STORY INSIDE THE STORY
Sometimes, a most obvious question of history remains unasked and unanswered through a lack of pursuit of or targeted research into an overwhelming event. But when you set your mind free from the clutch of conventional narratives you may stumble on a new, shocking insight into the thinking of the plotters of a sinister political and ideological crime in mid-August, 1975.
Has this ever crossed your mind: a conspiracy which took six months evolving set the timeline between August 14 night and August 15 morning for the assassination of Bangabandhu along with all but two members of his family? The first date marks the independence of Pakistan and the second the independence of India.
The juxtaposition, one would like to think, was deliberately made in the Devil's workshop. Bangladeshis wrested out independence from Pakistan through an armed struggle with humanitarian and military support of India. The vestigial remnants of Pakistani ethos stuck with a medley of disgruntled detractors who engineered a putsch to a make a reactionary ideological statement.
As part of a deceitful propaganda , by one account, the ring leaders briefed some of the troops saying Bangabandhu wouldn't be killed, he would be taken somewhere to sign up to meeting some of their demands.
There were some rumblings of threat on Bangabandhu's life. In fact, there was an attempt for his assassination on May 23, 1975. An article by R. K. Radhakrishnan published in The Hindu dated April 13, 2013 quoted from a cable from the US embassy in Dhaka, based on WikiLeaks reports, to say that the information was passed to Washington. The Hindu article titled "Before his assassination, there was an attempt on Mujib" stated, 'attempt occurred as Mujib was returning to his residence after visiting new TV station on the outskirts ... This was sourced to a Bengali political assistant, policeman assigned to President's security and a pressman. "Mujib escaped uninjured but two unidentified persons were said to have been wounded. The media was purportedly advised by the PID not to report on the incident.
Going back to the timing of the ruthless attack on Bangabandhu's residence, take the Indian Independence Day on which the assassination took place. We refer to a confidential post-assassination cable emanating from the US embassy in Dhaka. It reported to Washington as follows: "That Indian Independence Day was chosen may have been merely incidental but we note the coincidence." Diplomatic language has a way of cutting corners but the furrowed foreheads of the killers must have mirrored an anxiety to 'execute their heinous design' as India immersed itself in its Independence Day.
The timing was obviously designed to implement a revisionist strategy against our Liberation War values that gave a burial to the two-nation theory on the basis of which Pakistan was created. In other words, the concept of religion-based statehood received a date-expired vindication. But yes, religious parties were allowed to function, Collaborators' Act revoked and many of those facing trial under the act were released.
The litany is too long and well-known to be repeated except to cite the rewarding of the assassins, indemnification of their trial and return and rehabilitation of many a persona non grata. The indemnity act annulled in 1996 paved the way for the trial and conviction of the once boastful self-confessed killers.
Col Rashid, one of the principal killers of Bangabandhu would form Freedom Party after the February 1996 farcical election during Khaleda Zia's rule. Elected to parliament he even adorned the position of the leader of the opposition.
In the sequel, Khaleda Zia's plans wrecked as she conceded caretaker government to the opposition in the face of the latter's vigorous movement to introduce the system. In the general election under caretaker government Khaleda Zia lost power to Sheikh Hasina.
It is worthwhile to remember that BNP chairperson started celebrating her birthday on August 15 from 1996 when none of Khaleda Zia's official identification documents showed her birthday on August 15. As she faced political adversity so came the cake cutting ceremony into play on that very solemn day. Apparently, some answer had to be found to counter the effects of national mourning day and to assert the separate identity of BNP.
Can a party's political plank be reduced to celebrating a birthday of its leader which again is invented by all accounts?
BNP spokesperson Asaduzzaman Ripon claimed that it was not Khaleda Zia but the party leaders who celebrated her birthday. Is it credible? Is it a step forward or two steps backward with Khaleda Zia joining the ceremony at 8pm, eventhough she refrained from doing it past midnight which had been the usual practice with her?
The writer is Associate Editor, The Daily Star.