Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Architact of Bangladesh


The life of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman is the saga of a great leader turning peoplepower into an armed struggle that liberated a nation and created the world’s ninth most populous state. The birth of the sovereign state of Bangladesh in December 1971, after a heroic war of nine months against the Pakistani colonial rule, was the triumph of his faith in the destiny of his people. Sheikh Mujib, endearingly called Bangabandhu or friend of Bangladesh, rose from the people, molded their hopes and aspirations into a dream and staked his life in the long battle for making it real. He was a true democrat, and he employed in his struggle for securing justice and fairplay for the Bengalees only democratic and constitutional weapons until the last moment. It is no accident of history that in an age of military coup d’etat and ‘strong men’, Sheikh Mujib attained power through elections and mass movement and that in an age of decline of democracy he firmly established democracy in one of the least developed countries of Asia.
Sheikh Mujib was born on 17 March 1920 in a middle class family at Tungipara in Gopalganj district. Standing 5 feet 11 inches, he was taller than the average Bengalee. Nothing pleased him more than being close to the masses, knowing their joys and sorrows and being part of their travails and triumphs. He spoke their soft language but in articulating their sentiments his voice was powerful and resonant. He had not been educated abroad, nor did he learn the art of hiding feelings behind sophistry; yet he was loved as much by the urban educated as the common masses of the villages. He inspired the intelligentsia and the working class alike. He did not, however, climb to leadership overnight.
Early Political Life: His political life began as an humble worker while he was still a student. He was fortunate to come in early contact with such towering personalities as Hussain Shaheed Suhrawardy and A K Fazlul Huq, both charismatic Chief Ministers of undivided Bengal. Adolescent Mujib grew up under the gathering gloom of stormy politics as the aging British raj in India was falling apart and the Second World War was violently rocking the continents. He witnessed the ravages of the war and the stark realities of the great famine of 1943 in which about five million people lost their lives. The tragic plight of the people under colonial rule turned young Mujib into a rebel.
This was also the time when he saw the legendary revolutionary Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose challenging the British raj. Also about this time he came to know the works of Bernard Shaw, Karl Marx, Rabindranath Tagore and rebel poet Kazi Nazrul Islam. Soon after the partition of India in 1947 it was felt that the creation of Pakistan with its two wings separated by a physical distance of about 1,200 miles was a geographical monstrosity. The economic, political, cultural and linguistic characters of the two wings were also different. Keeping the two wings together under the forced bonds of a single state structure in the name of religious nationalism would merely result in a rigid political control and economic exploitation of the eastern wing by the all-powerful western wing which controlled the country’s capital and its economic and military might.
Early Movement: In 1948 a movement was initiated to make Bengali one of the state languages of Pakistan. This can be termed the first stirrings of the movement for an independent Bangladesh. The demand for cultural freedom gradually led to the demand for national independence. During that language movement Sheikh Mujib was arrested and sent to jail. During the blood-drenched language movement in 1952 he was again arrested and this time he provided inspiring leadership of the movement from inside the jail.
In 1954 Sheikh Mujib was elected a member of the then East Pakistan Assembly. He joined A K Fazlul Huq’s United Front government as the youngest minister. The ruling clique of Pakistan soon dissolved this government and Shiekh Mujib was once again thrown into prison. In 1955 he was elected a member of the Pakistan Constituent Assembly and was again made a minister when the Awami League formed the provincial government in 1956. Soon after General Ayub Khan staged a military coup in Pakistan in 1958, Sheikh Mujib was arrested once again and a number of cases were instituted against him. He was released after 14 months in prison but was re-arrested in February 1962. In fact, he spent the best part of his youth behind the prison bars.
Supreme Test: March 7, 1971 was a day of supreme test in his life. Nearly two million freedom loving people assembled at the Ramna Race Course Maidan, later renamed Suhrawardy Uddyan, on that day to hear their leader’s command for the battle for liberation. The Pakistani military junta was also waiting to trap him and to shoot down the people on the plea of suppressing a revolt against the state. Sheikh Mujib spoke in a thundering voice but in a masterly well-calculated restrained language. His historic declaration in the meeting was: "Our struggle this time is for freedom. Our struggle this time is for independence." To deny the Pakistani military an excuse for a crackdown, he took care to put forward proposals for a solution of the crisis in a constitutional way and kept the door open for negotiations.
The crackdown, however, did come on March 25 when the junta arrested Sheikh Mujib for the last time and whisked him away to West Pakistan for confinement for the entire duration of the liberation war. In the name of suppressing a rebellion the Pakistani military let loose hell on the unarmed civilians throughout Bangladesh and perpetrated a genocide killing no less than three million men, women and children, raping women in hundreds of thousands and destroying property worth billions of taka. Before their ignominious defeat and surrender they, with the help of their local collaborators, killed a large number of intellectuals, university professors, writers, doctors, journalists, engineers and eminent persons of other professions. In pursuing a scorch-earth policy they virtually destroyed the whole of the country’s infrastructure. But they could not destroy the indomitable spirit of the freedom fighters nor could they silence the thundering voice of the leader. Tape recordings of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib’s 7th March speech kept on inspiring his followers throughout the war.
Return and Reconstruction: Forced by international pressure and the imperatives of its own domestic predicament, Pakistan was obliged to release Sheikh Mujib from its jail soon after the liberation of Bangladesh and on 10 January 1972 the great leader returned to his beloved land and his admiring nation.
But as he saw the plight of the country his heart bled and he knew that there would be no moment of rest for him. Almost the entire nation including about ten million people returning from their refuge in India had to be rehabilitated, the shattered economy needed to be put back on the rail, the infrastructure had to be rebuilt, millions had to be saved from starvation and law and order had to be restored. Simultaneously, a new constitution had to be framed, a new parliament had to be elected and democratic institutions had to be put in place. Any ordinary mortal would break down under the pressure of such formidable tasks that needed to be addressed on top priority basis. Although simple at heart, Sheikh Mujib was a man of cool nerves and of great strength of mind. Under his charismatic leadership the country soon began moving on to the road to progress and the people found their long-cherished hopes and aspirations being gradually realized.
Assassination: But at this critical juncture, his life was cut short by a group of anti-liberation reactionary forces who in a pre-dawn move on 15 August 1975 not only assassinated him but 23 of his family members and close associates. Even his 10 year old son Russel’s life was not spared by the assassins. The only survivors were his two daughters, Sheikh Hasina - now the country’s Prime Minister - and her younger sister Sheikh Rehana, who were then away on a visit to Germany. In killing the father of the Nation, the conspirators ended a most glorious chapter in the history of Bangladesh but they could not end the great leader’s finest legacy- the rejuvenated Bengali nation. In a fitting tribute to his revered memory, the present government has declared August 15 as the national mourning day. On this day every year the people would be paying homage to the memory of a man who became a legend in his won lifetime. Bangabandhu lives in the heart of his people. Bangladesh and Bangabandhu are one and inseparable. Bangladesh was Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s vision and he fought and died for it.

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bangabandhu murder disputes

bangabandhu murder disputes

Military Coup de'tat of 15 August 1975

Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman(1920-1975) charismatic leader, President and Prime Minister of Bangladesh. Bangabandhu, the architect of Bangladesh, was a founding member of the East Pakistan Muslim Students League (est. 1948), one of the founding joint secretaries of the East Pakistan Awami Muslim League (est. 1949), general secretary of the awami league (1953-1966), president of the Awami League (1966-1974), president of Bangladesh (in absentia from 26 March 1971 to 11 January 1972), prime minister of Bangladesh (1972-24 January1975), president of Bangladesh (25 January 1975-15 August 1975).

Born on 17 March 1920 in the village Tungipara under the gopalganj Sub-division (currently district) in the district of Faridpur, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's father, Sheikh Lutfar Rahman, was a serestadar in the civil court of Gopalganj. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman passed his matriculation from Gopalganj Missionary School in 1942, IA (Twelfth Grade) from Islamia College, Calcutta in 1944 and BA from the same College in 1947. In 1946, Mujib was elected general secretary of the Islamia College Students Union. He was an activist of the Bengal Provincial Muslim League and a member of the All-India Muslim League Council from 1943 onwards.
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman
As an activist he had been a supporter of the Suhrawardhy-Hashim faction of the Muslim League. During the 1946 general elections, the Muslim League selected Mujib for electioneering in Faridpur district.
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was one of the principal organisers behind the formation of the East Pakistan Muslim Students League (est. 1948). After partition (1947), he got himself admitted into the university of dhaka to study law but was unable to complete it, because, he was expelled from the University in early 1949 on charge of "inciting the fourth-class employees" in their agitation against the University's indifference towards their legitimate demands.
Sheikh Mujib's active political career began with his election to one of the posts of joint secretaries of the East Pakistan Awami Muslim League (1949). As a political prisoner, he was then interned in Faridpur jail. In 1953, Sheikh Mujib was elected general secretary of the East Pakistan Awami Muslim League, a post that he held until 1966 when he became president of the party. Like his political mentor huseyn shaheed suhrawardy, Mujib also underscored the importance of party organisation and management. To organise the party, he resigned from the Cabinet of ataur rahman khan (1956-58) and devoted himself to the task of taking the party to grassroots level. A charismatic organiser, Sheikh Mujib had established his firm control over the party. He had the mettle to revive the Awami League in spite of the fact that his political guru, HS Suhrawardy, was in favour of keeping political parties defunct and work under the political amalgam called National Democratic Front.
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman entered parliamentary politics first in 1954 through his election as a member of the East Bengal Legislative Assembly on the united front ticket. He was also a member of the Pakistan Second Constituent Assembly-cum-Legislature (1955-1958).
Sheikh Mujib was a pragmatic politician. In the Pakistan state, he appeared as the undaunted advocate of the Bengali interests from the start. He was among the first language prisoners. However, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman grew in political eminence in the early 1960s. Through his organising ability Mujib was able to salvage the Awami League from a series of defections and exit of various factions from the mainstream party. He reorganised the Awami League and put it on a firm foundation. In 1966, he announced his famous six-point programme, calling it 'Our [Bengalis'] Charter of Survival', which aimed at self-rule for East Pakistan. Struck sharp at the roots of West Pakistani dominance, the six-point programme at once drew the attention of the nation. Though conservative elements of all political parties looked at it with consternation, it instantaneously stirred the younger generation, particularly the students, youth and working classes.

Disturbed by the radical political views of Sheikh Mujib, the Ayub regime put him behind bars. A sedition case, known as agartala conspiracy case, was brought against him. It may be noted that during most of the period of the Ayub regime Mujib was in jail, first from 1958 to 1961 and then from 1966 to early 1969. During the second term in jail, Mujib's charisma grew so much that a mass uprising took place in his favour in early 1969 and Ayub administration was compelled to release him on 22 February 1969 unconditionally.
On the following day of his release, the Sarbadaliya Chhatra Sangram Parishad (All Parties Students Action Committee) organised a mass reception to him at ramna racecourse (now, Suhrawardy Uddyan) and accorded him the title 'Bangabandhu' (Friend of the Bengalis). In him they saw a true leader who suffered jail terms for about twelve years during the 23 years of Pakistani rule. Twelve years in jail and ten years under close surveillance, Pakistan, to Sheikh Mujib, indeed proved to be more a prison than a free homeland.
The general elections of December 1970 made Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman the sole spokesman of East Pakistan. The people gave him the absolute mandate in favour of his six-point doctrine. Now it was his turn to implement it. Mujib was so serious about the six-point that on 3 January 1971, he held a solemn ceremony at Ramna Race Course with all the East Pakistan representatives and took an oath never to deviate from the six-point idea when framing the constitution for Pakistan.

Mujib's most uncompromising stand on the six-point programme led ZA Bhutto and Yahya's military junta to take a stringent view. Instead of allowing the Sheikh to form the government, the junta resolved to undo the results of the elections. President Yahya Khan cancelled unilaterally the National Assembly meet Dhaka scheduled to be held at on 3 March 1971. The announcement triggered off the death-knell of Pakistan. Mujib called an all-out non-cooperation movement in East Pakistan. The whole province supported the non-cooperation movement. During the course of non-cooperation (2-25 March 1971) the entire civil authorities in East Pakistan came under the control and directives of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, himself becoming the de facto head of government of the province.

During this time, on 7 March Mujib made a historic address at a mammoth gathering at the Race Course which marked a turning point in the history of the Bengali nation. In his address Mujib made specific charges against the Martial Law authorities which failed to transfer power to the elected representatives. At the end of his speech, he made a clarion call, saying: "Build forts in each homestead. You must resist the Pakistani enemy with whatever you have in hand..Remember, we have given a lot of blood, a lot more blood we shall give if need be, but we shall liberate the people of this country, Insha Allah [ie, if God blessed]..The struggle this time is the struggle for our emancipation; the struggle this time is the struggle for independence."
Meanwhile, President Yahya Khan and other leaders from West Pakistan came to Dhaka on 15 March to start a dialogue with Sheikh Mujib and his party. The dialogue began on the following day and continued intermittently down to 25 March morning. During the period, non-cooperation and hartals continued relentlessly. Students and leaders of various political parties had been declaring independence from March 2 and the spree continued down to 25 March. At mid-night of 25 March 1971, the Pakistan army launched its brutal crackdown in Dhaka. Sheikh Mujib was arrested and kept confined at Dhaka Cantonment until he was lifted to West Pakistan for facing trial for sedition and inciting insurrection.
Although during the war of liberation was begun in the wake of the 25 March army crackdown Bangabandhu had been a prisoner in the hands of Pakistan, he was made, in absentia, the President of the provisional government, called the mujibnagar government, formed on 10 April 1971 by the people's representatives to head the Liberation War. He was also made the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces. Throughout the period of the War of Liberation, Sheikh Mujib's charisma worked as the source of national unity and strength. After the liberation of Bangladesh on 16 December 1971 from Pakistani occupation, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was released from Pakistan jail and via London he arrived in Dhaka on 10 January 1972.
Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman headed the first government of the post-liberation Bangladesh for a period of three years and a half. Starting from scratch his government had to deal with the countless problems of a war ravaged country. Restoring law and order, rehabilating the mukhtijodhas, restoring the ruptured communication system, saving lives of the people hostile to the War of Liberation from the public wrath, and, most importantly, feeding the hungry millions and many other problems bedeviled his administration. Sheikh Mujib created Rakshi Bahini to restore law and order and recover illegal arms, but the system failed and brought in its trail considerable unpopularity for his government. Corruption and black marketing became rampant. Famine was taking its tolls by the thousands. Confused and perturbed Mujib, depending on his charisma, made a "Second Revolution" by establishing a one-party BAKSAL and District Governor system. But the measures made him further alienated from the people and his own party. Taking advantage of his precarious situation, a group of army adventurers assassinated him along with all his other family members on 15 August 1975.

Assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman: Military Coup de'tat of 15 August 1975

Who was the mastermind behind the 75 coup? Col Faruk or Rahsid? Although Faruk was the commander of the coup his job was finished as soon as the mission was accomplished. The person that did the reorganization and coordination after the coup was Rashid. If the overall situation wasn’t tackled since 6 am the whole coup would have been a failure. The credit for planning and coordination of the coup goes to Rashid. Rashid not only selected the new president but he also brought him to Bangabhaban.
2. Although the military coup of 1975 was presented as an isolated incident “ desperately” carried out by only two rebel military units, in reality it was not such an isolated operation carried out by two military units. Faruq and Rashid said, once asked, how would we dare undertake such an impossible project if we weren’t backed by the “big brothers” . From their comment it becomes obvious that the duo was remote controlled by a few top military officers from behind the screen. The most obvious example of it was the inertia of the 46th brigade. About Zia’s involvement in 75 coup General Shafiullah, in his interview with a British magazine, Janamat, said ‘it wasn’t just an assumption, he knew everything.

3. It is quite surprising that in the event of the coup the presence of formidable 46 Brig in Dhaka cantonment was completely ignored and there was no anticipation of danger from them in Faruk/Rashid’s ‘attack plan’. Faruk’s only concern was to fight back the incompetent militia force the Rakkhi Bahini in case they make a move to save Mujib and it was a great mystery that the duo did not expect any threat from 46 Brigade. Once I asked Faruk about this mystery. “ Ask Rashid, said Faruk, “ because he somehow managed the 46 Brig. I asked Rashid directly. He smiled at me mischievously. ‘ Sir, you figure it out. He was our man”. His answer stunned me.
Was this why Shafayat Zamil was reluctant to move his troops in that morning? Was this why Rashid first met Shafayat Zamil right after the assassination of Mujib. Shouldn’t Shafayat Zamil have arrested Rashid as soon as he uttered “we killed Mujib”. But instead of arresting Rashid Shafayat Zamil headed to deputy chief’s (General Ziaur Rahman) residence on foot. It is relevant to point out here that Rakkhi Bahini could not move because they were surrounded by the tank division.
Three Military Coups and Some Untold Facts: Lt Col (retd) MA Hamid At 7:30 on 16 August the majors put Mostak on the presidential seat. Major Rashid picked Mostak up from his Agamosi lane residence and escorted him to the radio station. When Mostak enters the radio station he was accompanied by Mahbubul Alam Chashi and Taheruddin Thakur. Obviously Mostak was worried about the reaction of the senior officers from the cantonment, the officers involved in the coup being junior majors-it was not clear what the responses of the senior army officers would be. Besides only 600 troops from 2 regiments were involved in the coup. Mostak was almost shitting himself in assessing the situation. He was worried whether or not the senior officers would support the coup. So he asked Rashid to bring the divisional chiefs to the radio station. Rashid headed to the cantonment to bring the service chiefs.
It is interesting to note that the first martial law in the history of Bangladesh was declared, in the morning of 15th August 1975, by a forced retiree army officer-Major Ashraful Huq Dalim. An indefinite dusk to dawn curfew was promulgated. Unlike the other Afro-Asian country, Bangladesh army as an institution did not conspire, although they are beneficiary to the coup d’etat, overthrow the elected government of 1975 but a small band of army officers in collaboration with a few powerful civilians well connected with the army did stage the first coup d’etat. The biggest irony in Mujib’s career lies in the fact that none of his key associates came out to counter or even protest against his assassination. The top Awami leaders joined Mostak’s cabinet treading on Mujib’s blood. Only Kader Siddki took arms in retaliation and had to take shelter in India chased out by the military under Zia; and Col Zamil, Mujib’s military secretary, gave his life in his futile attempt to protect Mujib.

Mujib’s para militia force, Rakkhi Bahini, also failed miserably to save Mujib and counter the coup d’etat. The head of Rakkhi Bahini Tofael Ahmed phoned Moni but Sheikh Selim instead answered the phone saying that a band of black dungaree (uniform of the armed corps) clad troops have killed Mujib and his wife. Tofael then called Mujib and he said “my home is under attack. Do whatever you can”. Tofael then called Abdur Razzak, Rakkhi Bahini HQ and Major General Shafiullah. A little late a Rakkhi Bahini 4WD went to Tofael’s residence and took him to the Rakkhi Bahini HQ.

A deadly silence enveloped the whole cantonment when Major Rashid and Dalim entered there. The impact of the coup d’etat stultified all. Ordinary troops were quiet. All found it difficult to believe Dalim’s radio announcement. Major Rashid encountered Brig Khaled Mosharraf at the HQ of 1st east Bengal Regiment. Colonel Shafayat Zamil, the commanding officer of 46 Infantry Brigade was also there. Rashid asked Brig Khaled Mosharraf to provide ammunitions for the tanks. Khaled gestured to oblige and promised Rashid to convince the military chief to take his side. The 2nd in command of Bangladesh Army Major General Ziaur Rahman attended his office at 7:15 with his usual demeanor. While the top military brushes were busy in the cantonment to get a cut out of the coup d’etat their colleagues have just staged, Mujib’s dead body was kept in a coffin in his garage under guard by the troops of artillery and armed corps. The following day, 16th August, at around 3p.m., Major Mohi Uddin and Lt Sekandar took Mujib’s dead body to his home town, Tungi Para. Initially Mujib’s dead body was kept in the local district office (Dak Bungalow) while Major Mohi Uddin kept insisting on a hurried funeral (in case he misses out of the cut). But the local Maulabhi did not give in to the pressure from the armed band. He told at the Major’s face that the dead body of a Muslim can not be buried without a proper bath. The Major gave him ten minutes time for the bath and later another ten minutes to complete. Mujib’s dead body was washed with a cheap 570 detergent bar (manufactured locally and sold through the subsidized state run chain shop (COSCOR) from the corner shop. A piece of sari, distributed under the post war relief program, obtained from a poor villager was used to wrap Mujib’s body.

During the wash the Maulabhi noticed that a bullet entered Mujib’s body from the left side of his back turning the entrails out. The right side of the body had nine bullets; the main veins of both his legs were cut off and his iconic index finger, the emblem of Bangalee independence and anti Pakistani colonization, was shot off. Mujib’s face was intact. Only ten locals attended the funeral. The military left in the chopper as soon as Mujib’s body was buried. 60 police cordoned off Mujib’s grave for months. On 24 August 1975, the chiefs of army and navy, General Shafiullah and Air vice Marshal AK Khandakar were removed from their posts and offered jobs in foreign affairs department. Deputy Chief of army General Zia was appointed as the new chief of Army and Air vice Marshal MG Tawab as the chief of the Air Forces.Mahbubul Alam Chasi was appointed as the senior secretary of the president and Lt Col Amin Ahmed Chowdhury the military secretary. ABS Safdar was promoted to the director general of National Security Intelligence (NSI). Shafiul Azam, the secretary of the civil affairs dept of Pakistan and a peer of Rao Farman Ali, the operational head of ISI and the founder of the collaborators’ force and the mastermind behind the killing of the pro-liberation intelligentsia and the genocide, was appointed as the cabinet secretary. Kazi Anwarul Huq the top man of the Pak dictators from Ayub to Yahyah was appointed the adviser to the president. General Osmani took the office of the defense adviser to the president. Maolana Bhasani who supported the BKSAL movement (2nd revolution) of Mujib, congratulated Mostak for deposing the Mujib government.From Jeddah Gholam Azam, excited by the news of the murder of his arch rival Mujib who also revoked his citizenship for his involvement in the genocide, called upon the heads of the Islamic states in the Middle East to recognize Bangladesh under the rules of the counter revolutionaries. Khaza Khairuddin Mahmud gave a statement congratulating the coup de’tat and Hamidul Huq Chowdhury wrote a letter to Mostak congratulating the murder of Mujib. Bhutto (the ultimate winner in the 1971 war which helped him to get rid of Yahyah and the politically challenging people of the eastern wing (Bangladesh) making him the prime minister of Pakistan) having an orgasmic feat due to the killing of Mujib (his political rival of 1970 and the war ensued only because he refused to give Mujib the chair of the prime minister because he won the election) sent to Mostak a huge official gift comprising 50,000 tonnes of rice, 100,000,00 miters of clothes and 50,000,000 miters of fine fabrics.

On 16 August 1975, Saudi Arab and on 31 August China officially recognized Bangladesh as an independent state.

Tajuddin Ahmed, the first prime minister and the leader of the independence war in absence of Mujib, was arrested by the coup leaders from his own residence although he was not holding any office in the government. Syed Nazrul Islam, the first president of Bangladesh, was arrested from his government quarter. Prime Minister Mansur Ali went underground. But his sons convinced by the foxy duo Obaidur Rahman and Shah Moazzem (both held high offices under military dictator Zia and Ershad) that nothing would happen to him if he comes out, re-established the contact with him. Mostak asked Mansur Ali, back to his residence, to be the Prime Minister in his government which Mansur Ali bluntly refused. Angry Mostak (or Faruk Rashid or may be even Zia from behind the screen) arrested Mansur Ali and sent him to the prison on 17 August 1975. On 3 October 1975, the four key leaders of the liberation war, Tajuddin Ahmed, Syed Nazrul Islam, Kamaruz Zaman and Mansur Ali were brutally murdered in their prison cells by the troops led by Rashid and on express order from Mostak, the president.


Sunday, October 4, 2009
রায়ের প্রতিফলন দেখতে চাই: মুহিতুল

রায়ের প্রতিফলন দেখতে চাই: মুহিতুল ইসলাম।

বঙ্গবন্ধু শেখ মুজিবুর রহমান হত্যা মামলার আপিল শুনানি সোমবার শুরু হতে যাওয়ায় সন্তোষ প্রকাশ করেছেন বাদী মুহিতুল ইসলাম।"আমি অনেক খুশি যে, আমার এতো দিনের আশা-আকাক্সক্ষা পূরণ হতে যাচ্ছে। সর্বশেষ যে রায় হয়েছে, আমি তার প্রতিফলন দেখতে চাই।" বিচার এবং রায় কার্যকর প্রক্রিয়া বিলম্বিত হলে তিনি আন্দোলনে নামবেন জানিয়ে বলেন, "বিচার ও রায় কার্যকরের প্রক্রিয়া আরও দীর্ঘায়িত হলে আমি বঙ্গবন্ধুর অনুসারী ও ভক্তদের নিয়ে রাস্তায় আন্দোলনে নামবো। আশা করি, এটা আর দীর্ঘস্থায়ী হবে না।" তৎকালীন রাষ্ট্রপতি শেখ মুজিবুর রহমানের রিসিপসনিস্ট কাম রেসিডেন্ট পিএ আ ফ ম মুহিতুল ইসলাম তার মিরপুরের বাসা বসে ১৫ আগস্টের মর্মন্তুদ ঘটনার স্মৃতিচারণ করতে গিয়ে বলেন, "১৪ আগস্ট রাত ৮টার দিকে বঙ্গবন্ধুর ধানমন্ডির বাসায় পৌঁছে নির্ধারিত দায়িত্ব পালন শুরু করি। তখনও বঙ্গবন্ধু বাসায় ফেরেননি। ফেরার পর প্রতিদিনকার মতো তিনি আমার ঘরে উঁকি দিয়ে হেসে চলে যান।" মুহিতুল ইসলাম বলেন "তখন আমি ব্যাচেলার। বঙ্গবন্ধু বাসায় আসার পর একটি গাড়ি নিয়ে বন্ধুদের সঙ্গে আড্ডা দিতে বের হই। রাত ২টার দিকে ফিরে শুয়ে পড়ি। এর কিছুক্ষণ পরে টেলিফোন মিস্ত্রি আমাকে জানান বঙ্গবন্ধু ডাকছেন। "টেলিফোনে বঙ্গবন্ধুর সঙ্গে কথা বললে তিনি জানান, সেরনিয়াবাতের (আবদুর রব সেরনিয়াবাত) বাসায় হামলা হয়েছে। বিষয়টি যেনো টেলিফোনে পুলিশকে জানাই। কিন্তু একাধিকবার টেলিফোন করেও কোনো থানায় যোগাযোগ করতে পারছিলাম না। "এ সময় বৃষ্টির মতো গুলির শব্দ শুরু হয়। কিছুক্ষণ পর তা থেমে যায়। এর কিছু পরে বঙ্গবন্ধু নিজে লুঙ্গি পরে টেলিফোন ঘরে আসেন। টেলিফোনটি নিয়ে কথা বলার চেষ্টা করছিলেন তিনি। এরপরে আবারও বৃষ্টির মতো গুলি হতে থাকে। "একটা পর্যায়ে যে কক্ষে আমি আর বঙ্গবন্ধু ছিলাম, সেখানেও অবিরাম গুলি হতে থাকে। এ সময় বঙ্গবন্ধু মেঝেতে শুয়ে পড়েন এবং আমাকে শুতে বলেন। এ সময় জানালার কাচের টুকরা এসে আমার হাতে লাগলে কেটে যায়। "তা দেখে বঙ্গবন্ধু আমাকে টেনে তার পাশে নিয়ে শোয়ান। কিছুক্ষণ পরে গুলি থামে। তখন কাজের ছেলে বঙ্গবন্ধুর চশমা ও পাঞ্জাবি নিয়ে আসে। তিনি আমার সামনেই তা পরেন। পরে বারান্দায় এসে বলেন, এতো গুলি চলছে, আর্মি, সেন্ট্রি, পুলিশ সেন্ট্রি তোমরা কি করো? "এই বলে বঙ্গবন্ধু উপরে চলে যান। এরপরেই ঘাতকরা বাসার ভেতর ঢুকে একের পর এক হত্যাযজ্ঞ চালায়। "আমার ধারণা ছিল, বঙ্গবন্ধুকে কেউ হত্যা করতে পারবে না। এটা এখনো আমার বিশ্বাসের বাইরে," বলেন মুহিত। বঙ্গবন্ধু ইচ্ছা করলে তখন বাসা থেকে বের হয়ে আত্মগোপনে যেতে পারতেন মন্তব্য করে তিনি বলেন, "বঙ্গবন্ধু সে ধরনের নয় বলেই পালাননি। তবে তিনি সরে গেলে ঘাতকরা হয়তো অন্য কাউকে হত্যা করতো না।" আবেগাপ্লুত মুহিতুল বলেন, "ঘাতকদের অভিযানের শেষ শিকার ছিল শিশু রাসেল। সবাইকে হত্যার পর তাকে নিচে নিয়ে আসা হয়। এ সময় রাসেল আমাকে জড়িয়ে ধরে জানতে চায়- ওরা আমাকে মারবে না তো? "কিন্তু কিছুক্ষণের মধ্যেই এক ঘাতক আমাকে রাইফেলের বাট দিয়ে মেরে রাসেলকে নিয়ে পুলিশ বক্সে আটকায়। এরপর দুই ঘাতক রাসেলকে তার মায়ের কাছে নিয়ে যাওয়ার কথা বলে সেখান থেকে নিয়ে যায়। এর একটু পরেই গুলির শব্দ।" মামলা দায়েরে বিলম্ব হওয়া প্রসঙ্গে তিনি বলেন, "১৯৭৬ সালের প্রথম দিকে মামলা করতে লালবাগ থানায় গিয়েছিলাম। সে সময় কর্তব্যরত এক পুলিশ কর্মকর্তা আমার এজাহারটি নিয়ে ওসির কক্ষে যান এবং কিছুক্ষণ পর ফিরে এসেই আমার গালে পরপর দুই থাপ্পড় মেরে বলেন, হারামজাদা তুইও মরবি, আমাদেরও মারবি।" সেদিন মামলা না নিয়ে তাকে মেরে ওই পুলিশ কর্মকর্তা উপকার করেছিলেন বলে এখন মনে হয় মুহিতুলের। তিনি বলেন, "মামলা হলে ঘাতকরা তাকে বাঁচতে দিতো না এবং ন্যায় বিচার থেকে বঞ্চিত হতাম বলে মনে হয়। পরে যখন নিরাপদ মনে হয়েছে, তখন মামলা করেছি।" আসামি পক্ষ থেকে হুমকি আছে কিনা- জানতে চাইলে তিনি বলেন, "হ্যাঁ প্রথম থেকে এখনও হুমকি পাচ্ছি। তবে পরোয়া করি না।" হত্যাকাণ্ডের ২১ বছর পর ১৯৯৬ সালে আওয়ামী লীগ ক্ষমতায় যাওয়ার পর ২৪ জনকে আসামি করে মামলা দায়ের করেন মুহিতুল ইসলাম। চার আসামি মারা যাওয়ায় ১৯৯৭ সালের ১২ মার্চ ২০ জনের বিরুদ্ধে ঢাকায় দায়রা জজ আদালতে বিচার শুরু হয়। ১৯৯৮ সালের ৮ নভেম্বর বিচারিক আদালত ওই মামলার রায়ে ১৫ জনকে মৃত্যুদণ্ড দেয়। রায়ের বিরুদ্ধে আপিল হলে হাইকোর্ট প্রথমে বিভক্ত রায় দিলে পরে তৃতীয় বেঞ্চে ১২ জনের মৃত্যুদণ্ড বহাল রাখে। ২০০৭ সালের ২৩ সেপ্টেম্বর মৃত্যুদণ্ডপ্রাপ্ত পাঁচ আসামি হাইকোর্টের রায়ের বিরুদ্ধে সুপ্রিম কোর্টে আপিল করে। মামলাটির চূড়ান্ত নিষ্পত্তিতে সোমবার সকালে আপিল শুনানি শুরু হচ্ছে। এ জন্য রোববার আপিল বিভাগের পাঁচ বিচারপতিকে নিয়ে একটি বেঞ্চ গঠন করেন প্রধান বিচারপতি এম এম রুহুল আমিন।


A Political Profile of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman

The Father of the Nation

Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was born in a respectable Muslim Family on 17 March, 1920, in Tungipara village under the then Gopalganj subdivision ( at present district ) of Faridpur district. He was the third child among four daughters and two sons of Sheikh Lutfar Rahman and Sheikh Shahara Khatun. His parents used to call him Khoka out of affection. Bangabandhu spent his childhood in Tungipara.

At the age of seven, Bangabandhu began his schooling at Gimadanga Primary School. At nine, he was admitted to class three at Gopalganj Public School. Subsequently, he was transferred to a local Missionary School.

Bangabandhu was forced to go for a break of study when, at the age of fourteen, one of his eyes had to be operated on.

At eighteen, Mujib married Begum Fazilatunnesa. They later became the happy parents of two daughters, Sheikh Hasina and Sheikh Rehana, and three sons, Sheikh Kamal, Sheikh Jamal and Sheikh Russel. All the sons were to be killed along with their parents on 15 August, 1975.

Bangabandhu's political career was effectively inaugurated while he was a student at Gopalganj Missionary School. He led a group of students to demand that the cracked roof of the school be repaired when Sher-e-Bangla A. K. Fazlul Huq, Chief Minister of Undivided Bengal, came to visit the school along with Hussein Shaheed Suhrawardy.

Sheikh Mujib joined the Nikhil Bharat Muslim Chhatra Federation (All India Muslim Students Federation). He was elected Councilor for a one-year term.

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman passed the Entrance (currently Secondary School Certificate) Examination. He then took admission as an Intermediate student in the humanities faculty of Calcutta Islamia College, where he had lodgings at Baker Hostel. The same year Bangabandhu got actively involved with the movement for the creation of Pakistan.

Sheikh Mujib's busy active political career took off in the literal sense with his election as a Councilor of the Muslim League.

Bangabandhu took part in the conference of the all Bengal Muslim Students League held in Kushtia, where he played an important role. He was elected Secretary of Faridpur District Association, a Calcutta-based organization of the residents of Faridpur.

Sheikh Mujib was elected General Secretary of Islamia College Students Union.

Bangabandhu obtained Bachelor of Arts degree from Islamia College under Calcutta University. When communal riots broke out in the wake of the partition of India and the birth of Pakistan, Bangabandhu played a pioneering role in protecting Muslims and trying to contain the violence.

Bangabandhu took admission in the Law Department of Dhaka University. He founded the Muslim Students League on 4 January. He rose in spontaneous protest on 23 February when Prime Minister Khwaja Nazimuddin in his speech at the Legislative Assembly declared : " The people of East Pakistan will accept Urdu as their state Language". Khwaja Nazimuddins's remarks touched off a storm of protest across the country. Sheikh Mujib immediately plunged in hectic activities to build a strong movement against the muslim League's premeditated, heinous design to make Urdu the only state language of Pakistan. He established contacts with students and political leaders. On 2 March, a meeting of the workers of different political parties was held to chart the course of the movement against the Muslim League on the language issue. The meeting held at Fazlul Huq Hall approved a resolution placed by Bangabandhu to form an All-Party State Language Action Council. The Action Council called for a general strike on 11 March to register the protest against the conspiracy of the Muslim League against Bangla. On 11 March, Bangabandhu was arrested along with some colleagues while they were holding a demonstration in front of the Secretariat building. The student community of the country rose in protest following the arrest of Bangabandhu. In the face of the strong student movement

Sheikh Mujib was released from jail on 21st January. Bangabandhu extended his support to a strike called by the Class Four employees of Dhaka University to press home their various demands. The University authorities illogically imposed a fine on him for leading the movement of the employees. He rejected the unjust order. Eventually, the anti-Muslim League candidate Shamsul Huq won a by-election in Tangail on 26 April. Mujib was arrested for staging a sit-in strike before the Vice-chancellor's residence. When the East Pakistan Awami Muslim League was formed on 23 June. Bangabandhu was elected its joint Secretary despite his incarceration. He was released in late June. Immediately after his release, he began organizing an agitation against the prevailing food crisis. In September he was detained for violating Section 144, Later, however, he was freed.

He raised the demand for Chief Minister Nurul Amin's resignation at a meeting of the Awami Muslim League in October.

The Awami Muslim League brought out an anti-famine Minister Liaquat Ali Khan's visit to the province. Once again Bangbandhu was arrested and jailed, this time for two years and five months for leading the demonstration.

On 26th January, Khwaja Nazimuddin declared that Urdu would be the state language of Pakistan. Though still in jail, Bangabandhu managed to play a leading role in organization a protest against this announcement. From prison he send out a call to the State Language Action Council to observe 21st February as Demand Day for releasing political prisoners and making. Bangla the state language. He began a hunger strike on 14 February. On 21 February the student. Community violated Section 144 and brought out procession in Dhaka to demand the recognition of Bangla as the state language. Police opened fire, killing I the process Salam, Barkat, Rafique, Jabbar and Shafiur, who thus became Martyrs of the of the Language Movement. In a statement from jail, Bangabandhu condemned the police firing and registered his strong protest. He was on hunger strike for 13 consecutive days. He was moved from Dhaka Central Jail to Faridpur Jail to prevent him from making contact with the organizers of the movement. He was released from jail o 26 February.

On 9 July, Mujib was elected General Secretary of East Pakistan Awami League at its council session. Efforts were made to forge unity among Moulana Bhashani, A.K. Fazlul Huq and Shaheed Suhrawardy with the objective of taking on the Muslim League at the general elections. To achieve this goal, a special council session of the party was called on 14 November, when a resolution to form the Jukta Front (United Front) was approved.

The first general election were held on 10 March. The United Front won 223 seats out of a total of 237, including 143 captured by the Awami League. Bangabandhu swept the Goppalganj constituency, defeating the powerful Muslim League leader Wahiduzzaman by a margin of 13.00 votes. On 15 May, Bangabandhu was given charge of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests when the new Provincial Government was formed. On 29 May, the Central Government arbitrarily dismissed the United Front ministry. Bangabandhu was again arrested once he landed at Dhaka airport after a flight from Karachi on 30 May. He was freed on 23 December.

Bangabandhu was elected a member of the Legislative Assembly on 5 June. The Awami League held a public meeting at Paltan Maidan on 17 June where it put forward a 21 point programme demanding autonomy for East Pakistan. On 23 June, the Working Council of the Awami League decided that its members would resign from the Legislative Assembly if autonomy was not granted to East Pakistan.

On 25 August, Bangabandhu told Pakistan's assembly in Karachi.


On 21 October, the party dropped the word "Muslim from its name at a special council of the Bangladesh Awami Muslim League, making the party a truly modern and secular one. Bangbandhu was reelected General Secretary of party.



his life to establishing a democratic, peaceful and exploitation-free society called "Sonar Bangla" - Golden Bengal. He sacrificed his life to liberate the Bangalee nation, which had been groaning under the colonial and imperialist yoke for nearly 1,000 years. He is the founding father of the Bangalee nation, generator of Bangalee nationalism and creator of the sovereign state of Bangladesh.

My father spent nearly half his life behind bars and yet with extraordinary courage and conviction he withstood numerous trials and tribulations during the long period of his political struggle. During his imprisonment, he stood face to face with death on at least two occasions, but never for a moment did he waver.

As a daughter of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, I heard many tales about him from my grandfather and grandmother. He was born on Mar. 17, 1920 in Tungipara, in what was then the British Raj. During the naming ceremony my great-grandfather predicted that Sheikh Mujibur Rahman would be a world-famous name.

My father grew up rural - amid rivers, trees, birdsong. He flourished in the free atmosphere inspired by his grandparents. He swam in the river, played in the fields, bathed in the rains, caught fish and watched out for birds' nests. He was lanky, yet played football. He liked to eat plain rice, fish, vegetables, milk, bananas and sweets. His care and concern for classmates, friends and others was well-known. He gave away his tiffin to the hungry, clothes to the naked, books to the needy and other personal belongings to the poor. One day, my grandfather told me, he gave his clothes to a poor boy and came home in his shawl.

At the age of 7, he began his schooling, though an eye ailment forced a four-year break from his studies. He married at the age of 11 when my mother was 3. He demonstrated leadership from the beginning. Once in 1939, he led classmates to demand repair of the school's roof - just when the premier of then undivided Bengal happened to be in town. Despite a deep involvement in politics, in 1946 he obtained a BA.

Bangabandhu was blessed from boyhood with leadership, indomitable courage and great political acumen. He played an active role in controlling communal riots during the India-Pakistan partition. He risked his life for the cause of truth and justice. He rose in protest in 1948 against the declaration of Urdu as the state language of Pakistan and was arrested the following year. He pioneered the movement to establish Bangla as the state language. In 1966, he launched a six-point program for the emancipation of Bangalees. In 1969, my father was acclaimed Bangabandhu, Friend of Bengal. His greatest strength (and weakness) was his "love for the people." He is an essential part of the emotional existence of all Bangalees.

The appearance of Bangladesh on the world map in 1971 was the culmination of a long-suppressed national urge. On Mar. 7, 1971, my father addressed a mammoth public meeting in Dhaka and declared: "The struggle now is the struggle for our emancipation, the struggle now is the struggle for Independence." He sent a wireless message, moments after a crackdown by the Pakistani army, declaring the Independence of Bangladesh in the early hours of Mar. 26. The world knows he courted arrest - and yet Bangabandhu emerged as the unquestioned leader of a newborn country.

Once in power, my father pursued a non-aligned, independent foreign policy based on peaceful coexistence. Its basic tenet: "Friendship to all, malice to none." He advocated world peace and declared his support for all freedom struggles. He supported the concept of a "Zone of Peace" in the Indian Ocean. In 1974, he was awarded the Julio Curie Prize for his devotion to the cause of peace.

But at a time when Bangladesh was emerging as an advocate for oppressed nations, his foes assassinated him on Aug. 15, 1975. My mother and three brothers were also killed. Even my younger brother Sheikh Russel, who was then nine, was not spared. The only survivors were my younger sister Sheikh Rehana and myself; we were on a trip to Germany.

Consequently, the political ideals for which Bangladesh sacrificed three million of her finest sons and daughters were trampled, and Bangladesh became a puppet in the hands of imperialism and autocracy. By assassinating Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the conspirators wanted to stop the country's march to freedom, democracy, peace and development. The process of law and justice were not permitted to take their course; human rights were violated. It is, therefore, the solemn responsibility of freedom- and peace-loving people to help ensure the trial of the plotters and killers of this great leader, my father.

Sheikh Hasina, daughter of the late Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, is the prime minister of Bangladesh.

February 1969: Revisiting the Agartala Conspiracy Case

February 1969:
Revisiting the Agartala Conspiracy Case

Syed Badrul Ahsan celebrates the anniversary of the withdrawal of the notorious case that was a catalyzing moment in the transformation of a man and a movement into an unstoppable force for national liberation

n the morning of February 15, 1969, Sergeant Zahurul Haq and Flight Sergeant Fazlul Haq, both Bengalis and charged with anti-state activities in the Agartala Conspiracy Case, were shot by their guards in the Dhaka cantonment. The Pakistan authorities gave out the disinformation that the two men had tried to escape from military confinement, but had been prevented from making good on their plan by the men who guarded them. Sometime after 9 pm on the same day, Zahurul Haq died of his wounds. Fazlul Haq survived, after marathon efforts were expended by his Bengali doctor to save him.

The premeditated killing of Zahurul Haq, for so it was, was a clear hint of the desperation that the regime of President Ayub Khan had fallen into became of the gathering mass movement against the government in East Pakistan. In the preceding three months especially, public outcry against a trial that was beginning to be considered more of a sham than a true legal exercise had gathered pace. Indeed, the first real stirrings of discontent in Pakistan's eastern province, insofar as the Ayub regime was concerned, had been observed a month earlier through the killing of a young student, Asaduzzaman, on January 20.

Four days later, the province erupted in unprecedented agitation. At Dhaka University and other campuses around the province, students deserted the classroom in droves and simply marched out on to the streets. The demand that Ayub Khan resign and that his underlings in East Pakistan, personified by the likes of Governor Abdul Monem Khan, quit office began to acquire the shape and form of a popular revolution in the making. By the time January gave way to February, the options before the government had clearly become limited. On the one hand, the students of Dhaka University, as well as those of other universities across the province, had come to adopt what was in Pakistan's brief history a radical program, alongside the Six Point Program first enunciated by the imprisoned Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in February 1966. The students called it their eleven-point charter of political demands.

On the other hand, the fiery and widely respected Moulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhashani, having overcome his brief flirtation with Ayub Khan in the early 1960s, had taken a decisive step in garnering popular support for a movement to have Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his co-accused in the Agartala Case freed without any conditions attached. Additionally, the efforts made by Oli Ahad and Amena Begum, among others, to compel the regime into withdrawing the case, increased the government's worries.

Thirty-eight years after what has come to be known in Bangladesh's history as a mass upsurge against an entrenched military regime, it makes sense to go back in time and reflect on the defining role the Agartala Conspiracy Case played in the shaping of the Bengali struggle to free themselves of Pakistan. There has always remained the suspicion, a pretty credible one, that the case had been cooked up by Ayub Khan and his Rawalpindi-based government as a means of liquidating Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his rising Bengali nationalistic politics in what was regarded as a

pure Islamic state for the Muslims of the subcontinent. In fact, as the campaign for the 1970 general elections got under-way, Khan Abdus Sabur Khan, a Bengali who had loyally served Ayub as central minister for communications and was leader of the Convention Muslim League in the National Assembly, told the country that he and a few others had advised the president against instituting the case because it could boomerang on the regime.

And boomerang it did. What has eventually emerged in the nearly four decades since the case was dropped is that Mujib was certainly aiming at the independence of East Pakistan, that it was his objective to take the Bengalis out of Pakistan and create a separate, secular, and democratic state. A very early sign of Mujib's dream of Bengali freedom remains his question to Husseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, back in 1957, regarding the feasibility of political sovereignty for East Pakistan. At the time, Suhrawardy (and he was prime minister of Pakistan) firmly put him in his place. But what has never been in doubt about the Agartala Case, though, is the ugly and rather uncouth way in which the Ayub regime went about building the case.

When the first arrests in the case were announced in late December 1967, not a word was said about Mujib's involvement in the conspiracy. The general assumption was that the regime had embarked on a program to discredit the growing Bengali demand for regional autonomy through bringing some senior Bengali officers of the Pakistan civil service, as well as elements of the armed forces, into disrepute. It was not before January 1968 that Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was implicated in the case. And he had been in prison since May 8, 1966 when, moments after addressing a rally drumming up support for the Six Points in Narayanganj, he was carted off to Dhaka Central Jail. Once the regime added Mujib's name to the list, terming him accused number one in the conspiracy case, the Awami League leader, then aged forty-eight,

was moved to a maximum security cell inside the cantonment in Dhaka.

The Agartala Case was a testing ground for Pakistan. Ayub Khan's goal was a snuffing out of Bengali political aspirations. Ironically, the precise reverse of what had been intended happened. Bengali nationalistic sentiments moved ahead by leaps and bounds, and Mujib was to become the voice of a people who would soon go their own free way, in the political sense of the meaning. That was not what Ayub Khan and his fellow travelers thought would happen when they decided to convene a special tribunal, as opposed to the normal judiciary, to try the case. Heading the special tribunal was the Punjabi Justice SA Rahman; and assisting him were two Bengalis, both judges of the East Pakistan High Court, Justice Mujibur Rahman Khan and Justice Maksumul Hakim.

The regime clearly banked on the assumption that the presence of the two Bengalis on the tribunal would lend credence to the case against Mujib and his fellow accused. As time would show, the reality was to be something quite different. The accused were kept away from their families between the time of their arrests and the day the trial commenced inside a small room in the cantonment. Reports later emerged of a number of the accused, including the CSP officers implicated in the case, being subjected to vicious treatment in military confinement. Among those meting out such treatment were a good number of Bengalis in the Pakistan military, especially in its intelligence services. Colonel Mustafizur Rahman, who years later served as foreign minister and then as home minister in the Bangladesh governments of General Ziaur Rahman and Khaleda Zia respectively, would deny that he had been responsible for cruel treatment to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in military custody.

Hearings in the Agartala Conspiracy Case opened on June 19, 1968. For the first time in seven months the accused were seen in public. One of the more memorable of moments on the first day of the trial came when Mujib recognized a Bengali journalist sitting a couple of feet away from him, his back turned to the platform reserved for the accused. The incarcerated Bengali leader tried drawing the journalist's attention to him. The journalist pretended not to have heard. Mujib tried again, at which point the journalist whispered: "Mujib Bhai, we can't talk. There are intelligence people all over the place." That was when Mujib exploded. "Anyone who wants to live in Bangladesh," thundered the Awami League leader, "will have to talk to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman." Heads, including those of the judges, turned.

Mujib's courage in adversity was not missed. More tellingly, he had used the name Bangladesh, and not East Pakistan, in speaking of the province. It was an early sign of things to come. At the trial, Mujib's chief counsel was Abdus Salam Khan, who was assisted by, among others, a young Dr Kamal Hossain. Soon to join the defence team would be Sir Thomas Williams, QC, whose services had been obtained by expatriate Bengalis in the United Kingdom. But the British lawyer's stay in Dhaka was not to be a comfortable one for him. Pakistani intelligence constantly tailed him, and at one point held out clear, subtle threats to him. Two months after he landed in Dhaka, Thomas Williams would make his

way back to London in August 1968, but not before he had told the tribunal that the trial was a sham and that the case itself was a cooked up one. Khan Bahadur Mohammad Ismail took up the defence of the accused CSP officer Ruhul Quddus while Khan Bahadur Naziruddin appeared for Major Shamsul Alam. An intriguing aspect of the story of the Agartala Conspiracy Case was the very large number of state witnesses and approvers arrayed on the side of the government. Between December 1967 and continuing well into the first quarter of 1968, as many as 1,500 Bengalis in various professions had been detained by the authorities on charges of being complicit in the conspiracy. Of them, apart from the 35 accused put on trial, 232 became, or were compelled to become, state witnesses. A good number of Bengali lawyers happily seized the opportunity of being part of the prosecution team.

But as the days and weeks stretched into months, it became obvious that the case was collapsing. A number of state witnesses turned hostile and revealed the inordinate torture they had been subjected to by the authorities before they had agreed to turn approvers. Some of them even broke down in court, leaving all those present in a state of shock. As the proceedings continued, nevertheless, the political movement outside became increasingly more frenzied, with crowds of Bengalis demanding the dropping of the case.

The killing of Sergeant Zahurul Haq ignited passions further, to a point where angry Bengalis attacked the rest-house where the chairman of the tribunal, Justice SA Rahman, had been lodged. He fled, and was not to return to the court. The homes of Information and Broadcasting Minister Khwaja Shahabuddin, already notorious as the man behind the 1964 decree banning Tagore from the state media, and a provincial minister, Sultan Ahmed, came under assault. Two days later, on February 17, Field Marshal Ayub Khan contacted the newly constituted Democratic Action Committee, a grouping of opposition politicians led by Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan, and suggested convening a round table conference of government and opposition politicians to resolve the impasse.

The Awami League, definitely the strongest component of the DAC, refused to be part of any RTC unless Mujib was freed and the Agartala Case withdrawn. The regime was unwilling to accede to such a demand, and Ayub Khan himself ruled out Mujib's freedom when he termed the on-going case a matter of national security. But he did send out feelers to the imprisoned Mujib about freeing the Awami League leader on parole, and so enabling him to participate in the RTC. Significantly, a number of DAC politicians, too, defended the parole idea, arguing that the issue of dropping of the Agartala Case and an unconditional freeing of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman could be thrashed out at the RTC in Rawalpindi. At that point, hints emerged of Mujib being receptive to the parole offer. The parole question was, however, swiftly shot down by the students, Moulana Bhashani, and, in particular, Mujib's wife Fazilatunnessa. After February 19, 1969, when the army shot Professor Shamsuzzoha, a respected academic of Rajshahi University, the parole issue became irrelevant. Mujib himself rejected anything less than freedom for himself and his co-accused, and a full withdrawal of the Agartala Conspiracy Case.

Buoyed by rumours of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's imminent release, huge crowds of Bengalis milled before the gates to the Dhaka cantonment on February 21, the anniversary of the Language Movement of 1952. Mujib remained a prisoner that day. The government of President Ayub Khan capitulated the next day, February 22. In a statement issued in Dhaka, Pakistan's Defence Minister, Vice Admiral AR Khan, informed the country that the Agartala Conspiracy Case was being withdrawn and all the accused in the case were being released unconditionally.

On February 23, 1969, Mujib appeared before a cheering million-strong crowd of Bengalis at the Race Course in Dhaka. There was little question that he had emerged from the ordeal of the Agartala Case as the authentic spokesman of Bengal in what would be the rapidly declining state of Pakistan. Student leader Tofail Ahmed electrified the audience when he referred to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman as the friend of Bengal. And thus arose the man Bengalis would thenceforth call Bangabandhu. In slightly less than three years, he would provide singular leadership to the struggle for the creation of the independent People's Republic of Bangladesh.