Remember ... remember ... the 7th of November
Published : Thursday, 7 November, 2019 at 12:00 AM Count : 790
Of the many controversies that impinge on some of our historical events, November 7 of 1975 remains one. In a society of radical politicisation of events, dates and uprisings, it has become rather challenging to learn the truth from reliable neutral sources. What the BNP observes as a national 'Revolution and Solidarity Day' is clashingly branded as the 'Freedom Fighters Killing Day' by the party in power. Moreover, the day with its diverse perceptions creates confusion among the minds of many.
BNP's rationale is quite simple: the 4 day long military-cum-civilian revolt not only saved late General Zia's life, but also paved the path for introducing military dictatorship in Bangladesh. The uprising, beginning on November 3, established Zia's larger-than-life image by sending Colonel Taher to the gallows, nullifying Khondokar Moshtaq's cabinet, heinously snatching away the lives of Brigadier Khaled Mosharraf along with Captain A.T.M. Haider while technically leaving the People's Republic of Bangladesh without a government for nearly 4 days (November 3-7).
Firstly, it is difficult to perceive how one could brand such an event as a 'National Revolution and Solidarity day'? Since the outcome of the uprising had appeared horrific and undemocratic. Secondly, that the AL regime brands it as 'Freedom Fighters Killing Day' also demands for concrete fact based evidence. True, some notable freedom fighters were murdered during the course of the army's internal conflicts, but simultaneously their killings were also orchestrated by another group of freedom fighters. Such demonic contradictions in killing fellow army officers had given birth to a myriad of unanswered questions.
Though a military dictator, the late General Zia -- the long-term key beneficiary of the uprising -- was a notable freedom fighter too. However, we neither vilify nor celebrate the day. This writer aims to address a set of queries that have long been unanswered while dividing the day following two massive opposing perceptions, perhaps misperceptions is a better term.
The day actually stands second as a counter-coup in the series of coups during the post- August 15 period after killing of Bangladesh's founder Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib. Unlike conventional military coups, launched to seize state power, the November 7 coup of 1975 in Bangladesh is probably the most complex to comprehend since the military chain-of-command had broken and divided into multiple fractions. Skirmishes and small-scale encounters between rival fractions had erupted here and there.
Moreover, it was the first time during an uprising when the nation was communicated with the theory of 'India card'. The propaganda machine conveyed a message that two military leaders (Khaled and Haider) were about to hand over the control of the country to India.
Reasonably asking: is it really that easy to hand over the ruling authority of an independent and sovereign state through a military takeover to a neighbouring state? However, the public could not be fooled, and Bangladesh remained as it appeared after 1971 - an independent and sovereign state - but without an officially recognised government for over three days.
However, history may be amused at us, 44 years on but the nation is yet to know and confirm the murderers of two valiant freedom fighters: Brigadier Khaled Mosharraf and Captain A.T.M. Haider. In what circumstances were they killed? Additionally, why are these two sector commanders' deaths not officially mourned? And how come the print media, during the first week of November in 1975, had failed to report on the jail killing of our four most notable political leaders of all times?
And from a journalist's perspective, why were all newspaper editorials on Bangladesh made subject to pre-censorship following Indian government's approval during the first week of the revolt?
Up till now, believable answers to all the questions raised above remains in the dark.
Historical evidences suggest that the late Colonel Taher was responsible for the killing of Brigadier Khaled along with other officers as per his statement, but then again the fact has never been proved and declared through a verdict by the legal authorities. However, in March 2011 a full-fledged verdict was published regarding Late Colonel Taher's murder, where the late General Zia has been mentioned as the main culprit for hanging him.
What to say , the power sharing formula among army officers engaged in any military coup and in any country has always remain a controversy based on their greed and mistrust among each other.
Unfortunately, most books, personal opinions, analyses, articles and media reports on the event of November 7 uprising have entered our public domain with biased and often inconclusive reactions and statements. Even the book titled - Bangladesh: the unfinished revolution by Lawrence Lifschultz did not appear to be unprejudiced. But one characteristic among the military officers during the coup has been clear as broad daylight.
The then military officers: Zia, Taher, Khaled, Haider, along with the known and unknown officers at the time, had played questionable and mysterious roles for assuming state power -- directly or indirectly. Their actions during the coup are disputed, and yet all of them were spirited freedom fighters. However, all of them had been bitterly divided in several camps.
The mystery-shrouded November 7 needs to be re-defined as far as the truth is concerned. There is no shame in revealing the facts of a past event - which for too long have appeared misapprehended and also deliberately misinterpreted for petty political gains.
Let me share a first-hand experience about the value of learning history in its actuality experienced in Germany some six years back. This writer had the opportunity to visit the infamous Nazi concentration camp Dachau near Munich. The camp had been restored by renovating the old living quarters used by the holocaust victims. Numerable artefacts had been preserved inside a small museum. As this writer entered the camp premises on a cold October morning, he unexpectedly came across a large younger audience, divided into small groups.
Over half the visitors consisted of school children from different public schools. When asked about the reason of their presence to one of their teachers, she curtly replied: We believe it is important to reveal the facts of the much sinister Nazi past from which the students can take tragic but life changing true lessons for the future. We don't want a repetition of that dark era. Her reply was not only bold but had a deeper meaning to groom a more ethically responsible generation for the future.
Let the facts and events of November 7 come into the open, and without premeditated distortions and political prejudices. Let our younger generations build a future based on truth, not misperceptions and lies. At the end of the day, a single fact stands much convincing than all the others - whatever has happened during the first week of November of 1975 - the state mechanism had clearly failed to register the events. Whatever the realities of that uncertain week may be, the country was on the brink of collapse. Let's not repeat that danger once more.
The writer is assistant editor, News & Editorial, The Daily Observer