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OP-ED: Revisiting the ghost of November 7, 1975

  • Published at 05:58 pm November 6th, 2020
Khaled Mosharraf
Photo: COLLECTED

A dark chapter in our history

The army-backed caretaker government of Dr Fakhruddin Ahmed erased November 7, observed by BNP as Revolution and National Solidarity Day, from the calendar of government holidays. It is not understood how BNP can claim glory, if any exists, for this occasion. 

They can at best celebrate the occasion as the day of ascendancy to power by Ziaur Rahman.

Many questions regarding the concatenation of events, from the dastardly assassination of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on August 15, 1975 by a few misled army officers to the assumption of presidency by quisling Khandaker Mushtaq; the replacement of Major General Shafiullah by Ziaur Rahman as army chief on August 23; the counter coup by Brigadier Khaled Musharraf on November 2 by taking over as army chief and the house detention of Ziaur Rahman; the jail killings of four national leaders -- Syed Nazrul Islam, Tajuddin Ahmed, Captain (retired) Mansur Ali, and ASM Qamaruzzan -- on the midnight of November 3 prior to safe passage out of the country; the failed soldiers’ uprising masterminded by Colonel Taher followed by the killing of of Khaled Musharraf and release of Ziaur Rahman and detention of Col Taher. 

And, finally, the resumption of power as Army Chief by Ziaur Rahman on November 7 and his subsequent ascendency to presidency and his assassination later on May 30, 1981 by a military coup followed by the elimination of General Manzur -- all are intertwined events shrouded in mystery. 

It remains for future historians to unravel the enigma, the truth and the whole truth, behind these cruel and dreadful series of murders and mayhem which constitute the darkest chapters of our nation’s history. 

Ironically, it is a classic example of palace intrigues and power struggles, once fellow freedom fighters cancelling each other out.

However, one thing is certain to those of us who were distant witnesses to these dreadful events: Ziaur Rahman was no author of the November 7 events. He reaped the harvest of November 7 and was its principal beneficiary. 

It was Col Taher who was behind November 7 but ended up as the victim of a merciless extrajudicial killing under Ziaur Rahman’s rule.

Ziaur Rahman, after assuming the presidency, abandoned his credentials as a valiant freedom fighter, went through a complete metamorphosis, and turned into an extreme reactionary and authoritarian ruler. He legitimized Khondaker Mushtaq’s indemnity ordinance by reincorporating the confessed killers of Bangabandhu into diplomatic assignments and annulled the constitutional provision of secularism as one of the state principles. 

He legitimized the Jamaat-e-Islami as a political party despite laws to the contrary prohibiting political parties from religious affiliations. He forged a new political party, BNP, with people of questionable credentials and backgrounds. 

He assembled a cabinet comprising some persons known for their anti-liberation identities and pro-Pakistan sympathies only to whet his political ambition and consolidate his unchallenged authority and power. 

Is this a case of a once-feted liberator turning into an oppressor or a case of a revolution devouring its own children? Politics indeed is a combustible substance. 

Ziaur Rahman is not a unique example. History resonates with such examples. Danton, Marat and Robespierre, revolutionaries of the French Revolution of 1789, perished at the guillotine. Leon Trotsky and Bukharin, Bolshevik revolutionaries of the Russian Revolution of 1917, like hundreds and thousands of others, were liquidated by Stalinist purges and Gulags.

Bangladesh is still wrestling with the aftermath of the gruesome events of November 7, events which marked a prolonged military rule with interludes of quasi-democratic dispensations interrupted by the occasional foiled fundamentalist terrorist attack.

Abdul Hannan is a columnist and a former diplomat.

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