to the parade stand too,” Mohiuddin ordered.
MDS Abdul Hai went there and said: “There will be a parade fall-in during tonight's training.”
Around 3:30am, another parade was called and from there everyone went to take ammo from the armoury.
Bashir took a G-3 rifle, 18 rounds of bullets and one magazine.
All soldiers were lined up in groups where Maj Mohiuddin them a short brief.
“You people board this Ford car,” Mohiuddin ordered Bashir’s group.
“We heard the tanks moving out one by one,” Bashir said.
Mohiuddin threatens the groups’ job
Bashir said that seeing the preparations the lower tier military members thought that the troop was training for ‘First Light Attack’ or ‘Counter-Attack’.
Maj Mohiuddin briefed the group in the Ford car that they will go to Dhanmondi: “You will be given certain duties which if you do not execute you will be court marshalled.”
“Sir, please tell us what is happening,” asked a frightened Bashir.
Angered, Mohiuddin replied: “ You will retire soon how do you not know how the army law works?”
Captain Bazlul Huda and Maj Nur also were in the car along with Risaldar Syed Sarwar Hossain.
What happened outside Bangabandhu’s house
Bashir in the statement described what he had seen around Bangabandhu’s house on the morning of August 15, 1975.
He said the car carrying Bashir and others reached the house around 4:45am. Bashir and Sarwar got off.
“Listen to the major’s order. He has asked you to restrict any person’s movement to the house from the lake’s northern side. Ask the police to surrender their arms there.”
Sarwar before going to the house asked Bashir to shot anyone trying to get into the house. Soon, the sound of gunshots and grenades started coming from the house. A machine gun fired and stopped.
After a while, Maj Bazlul Huda, Maj Mohiuddin and others went inside.
The sound of guns firing continued from with intervals.
He saw Maj Noor come outside and tell an army man that he shot Bangabandhu.
“When I asked Risalder Sarwar if Noor himself shot the president, Noor heard me speak,” said Bashir.
“What are you whispering about? I shot the president. Now, go,” Maj Noor said.
People gathered on the southern bank of Dhanmondi lake. Bazlul Huda noticed and told Sarwar, “Ask Bashir to tell these people to leave. Otherwise, he will shoot them.”
“I shouted at those people to leave and they did,” he said.
Bashir noticed a tank coming from the west side of the house. Maj Faruque was on board.
“Maj Faruque and Huda asked Maj Noor something, that I did not hear. I went closer to the tank and peered into the house from the left. I saw some people standing in a queue,” Bashir said.
Bashir then asked Sarwar what happened inside and Sarwar said: “All are finished.”
From a distance, Bashir saw a little boy standing near the house’s gate. He was talking to an officer. Someone held his hand and took him inside. “Then I heard a single gunshot come from the house.”