Published: 15 Aug 2021, 11:30 am
Noted academician Prof AAMS Arefin Siddique suggested forming an independent commission to carry out a thorough study to expose the entire plot behind the August 15 carnage of 1975 to stop recurrence of such heinous conspiracies in future.
“Formation of a fact-finding commission is crucial to unearth the detailed plot of August 15,” he told BSS in an interview coinciding with the National Mourning Day and Bangabandhu’s 46th martyrdom anniversary Sunday.
He said Bangladesh, by now, mostly remained dependent on the declassified secret foreign information to study the plot behind the assassination of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman along with most of his family members.
“Now we need to explore the local sources as well to compile and tally with the information obtained through the external sources to unearth the entire episode of the carnage,” said Arefin Siddique, also former Vice-Chancellor of Dhaka University.
He added: “The plot was hatched under a long drawn process in several phases and if we could focus on every phase of the entire episode by backtracking, then we could find how one incident was linked to another.”
Arefin Siddique, also chairman of the board of directors of Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS), said some of the behind the scene masterminds could take part in the process sitting abroad while some others might have sent the assassins to kill Bangabandhu hiding behind the curtain, and the American CIA too might have a hand in the carnage.
“They also need to be unmasked for the sake of history,” he said.
Talking to BSS, Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Anisul Huq said the government is still working regarding the initiative to form the commission.
“For the ongoing pandemic situation, all the physical work has more or less came to a stop. But behind the scene work is going on,” he said.
“I already discussed the matter with the Prime Minister,” said Anisul Huq, who took part as a state lawyer in Bangabandhu murder trial.
Anisul Huq earlier said, “This commission would be a very important institution as it is going to perform a major duty. So Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and cabinet members would hold a meeting to figure out the outline of its activities, take decision on nominating its chairman and members”.
“I cannot make a decision on forming this commission alone. I would discuss the matter with the Prime Minister soon and take decision in this regard jointly,” he added.
Citing the importance of forming the commission, Prof Arefin Siddique referred to the examples of the United States and India which constituted such fact-finding missions after the assassinations of President John F Kennedy, Mahatma Gandhi, Prime Ministers Indira Gandhi and Rajib Gandhi as he reiterated his call to form the commission.
The academician said the then US President Lyndon B. Johnson had formed a commission on the murder of President Kennedy, known unofficially as the Warren Commission, on November 29, 1963 within seven days of his killing to investigate the assassination took place on November 22, 1963.
Arefin Siddique, also a communication expert, said the Warren Commission had submitted its report within the shortest possible time and it was later made open for all and kept at libraries to let the people of the world know about the facts centring the assassination.
He said Bangabandhu's assassination is not a killing of an individual or any family rather it meant for complete collapse of the country’s security system.
Prof Siddique said Bangladesh has carried out trials in the assassination of Bangabandhu but the entire blueprint behind the killing that had begun many days ago before August 15, 1975, and also continued after the carnage for long should be unearthed through a commission.
In continuation of the August 15 carnage, the grenade attacks were carried out on the Awami League rally targeting Bangabandhu’s daughter- the then Leader of the Opposition, (now Prime Minister) Sheikh Hasina- on August 21 in 2004, he said.
He said the conspiracy is still going on, so it is now essential to form a commission to unmask the plotters and unearth the entire scenario centring the carnage to stop recapitulate of such intrigue in the days to come.
“This commission won’t be meant to punish anyone afresh as the perpetrators of the carnage have already been exposed to justice, the objective of the commission would be to preserve historical records -- and being the owner of the republic, the people have the right to know who killed their father of the nation,” said Arefin Siddique.
He said retired judges, bureaucrats, military personnel with high integrity and efficiency could comprise the proposed commission.
He, however, said it was easy to identify and try those who directly took part in the killings, “but the behind the scene masterminds of the plotters must be identified as well.”
Dhaka Speedy Trial Tribunal public prosecutor Advocate Mosharraf Hossain Kajol said a criminal case is a continuous process as it never gets finished for all.
The investigation work regarding the murder of former US President John F Kennedy is still going on, he said.
“On regular occasions, we hear about the investigation of Mahatma Gandhi murder. So, there is no legal or constitutional bar in forming a commission to identify the perpetrators of Bangabandhu murder,” he said.
“Bangabandhu murder is not a normal thing. They killed our Father of the Nation. It’s a huge matter. We have to know about the persons that ran the whole thing from behind the curtain,” he said.
Kajol said: “For the sake of our next generations, we have to unmask these people. It can be research work. First, we have to solve the mystery of identifying the perpetrators, then the matter of bringing them to justice can come.”
While replying to a question on who can be nominated to work in the commission, Kajol, who worked as a public prosecutor in Bangabandhu murder trial and special public prosecutor for August 21 grenade attack cases, said the people who worked in probing the case, took part in hearing for the state like him.
“They can give vital information regarding the dark chapter of the national life and who run research on the matter, can be appointed as the members of the commission,” he said.
“Our law minister is a learned person and he himself took part in the hearing. Our law and home ministries would decide the type of the commission and its working process,” he said.
Kajol further added that the commission will have to work from 1972, they have to look into the works of Bangabandhu, his philosophy, for whom, he was a threat, who was angry with him, whose plans were spoiled by him, etc.
Turning to his own observations about the carnage, Prof Arefin Siddique referred to several talked about incidents with one being the extension of service of the then deputy army chief general Ziaur Rahman, who later emerged as a strongman of Bangladesh after the August 15 carnage.
He said one of the related references suggested that Zia had desperately pursued his extension and Bangabandhu agreed to extend his service only for three months.
“Ziaur Rahman appeared very delighted (receiving the extension order) . . . within few days the August 15 carnage took place,” Arefin Siddique said quoting a published interview of then deputy minister for defence Nurul Islam several years ago when he castigated himself for his role in getting Zia the extension.
He said several reports suggested that the then Indian premier Indira Gandhi repeatedly sent Bangabandhu messages saying the Indian intelligence agencies gathered information about a possible assassination plot, which Bangabandhu took lightly saying “who is the man in Bangladesh to kill me”.
Siddique said Bangabandhu was farsighted and that was why he understood something was cooking up and “a plot was being hatched but he never blamed any Bengali for it as it is what Bangabandhu is”.
The communication expert said many things have been written in books or articles in a scattered way but a thorough study is a must to know who waged resistance after the carnage, who committed suicide and who took oaths in the cabinet after the assassination and how the November 3, 1975 incident took place to kill the four national leaders.
The people wanted to know about the entire episodes before and after the August 15 carnage and wanted to know who played which roles, so forming an independent commission is essential to keep the official records on the massacre to let the people know about the conspiracy and all other related incidents, he added.
The perpetrators of the August 15 carnage were protected under a now-scrapped black law enacted by the subsequent government which also rewarded them with diplomatic assignments abroad and allowed some of them to float political parties at home.
Returning to power after the landmark 1996 general elections after 21 years of political wilderness, Awami League scrapped the so-called Indemnity Act to expose to justice the direct killers.
The delayed trial process began in 1996 and after a protracted legal procedure, 12 former army officers were handed down death sentences and five of them were eventually hanged on January 28, 2010, while the rest were tried in absentia.
One of the fugitive convicts died a natural death abroad while Abdul Majed, one of the convicts in the killing of Bangladesh’s founding father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, was executed at the Dhaka Central Jail on April 12, 2020, after he was arrested in Dhaka on April 7.
And other convicts are still on the run.
The government said a process was underway to track the other convicts down and bring them back home to be exposed to gallows.