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250px-Bangabandhu02_bigOn a picoscale I am part of history. I was the first person to voluntarily visit Dhanmondi Road No 32 on15th August 1975.

During the General Elections of 1954, the United Front made a clean sweep in East Pakistan, conceding the ruling Muslim League only 10 seats. Among the new faces in the provincial parliament was a young fiery orator named Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, a disciple since their Kolkata days of Hossain Shahid Suhrawardy, the leader of Awami Muslim League. There was also a former bureaucrat turned journalist who had no regular job after his newspaper had been shut down by the Muslim League government a week before 21st February 1952. He belonged to the Krishak Shramik League led by Sher-e-Bangla A.K. Fazlul Huq, because he too had known the former Chief Minister of Bengal since they both lived in the Park Circus Area of Kolkata. Awami League was the majority party in the coalition, and bagged most of the ministries, including one for the former student leader. The other person regained his editorship after the ban on his paper was lifted. When Dhanmondi Residential Area was being developed, both of them received plots from the government on the same road, within a stone’s throw. The minister constructed a small house soon after the allotment, the editor had to wait seven years, but frequently used the free phone offered by the (then ex-) Minister whenever he went to check the construction of his tinier house. They did not have the same philosophy, the same politics, the same education, or the same charisma, but had mutual respect for each other. They visited each other’s house occasionally for a chat.

20110307-bb-460The student leader of Kolkata eventually became the undisputed leader of Awami League after the death of Suhrawardy and kept pressing for the demands of East Pakistan in public meetings, news conferences, and meetings with the army in power. The Editor wrote editorials and columns on similar points for a gradually emerging class of English reading Bengalis. Both were imprisoned at various times, the former actually spending a large part of his youth in jail. In 1970 the Awami leader won virtually all the seats of East Pakistan in the general elections of 1970, right after the devastating storm and tsunami, where the Pakistani army played an inactive role and alienated the people of the province. The army dilly-dallied in handing over power, creating mass discontent in the province. Then came the irreversible plan spelled out in the speech of the 7th March 1971. The holder of majority seats was imprisoned and taken to West Pakistan, never to be seen again until January 1972. The Editor had to stay in Dhaka with his big family and edit a controlled newspaper, though one of his sons-in-law escaped and managed to publish a full front page news feature on “Pogroms in Pakistan” in the Sunday Times, that wakened up the world as much as Anthony Mascarenhas’ writing as to what was going on in East Pakistan. The Editor was threatened by the army for familial sedition, and his name was included in the hit list made by the killer squads, though the sentence was never carried out.

In January 1972, the President of the new Republic came back. The Editor wrote an editorial entitled “the Supreme Test”, where he advised a new election appropriate for a new country. This was misinterpreted by sycophants who deified their leader and offered him power for life. Unaccustomed to ruling a country in a democratic atmosphere, the President forced the Editor to resign from a position he had held since 1949. Sheikh Mujib was advised by a strong left-wing pro-Russian gang who determined all policies of the new nation, reducing him to almost a figurehead. Then came the grand idea of BAKSAL, a one-party system, as in Russia. The KS in the name was for Krishak Shramik, the name of Sher-e-Bangla’s now defunct party. Mujib, whose magnanimity has never been questioned, did indeed want to be everybody’s leader, not only of the Awami Leaguers’, some of whom had irritated him by stealing relief goods and by showing a weakness for all kinds of petty and serious vices. But he also liked the prospect of a tension-free life-time tenure.

bangabandhu22_big[1]I was only an Assistant Professor at Dhaka University when all this was happening. It appeared in the media that it had been made mandatory for all government servants, employees of autonomous bodies, and even army officers, to become members of BAKSAL. We had just come back from England, where we were actually voters by contemporary law, being commonwealth citizens, and were wooed by both conservative and labour candidates. I found the prospect of becoming a citizen of a one-party country unpalatable, and for the first time began to regret coming back at all. Soon, one of my former teachers approached me. He had been assigned by the Vice-Chancellor to get everybody’s signature on a sheet of paper to be delivered to the President in a special ceremony on the15th August. This particular teacher did not like me much and always under-marked me, and hence I was doubly annoyed. I told him I would sign only if all other teachers of the department signed before me. In a couple of days he showed me the long signature list. I found two names missing, the two most political elements in my department, one of whom has recently won the Ekushey Padak. I felt relief, but only for a brief moment; the signature collector explained that these two were high-ups in the one-party hierarchy and had already become members of a higher echelon. With trembling fingers I signed the document and, agnostic as I have always been, kept praying to God, “Please do something miraculous so that it is never effective.”

On the night of 14th August I was completing one of my first days in my new abode, on Indira Road, a separate house not too distant from my father’s Dhanmondi house on Road No. 32. Early in the morning we were awakened by the sound of heavy gun fire. To me, it seemed at that time to be coming from the Dhaka University area. Only a few days earlier, one of the smaller cupolas of Curzon Hall had been damaged by a bomb. The sound of gunfire did not frighten me. I was hoping the disturbance in the university area had grown and there would be no function and no handing over of the collected signatures in a golden boat casket to the President. Even delaying the inevitable seemed quite desirable. However, a little later my brother-in-law, who lived in the adjoining house told me about the broadcast by Dalim and Moshtaque announcing the coup and the death of Sheikh Mujib. I was too shocked even to think clearly. I called our Dhanmondi house and my sister replied. They knew everybody had been killed, but did not want to talk much. There was a curfew on, which was later lifted temporarily during Juma prayers. I borrowed a cap from my brother-in-law and despite my dazed wife’s strong protests, began to drive towards Dhanmondi as soon as the curfew was lifted. There were fewer than normal people on the road, but otherwise it could have been any other peaceful Friday. I came to the intersection of Road No. 27, and found the first barricade – no further movement allowed toward No. 32. So I went into Road No. 27 and then took a turn and arrived at the bridge. Here an army officer stopped me and asked me very politely where I wanted to go. I showed the direction of my father’s house which was the same direction as Sheikh Mujib’s. He first refused to let me go, but when I told him I lived in that house, he relented, with the warning that I should drive very slowly and not go beyond the corner of Dr Alam’s house, which was right in front of our house. As I drove slowly, I saw fresh tank track marks on the road. I came near the turn for our house and noticed that an old battered blue Toyota I had always seen coming out of the President’s House was lying across the next turn, half overhanging the ditch there. Then my heart sank. I saw lots and lots of ice blocks dumped in front of the President’s House. So the bodies were still there.

My sisters told me my father had become sick and had taken so much sedative he was still asleep. As I looked at our gate I could almost see Russell there, as he used to stop there often on his little black motor bike. He would look at me with some confusion, as I never smiled at the cute little boy, unlike other people, because I was terrified of being labelled one more bootlicker. But today I blurted out something like – “Why did these monsters kill the little boy or the women?” Sheikh Kamal’s wife Sultana Ahmed was the best sports woman of Bangladesh and was not politically involved. The other daughter-in-law was a cousin, also no beneficiary of AL, or BAKSAL. My sister put her hand across my mouth so that my words could not get very far.

I was fearing the worst – some kind of civil war, at least on a small scale. Nothing like that happened. Awami leaders either joined with Moshtaque, or went to jail tamely, or simply fled. My former teacher, the signature collector, also left Bangladesh somehow and never returned. BAKSAL was dead within a couple of hours. Years later Abdur Razzak Bhai, who always showed his affection for me when we were in FH Hall, tried in vain to revive BAKSAL, after Sheikh Hasina had already abandoned the idea of a one-party nation. But the lust for everlasting power is difficult to get rid of. Our ministers never resign willingly. Our PMs are ever forgiving to loyal men and women who have helped them in difficult times, and shower rewards on them even at the cost of the whole nation. They never let anybody grow to a stature where their own leadership can be challenged.

BAKSAL remains in one form or another in all parties.

Ahmed Shafee is the Vice Chancellor of East West University.

40 Responses to “And death for his ambition”

  1. Kajal Bandyopadhyay

    It comes to that same garb-taking in case of Mr. Taj Hashmi and many others in and in the case of Bangladesh. In his responses to Prof. Shafee’s article and Prof. Khondakar Ashraf’s comments, we find the same taking of guise or garb that I mentioned in my initial response to Prof. Shafee’s piece. Prof. Shafee expected that reference to Shakespeare would help him to conceal his inner intentions. This set of people find it suitable to talk even Marxism and thus defend the case or interest of Pakistan which is/ was declaredly an Islamic state meant for the Muslims. That makes it clear why Professor Ashraf had accused Mr. Hashmi of Islamising his thought. Taking the side of killers of 15th August, which is clear in Prof. Shafee’s article and those who have stood for him, finally boils down to serving ‘Islam’. It is clear from history that those were the Islamists and imperialism who benefitted most from the 15th August killing. Proofs of their involvement also are there. And that makes it almost an ‘Islamic’ act. Political use of Islam is what is involved here. In political implication, one practicing Muslim engaged in condemning the killing of 15th August is serving the cause of Liberalism, which is not true for the agnostic or modern intellectuals praising the killing. We can try to remember and admit how Islamists and pro-imperialists have been on the rise since 15th August, 1975.
    Like how Prof. Shafee went to drop the phrase, “pro-Russian gangs” about the CPB politicians, Taj Hashmi has gone to put fascism and communism within the same bracket. That shows both of them in their true colours. Let me not elaborate. Let me simply say that none of their patriotic- and radical-sounding rhetoric about Bangladesh could be there but for the communists in Moscow and at other places. The more the comfort-minded intellectuals show themselves in their true colours by talking loose, the better.

    • Taj Hashmi

      Dear Mr Bandyopadhyay:

      I think the rise and fall of Sheikh Mujib may be explained in the Shakespearean imageries or metaphors, but nothing remains as vain as inventing an “Islamic”, “foreign” or “anti-Liberation” enemy as the killer of the Founding Father and most of his immediate family members (which was definitely a very tragic event in the history of Bangladesh).

      Just for the information of those who think non-Bengali police killed Barkat, Jabbar, Rafiq and Salam in Februay 1952 or Asaduzzaman, Matiur, Rustam and others in January-February 1969, the fact is the killing policemen were all Bengalis, and Nurul Amin and Monem Khan were also Bengali-speaking sons of Bengal. Thus the killers of Sheikh Mujib were not pro-Pakistani “enemies of Bangladesh”, but most of them were freedom fighters. Colonel Faruq and Major Dalim fled from West Pakistan to join the Liberation War. Dalim was severely wounded in the War and was decorated with a high military honour after the Liberation. Dalim was also very close to Mujib and his immediate family members (please read Indian author A.L. Khatib’s book, Who Killed Mujib and Anthony Mascaranhas’s Bangladesh: The Legacy of Blood).

      Contrary to the popular propaganda (by Awami Leaguers) Henry Kissinger and the CIA had ABSOLUTELY NO ROLE in the killing of Mujib. The recently released State Department papers reveal that (according to Kissinger) the American Government had forewarned Mujib about the danger of a military takeover (which Mujib ignored).

      Lastly, I would ask you only one question: Had Mujib been that popular (and BKSAL been that acceptable to the people) then why did the Rakkhi Bahini, BDR, Police, and the bulk of the military remained quiet after the killing of August 1975? Only a handful of soldiers (none from the infantry) who numbered around 5/6 hundred staged the killing and the takeover by Khondkar Mushtaq Ahmed, what were millins of Awami Leaguers, young leaders like Abdur Razzaq, Tofael Ahmed and others were doing in and outside Dhaka. Why Dinajpur, Rajshahi, Bogra, paba, Mymensingh, Chittagong, Khulna, Jessore, Sylhet (you name any district) remained calm and quiet after the August killing is an important issue each Awami supporter must think about.

      By the way, even Rabindranath Tagore compared fascism with Communism. In his foreword to Pramatha Chaudhury’s book, Rayoter Katha (1927) Tagore compared Fascism and Communism as the two sides of the same monster (“ekoi danober pash phera matro”). And for your kind information, military officers, university teachers, police and bureaucrats have to become Fascist and Communist Party members to keep their jobs under fascist and communist regimes.

      Take care!

      • Kajal Bandyopadhyay

        Dear Mr. Hashmi,
        You perhaps know the Sanskrit adage: “Phaleno Parichiote.” It means that a tree is known by the fruit it bears. Can anyone deny that the tree of the 15th August killing bore the fruit of Islamization in Bangladesh? So, it is rather vain on anyone’s part to deny this widely marked truth. The idea of an ‘Islamic’ killer is what merely follows from the subsequent historical situations and developments. One need not ‘invent.’ And I did not get why you imposed “foreign”, “anti-Liberation”, etc. on me, on my comment. I did not mention anything like that.
        What provokes laughter is how you went to pick up formal positions of certain people to prove that the killers had to do anything with the spirit of the Liberation War. Formal positions of Major Dalim, Colonel Faruk and others do not suffice. Nor does those of Khondaker Moshtaque, Tofayel, Razzaque. They were Awami Leaguers, but they either betrayed with the cause of the Liberation War or failed to uphold it at those hours of crisis. Formally, General Ziaur Rahaman also was a Sector Commander. But, what did he do to the spirit of the War when he made Shah Aziz his PrIme Minister and Islamize the Constitution? And the killers killed Mujib in collusion with Mr. Zia. So, it is rather you who have been vain again, in concentrating on formal roles or identities. People really live more in their deeds!
        Shock definitely had got to do something with the condition of lull and quiet prevailing immediately after the killing. Failure and betrayal explain the remaining part. But, history has, after a very long time, restored a very big part of Bangabandhu’s image. (You can now go for Shakespeare, and tell us about Hamlet’s taking of so much time.) Is he still that unpopular, as it appeared on 15th August, 1975? We mark that our people participated in the Liberation War, but, as for its ideas or ideology, they were not ready to uphold or implement those. Here Islam and Islamization appear to be relevant; these appear to have become a barrier between people and Bangabandhu who was so much misunderstood and who became a big victim of huge mal-propaganda for leading a movement that led to a constitutionally secular state.
        Your defense of CIA and the Kissinger Administration, I’m sorry to say, again shows you in true colours. What you write, I think, is half-truth or false. Involvement of CIA in many such killings is open secret. It is not mere ‘popular propaganda’. CIA is not an absolved force of history. Is it believable that, given the backdrop of the 71-conflict, US Administration will come to save Mujib’s government? And, I rather reluctantly respond to your response when you defend CIA.
        As for Tagore, people know more about his travel to the Soviet Union and his terming it as his “e jonmer theerthodarshan” than what you can expect to prove with what you have quoted. Tagore’s Russiar Chithi is full of his high-flown appreciation and praise of the Soviet Russia. Yes, he had his reservations about certain systems they practised there. But that does not prove what you claim. What more is widely known is how, during the Second World War and his last days, Tagore enquired again and again about and relied so much on the progress of the Soviet Army at that time.

  2. Zahirul Hoque Mozumder

    In his writing, Prof. Shafee referred to the name of a journalist without mentioning his name and narrated his contribution to the struggle of Bangalis through his newspaper writings .Those who know Ahmed Shafee personally or well aware about the history of journalism in Bangladesh can easily recall that the person referred to is famous editor and journalist Abdus Salam. Prof. Shafee is the brilliant son of Abdus Salam. Prof. Shafee, with his super brilliant result throughout his career is a highly esteemed teacher among the physics loving people. But concerning his writing titled “And death for his ambition”, I am deeply shocked. More insight and objectivity was expected from a learned person like he is. He looked at the whole event of that brutal killing with the eye of a common neighbor, with all his elitist reluctance and hatred. I will side with Dr. M. Bilayet Hossain by quoting him “The most disturbing part of Dr Shafee’s article is its title and its timing of publication. By publishing on the national day of mourning and by borrowing a phrase (“And death for his ambition”) from the mouth of the ringleader of a murderous conspiracy, Brutus, Dr Shafee wilfully sided with the killers of 1975, and put up a defence for the most barbarous political murder of all times.” I will also side with Khondakar Ashraf Hossain “misusing a Shakespearean quote, the professor has displayed his rancour, ——-.”

    Prof.Shafee was not sincere in depicting the achievements and political career of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, rather depicted the life of his own father in parallel. By doing this Prof. Shafee ignored the truth that the person who delivers “Gettysburg Address” is not comparable to anyone. The speech of 7th March holds the same or more value in history .With all due respect, Bangabandhu is much above Abdus Salam. Prof. Shafee claimed himself to be part of history though with all humbleness. To quote from his writing “On a picoscale I am part of history. I was the first person to voluntarily visit Dhanmondi Road No 32 on15th August 1975.” With all due respect as my senior colleague at Dhaka University, I dare to remind Prof. Shafee of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. There were many audiences but none of them are part of history. You are a privileged witness not a part of history. To be part of history, you have to be an involved and active person. Apology in advance to Prof. Shafee if this response hurt him.

  3. Hafizurr RahmanChowdhury

    I note that many commentators believe that Prof. Shafee has been too harsh on the slain leader. My interpretations are rather ambivalent. Prof. Shafee actually does mention Bangabandhu’s relentless struggle for the people of this part of the world and “the magnanimity of his heart”. His anger is directed more against people who made Mujib a “figurehead” towards the end of his short tenure and his opinion may also be coloured by the dismissal of his beloved scholar father for a well-meaning editorial, when the leader succumbed to ill-advice from his crooked entourage. Bravo to Dr Bilayet Hossain, who chose not to become a BAKSALI (so even Ziaur Rahman did not know that it was not mandatory, but he did!) but had all the right links to be able to stand firm, something that Prof. Shafee, son of the disgraced Editor did not have at that time. But surely unlike Dr Hossain, who later left the country he had helped gain freedom for better prospects, Dr. Shafee, with a far better academic record, stayed on teaching here.

    It is interesting that while some people thought editor Abdus Salam was a mathematician at heart, his physicist son refers to Shakespeare so casually that he does not even use quote marks to refer to Brutus’s speech. A fuller version is:

    “Brutus’ love to Caesar
    was no less than his. If then that friend demand
    why Brutus rose against Caesar, this is my answer:
    —Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved
    Rome more. Had you rather Caesar were living and
    die all slaves, than that Caesar were dead, to live
    all free men? As Caesar loved me, I weep for him;
    as he was fortunate, I rejoice at it; as he was
    valiant, I honour him: but, as he was ambitious, I
    slew him. There is tears for his love; joy for his
    fortune; honour for his valour; and death for his

    And people quoting Antony here can also find out that it is a model speech of a demagogue, where irony is used to negate Brutus’s simple, honest sentiments, and Antonio also looks through his fingers as he speaks to assure himself that the gullible public are buying his words.

  4. Dr. M. Bilayet Hossain

    Dr Ahmed Shafee writes : “It appeared in the media that it had been made MANDATORY (my capitalization) for all government employees etc.–to become members of BAKSAL.” Then he went ahead with a long narration how his ex-teacher harassed him for his signature. If the signature was mandatory –why this persuasion ? The fact was — it was not mandatory.

    This is not the only example where Dr Shafee disregarded facts and used gossip and hearsay as facts to dramatize his expressed contempt and hatred for BAKSAL and anyone he thought were connected with it.

    The two of his senior colleagues whom he refers to contemptuously as “the two most political elements of my department” –were guilty as accused because they joined the resistance movement of Dhaka University faculty against Monem-Gani-NSF encroachment in academic field during Ayub era, and in 1971 they left their job to align themselves with the Mujibnagar government and they were in the forefront in the effort by DU faculty to achieve University autonomy in 1973.

    Before penning this venomous article, our scholarly vice-chancellor should have verified whether these two ‘political elements’ really were members of higher echelon of BAKSAL.

    Allow me to declare in this public forum –that I for one never became a member of any political party, BAKSAL, AL or any other.
    And when people approached me for the signature — I told them as long as I am a teacher I will not be a member of any political party.

    The most disturbing part of Dr Shafee’s article is its title and its timing of publication. By publishing on the national day of mourning and by borrowing a phrase (“And death for his ambition”) from the mouth of the ringleader of a murderous conspiracy, Brutus, Dr Shafee willfully sided with the killers of 1975, and put up a defense for the most barbarous political muder of all times.

    His defensive posture is well crafted. He made every efforts to undermine all the achievements of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman by describing his political career using some passive qualifiers — by distorting or sometimes suppressing truth — and all the time comparing the parallel life of his own father.

    Dr Shafee writes a political biography of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman without mentioning autonomy, 6-point programmes, Agartala conspiracy case, or without associating words like Banga, Bengal, Bangla, Bangladesh with his politics!! He summed up Sheikh Mujib’s political struggles in one line — “he kept pressing for the demands of East Pakistan” — and describes 1970 election victory–” –in 1970 the Awami Leader won virtually all the seats of East Pakistan in the general electiobn of 1970″—and later describes him as –” The holder of the majority seats”.
    And finally Dr Shafee uses his Brutus-dagger — describing President’s reason for acceptance of BAKSAL system: “And he also liked the prospect of a tension-free life-time tenure.”

    All these seem to be products of a narrow, self-centered, calculated, political mind. It is no wonder he cannot spare even a smile to a child because people might think he is a bootlicker or even though he is a lifelong agnostic he has no hesitation to pray to ‘god’ to undo his own opportunism ( signing the Baksali membership list for fear of loosing his job).

    What Dr Shafee needs to understand is that Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had something very special in his personality and in his actions that placed him in a very distinct position in the history of Bangladesh, while despite having a much better educational and professional achievements his close-door neighbor and his equally brilliant son are still struggling to find a place in the footnote of history (“I am a part of history” etc).

    One must have the courage to stand for one’s conviction and not give it up for fear of loosing a job, or social comfort or even at times for fear of your life.

    To be fair, I must say that the word ‘ambition’ is not totally
    irrelevant in this context.

    It was the ‘ambition’ of a few Bengali generals ( those who tasted the power during Ayub-Yahya period) which led to the conspiracy to kill the Father of the Nation and his family.

    As for Shakespearean quote, in this context, I would end this commentary with one from Mark Antony :

    “——–great Caesar fell.
    Oh, what a fall was there, my countrymen !
    Then I, and You, and all of us fell down
    Whilst bloody treason flourished over us.”
    (Julius Caesar, Act III)

    • Golam Arshad

      Who said… and Marcus Brutus was an Honorable Man. Mark Anthony!! Now, who made Sheikh Mujibur Rahman controversial? Awami League and Awami League. He lost his title to the Nation as The Father of Nation, because of myopic self centred, power hunter Awami League. The Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, divided the Nation for her own political gain, as the Pro Liberation and the Anti Liberation. This is her politics!

  5. sharful alam

    Bangladesh Student’s League (at that time it was East Pakistan Students League) called a Central Committee extended meeting at 42,Balaka Bhaban in early 1970 on how Students League will participate in the National election. It was decided over a voting that Students League will ask people to vote for ‘Boat’ to demand independence. Nur e alam siddiky, the then President of League strongly opposed the idea and teared the resolution stating that Bangabondhu does not approve this.

    • Khondakar Ashraf Hossain

      Dr. M. Bilayet Hossain,
      you have said it succinctly and brilliantly. Congratulations! I could not keep my cool, when I protested Ahmed Shafee’s writing, as it rubbed some old, deep wounds so violently, and that also on the emotion-filled day of Bangabandhu’s murder. I’m surprised that very few people are coming up with their condemnation of this heinous write-up. This shows the majority of our English reading public either share the same kind of views as Shafee, or they are just callous. As for myself, I’m waiting for the great man’s own reply. That is, if he isn’t busy saying his ‘agnostic’ prayer for another deliverance! Today is 21 August- the day of the grenade carnage. Had the Brutuses succeeded this time, Shafee would probably have another of his prayers fulfilled! How many such snakes is our honourable PM nursing with the ‘dudhkola’ of high posts?

  6. Kajal Bandyopadhyay

    It appears that Prof. Ahmed Shafee is not an adequately political person. The way he has developed his account of the killing of 15th August shows how he has focused on some less important areas, and indicated those to be the central or major. People’s struggle for a state here was mainly a political process which at one point was being led by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib who had, like any human being, flaws and weaknesses. And, one should never lose sight of this central perspective, and consider the killing to be anything other than an attempt at terminating a political process. That the killing was a political act has been sufficiently borne out by history. And questions like ambition, despotism and BAKSAL raised by people naively or designfully has always helped the killers and their political masterminds. Prof. Shafee’s story or account, I am sorry to find, will strengthen the venomous campaigns of dynastic rule, loot and plunder by Sheikh Kamal, etc. unleashed by quarters both during Mujib’s lifetime and after his death. Involvement of CIA or Islamabad in the killing proves if democracy or fairness of any kind had to anything with the killing. The long army rule that followed 15th August also proves a lot.

    Prof. Ahmed Shafee’s calling the CPB politicians a “pro-Russian gang” finally indicates that he is adequately political. They make a dedicated and respected number of people in Bangladesh. He can take it from me that but for “Russia” or “pro-Russian gang’s, there would not be any Bangladesh.

    Prof. Shafee’s taking it from Shakespeare is a lamentable garb. Attempt at depoliticising in this manner is not what helps.

  7. Dr. M. A. Hoque

    The short account of 15th August massacre given by Prof. Shafee is authentic. Bangabandhu was definitely misguided by sycophants surrounding him and went far away from his promised multi-party democracy for which he struggled all his life.

    There could be other reasons as well but this was the major issue. I would like to congratulate Prof. Shafee for the well written article.

    • Anonymous

      The decision to go solo and the presidential format might have added fuel.

    • Ali

      The new nation was plagued in so many ways, and so much of inexperience, that it became really difficult to streamline and put a leash on the ‘rogues’ who had little respect for discipline. Otherwise leaders do know who is who and can differentiate the delinquents 9 out of 10 times.
      The nation is unlucky today as a result.

  8. Dr A Rahman

    Ahmed Shafee has very elegantly given us a sight of that traumatic event from an angle hether to unknown to us. But his article also gives a feeling that there are much more unspoken things. Nonetheless he deserves a sincere congratulation for what he has said. I would urge him to give us a fuller narrative of that event as that is a part of our national history.

  9. Khondakar Ashraf Hossain

    Taj Hashmi and I worked in the same campus in the 1973-75 period and were not strangers to each other. He was, of course, Tajul Islam Hashmi in those days. (What prompted him to ‘de-Islamize’ his name only Allah knows, but strangely enough, it coincided with the Islamization of his thought and globalization of his occupation. His anti-Mujib views are well-known; he is one of those ‘hysterians’ who never found any good things in Mujib and have always been tongue-in-the-cheek about Pakistan’s involvement in the 1975 tragedy. Mujib did not die for his ‘ambition’ as Professor Shafee would have us believe, he died because he had to pay the price for breaking up Pakistan.

    • Taj Hashmi

      Dear Khondakar Ashraf,
      Good to see that you are sparing some time to take interest in Bangladesh politics. Despite my disagreement with your assessment of certain people and events in Bangladesh, I have no problems with your opinions as they don’t affect me (let alone influence me). And I don’t have time to bother how your views affect others. However, I am surprised at your devoting so much of time and energy wondering as to why I “de-Islamized” my name. It is also amazing that you think I have “Islamized my thought” with the “globalization” of my occupation. You have also failed to hide your contempt and derogation (garnished with some jealousy) for me. Hence the disdainful epithet “Hysterian” against my name. I don’t need your acknowledgement in support of my credibility as a historian (and cultural anthropologist / political scientist / security analyst), at all. Let students, academics and intelligentsia read my books and essays / articles and make an opinion about my credentials as an author and analyst. Please oil your own machine and leave people alone. Try to learn the art of agreeing to disagree with others. And most importantly, try to respect others. One has every right to glorify or criticize a Gandhi, Tagore, Jinnah, Nehru, Mujib. This is what the freedom of expression is all about. Do you think BAKSAL (where military generals, bureaucrats and university teachers were forced to become members) smacks of democracy of fascism/communism? By the way, I am NOT an Islamist, I have written books and essays against political Islam, “Islamic State”, Jamaat-e-Islami and Muslim Brotherhood. Islamism and BAKSAL are the two sides of the coin. Please devote your time to some creative / constructive work.

      • Khondakar Ashraf Hossain

        Thanks for the advice that you’ve showered upon me. Why, in God’s/Allah’s name, should I devote my time ‘to some creative/constructive work’ and not bother about Bangladesh politics? Why on earth should it amuse/anger you that I’m taking ‘interest in Bangladesh politics’? Do I not have democratic rights to make comments on others’ views? And who has granted you the divine right to do the same? You concurred with Ahmad Shafee that Mujib was autocratic. What is your stance on Zia’s and Ershad’s rule? Were they epitomes of democracy and freedom? You said, “Oil your own machine, and leave the people alone”. That shows how tolerant you are as a person. Well, are “people” your property, Dr Hashmee? You cannot ‘hush’ me up like that. You do not even live in Bangladesh. I do. So, Banglaedesh politics is a part of my life, living and being. It’s one thing to write about, theorize on and make money off Bangladesh affairs sitting amidst the western comforts, and quite another to go through the actualities here in Bangladesh. May Allah make you an ever more famous analyst, but the Bangladeshi people just couldn’t care less.

      • Taj Hashmi

        I am surprised to see that being a professor of English literature at Dhaka University you have failed to understand a plain and simple sentence by me. Where on earth did you find out that I had advised you not to take part in politics or write on politics? I simply wrote: “Good to see that you are sparing some time to take interest in Bangladesh politics.” (period) I did not advise you to only write poems or teach, not at all.

        I have never tried to hush you up. I only pointed out the lack of civility in your writing as you had portrayed me a “Hysterian”. Why is it relevant here what I think of Zia and Ershad? By the way, I have always portrayed them as military dictators (although Zia later distanced himslef from the military and was himself an honest man — nevertheless, that does not make him an angel.) To me Ershad is a Vishwa Behaya and his supporters, followers and beneficiaries were/are not that different from Razakars.

        Your other points are not worth discussing in any forum. I again advise you, “please oil your own machine”. Write on politics or if you want join politics, but don’t undermine others. Try to learn how to agree to disagree.

      • Anis Pervez

        Hashmi bhai, why do you bother to react to such rubbish? We are the product of a feudal culture where cheap emotion directs every speech that we utter. Does not matter whether one is a DU professor of English or a street vendor; civility is eclipsed by the height of a weaker cognitive capacity inevitable in a feudal society.

  10. Khondakar Ashraf Hossain

    Prof Shafee’s views are coloured by personal memories, especially of his father’s disparagement at the hand of Mujib government. It is easy to lose the perspective when such things happen. I can echo Marcus Antonius by saying, “Prof. Shafee says, Mujib was ambitious. Mujib wanted to be a life-long ruler. And Professor Shafee is an honourable man.” But misusing a Shakespearean quote, the professor has displayed his rancour, I should say, unwittingly.

    So far as I know, he and his wife have been aligned with Awami politics till date.

  11. Taj Hashmi

    I congratulate Ahmed Shafee for his honest and candid reproduction of some facts about the August massacre of 1975. I am also an eye-witness; I had to most reluctantly become a member of the communistic-fascistic BAKSAL as a lecturer of Dhaka University. I know a lot (so does Shafee and his and my contemporaries at Dhaka University) about the period between 1966 and 1975, but as Onupom Sabhasad has pointed out, one cannot be that outspoken about Bangladesh all the time.

    I again congratulate Ahmed Shafee for his bold and honest reproduction of some facts about why Mujib had to die the way he died, unlamented. This was definitely a tragedy.

  12. Belal Beg

    After reading the article and the readers’ comments, I had a feeling that I was listening to the gossips of some English-loving Bengali men in a roadside tea-stall. Every one wanted to give his opinion on Mujib’s killing. It is a pity, none of them mentioned that Mujib was assassinated by the enemies of Bangladesh, a fact now confirmed from American documents made public. I thank Onupom Sabhasad for giving the author a reason for shame.

    • Akram Hossain

      I didn’t get the part when you say, “…of some English-loving Bengali men…” What did you mean by “English-loving Bengali men”? The article has been published in the English Opinion Page, so naturally the write-up is written in English and so are the comments. And as I can see you have also written your comment in English. Should I also call you an “English-loving” person then?

      And given the fact that Sheikh Mujib was the undisputed leader of the country, everyone indeed will have opinion on him as well as his killing. And that is the people’s democratic right. We don’t live in the era of the autocratic rule anymore when only the yes-men had chances to speak. And we have seen how they have licked boot to remain in his good book.

      Mr Belal Beg try to learn to respect other people’s opinion.

      And as for your passion and conviction about the American document, it doesn’t actually require the US to confirm that Mujib was killed by the enemies of Bangladesh. Of course Bangabandhu was killed by the enemies of Bangladesh! No one in his right mind can deny that. Killing the undisputed leader of the nation was one of the most heinous crimes committed on this soil. But at the same time no one can also deny the lawlessness, the fear, the grudge that people had against their leader and his sons and a few other relatives. No one can ever condone the crime that was committed back in 15th August 1975, but people do understand what led to the massacre. And that is what, as far I could gather, Mr Shafee tried to say in his write-up.

  13. Golam Arshad

    Dr. Shafee: My late father Abdul Awwal of Narayanganj was the founding member and the first joint secretary of the Awami Muslim League. My father challenged his undue leadership as Secretary General of the Awami Muslim League. It was admitted by late Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in his “Unfinished Memoir. page 237”. You know the background, how he elbowed out late Janab Shamsul Haque, who was the visionary leader and orator, the founding Secretary General of Awami Muslim League. How he (Sheikh Mujib) became the General Secretary of Awami Muslim League. (The drama staged at Mukul Cinema, and how he, Sheikh Mujib, forced Maulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhashani to declare his name BY FORCE as
    Acting General Secretary without ANY ELECTION FOR THE POST OF GENERAL SECRETARY, and how he blocked the incumbent and the first Joint Secretary my late father Abdul Awwal from contesting IN THE SCHEDULE ELECTION FOR THE POST OF GENERAL SECRETARY OF THE THEN AWAMI MUSLIM LEAGUE.

  14. Barry

    A Beautiful piece. Verifies the stories that I read in Anthony Mascarenhas’ “Legacy of blood”.

  15. Ananya Rahman

    One of the most beautiful, honest and informative write-ups that I read today. I hope it won’t be misunderstood. There are ample scopes though especially for Awami supporters.

  16. Abul Kalam

    As far as I can remember the said editor asked for a new election in the new country and fell from grace for raising this. The sycophants around our great leader were successful in making him blind to differentiate from the genuine and the false ones.

    Our incumbent prime minister should also be aware of the yes-men that surround her.

  17. Abul Kalam Azd

    Yes Mr. Anupom there are many untold things. Why is Mr. Shafee hiding those? He should be more vocal. As I placed some questions in my early response. Still I will wait for his response or from some other persons like Mr. Inu, Mr. Mennon, Mr. Shrif Nurul Kabir Ambia and their political gurus like Mr. Serajul Alam Khan. And another person can tell us what happened during 1972 to until the killings of Bangabandhu is off course Mr. Badruddin Omar.

    Hajigonj, Chandpur.

  18. Khondakar Ashraf Hossain

    Professor Shafee’s write-up successfully camouflages his envenomed thoughts about Mujib. While putting up his Father Abdus Salam’s ‘silent’ contributions to the struggle of the Bangalis as something uncelebrated and unsung, he could hardly hide his glee at the downfall of the ‘tyrant’ who had forced him to join BAKSAL. He had prayed to God: “Please do some thing miraculous so that it (BAKSAL) is never effective.” God listens even to an agnostic’s prayer, it seems! Significantly, he did not utter any word of sorrow for Mujib when he blurted out-“Why did these monsters kill the little boy or the women?”

    • CT

      I didn’t feel for a second that Mr Shafee was trying to camouflage anything. This is the problem with die-hard Awami supporters. They can’t digest any sort of criticism even if it is for the good.

      Everyone in his right mind will agree with Mr Shafee. It is indeed Bangabandhu and his family members’ over-ambition that was one of the main reasons behind the brutal killing. People of this country had immense respect for this leader and they were looking up to him to lead the country towards betterment. The boot-lickers indeed ruined it for him and for us the general people. It’s really sad that Bangabandhu couldn’t differentiate between the genuine well wishers and the sycophants.

      • Khondakar Ashraf Hossain

        Not ‘boot-leakers’, but ‘boot-lickers’. But you could also use ‘boat-leakers’. That would be a good example of irony!

      • Moderator

        The error has been fixed. That was an oversight from my side. Sorry about that. Thank you so much for pointing it out.

        — Moderator
        Opinion Page, bdnews24.com

    • Ahmed Hussain

      Dr Shafee usually writes in a light spirit with some humour. Not in this piece, which has a very sombre tone all throughout, befitting the tragedy. I think the headline, comparing Mujib with Julius Caesar, betrayed by people he trusted so much, shows respect to the great man, and I do not see any glee anywhere on his death. Brutus, one of the killers of Caesar, who uttered this line, also did not show any happiness in what had happened.

      It is said that Jamal’s wife, who was a cousin of his, was not a very willing bride. But I really do not know this family well enough to comment on that.

      • Khondakar Ashraf Hossain

        And probably Nur Choudhury, one of the killers of Bangabandhu, was shedding rueful tears while he pumped hot bullets into Mujib’s body!

        Probably Khondakar Mushtaque mixed his salty tears with his evening tea for forty days.

        But I know who distribute sweets and hold mushayeras in observance of that fateful day.

        Verily, the Razakars and shaitans appear in different garbs and never want excuses to denigrate the Father of the Nation.

    • Latif Abdul Kalam

      The writer didn’t seem a wee gleeful in his article, not for once! And many many people back then did pray for a miracle that would stop the one-party rule, the BAKSAL, the Rakkhi Bahini etc, etc. But for that to happen, I don’t think ANYONE prayed for what actually had happened on that fateful night. No one wished the murder of our beloved leader and his family.

    • Kishwar Kumkum

      People did pray for a miracle back in 1975 that will contain our undisputed leader from making the mistakes that he was making. That our leader will see how he was surrounded by bootlickers who were ruining his reputation and also ruining his beloved country.

      But no one prayed for the brutal killing to happen. No one ever in his worst nightmare wished for the entire family to perish. In Mr. Shafee’s write-up this is exactly what I could feel. Mr Shafee, in the most balanced language, could elaborate the actual atmosphere that existed back in those days. And we should all thank him for that.

      And also I didn’t feel at all that the writer was trying eulogise his father and belittle the great leader. The comparison doesn’t exist.

  19. Abul Kalam Azd

    Thank you very much Mr. Shafee for writing this piece. Some citizens of this country will be able to understand what happened on that day. I am requesting you to kindly write everything that had happened politically or socially from 1972 to until the killing of Bangabandhu. Why JSD was created, why SARBOHARA Party was created and who killed Seraj Sikdar, why JSD created GONO BAHINI, why govt created RAKKHI BAHINI and finally why Bangabandhu decided to establish one-party rule in the name of BAKSAL and banned all other political parties and newspapers except Morning News, Daily Observer, Dainik Bangla one Banglar Bani owned by Fazlul Haque Moni. Our new generation do not know the real history from 1972 to 1975. As you are well aware of all these matters please enlighten us from your memory. I wish I would get a response from you Sir. Thank you.

    • Ali

      It is a national requirement to deliver ‘UNDISTORTED’ history. And as rightly said, if it is possible to remain absolutely unbiased and if the duty is to share information, then do please give the account as unfolded.

      Many thanks for the write-up. Posterity ought to know.

  20. Syed Imtiaz Ali

    A vivid recollection that had helped me go down memory lane! Thanks Prof Shafee.

    Let the historians be historians only and be truly sincere while chronicling facts that really and unfortunately took place.

    Sheikh Mujib had a lot of sycophants surrounding him to seemingly ill advise him.

    They are not very far today as well. So, the PM and the party high-ups have to guard themselves in the NATION’S INTEREST.

    One other fact rightly said is:
    “They never let anybody grow to a stature where their own leadership can be challenged.” And “BAKSAL remains in one form or another in all parties.”

    Let us all put that behind and work for our FUTURE.

  21. Onupom Sabhasad

    Except your distaste of a one-party rule there are so many things untold. Is it the same fear (as of 1975) that is forbidding you to be vocal? I don’t blame you.

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