Arefin reiterates forming commission to unearth August 15 plot entirely

country National

NM News Desk: Dhaka, Aug-03,

An independent commission should be formed to carry out a thorough study to unearth the behind the scene plot of the August 15, 1975 carnage entirety to stop recurrence of such conspiracies in future, suggested noted academician Prof AAMS Arefin Siddique.

“Formation of a fact finding commission is crucial to unearth the detailed plot (of August 15),” Siddique told BSS in an interview on the month of mourning recalling Bangabandhu’s 47th martyrdom anniversary to be observed on August 15.

He said until now Bangladesh 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 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, the entire episode could be backtracked, finding how one incident was linked to another”.

Siddique, also chairman of the board of directors of Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS), said some of the behind the scene masterminds could have taken 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.

Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Anisul Huq earlier said the government is working regarding the initiative to form the commission to unmask the behind the scene plotters.

Anisul Huq, who took part as state lawyer in Bangabandhu murder trial, said the commission would be a very important institution as it would have to perform a major duty.

Information and Broadcasting Minister and Awami League Joint General Secretary Dr Hasan Mahmud in several times also proposed forming a commission to unmask the behind-the-scene plotters of Bangabandhu’s assassination along with most of his family members 47 years ago.

He said he firmly believed it is necessary to unmask those who hatched the plot of the August 15 carnage and bring them to justice.

Hasan said he assumed that the people of the country also want a commission to be formed to reveal the conspirators.

Citing the importance of forming the commission, Prof 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 assassination of President Kennedy, known unofficially as the Warren Commission, within seven days of the Kennedy killing on November 29, 1963 to investigate the assassination that had taken place on November 22, 1963.

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 allow the people of the world to know about the facts centring the assassination.

He said Bangabandhu 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 the country has carried out trials of the assassination of Bangabandhu but the entire blue print behind the killing that had began 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- incumbent prime minister – on August 21 in 2004, he said.

Siddique 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 centering the carnage to stop recurrence of such conspiracies 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,” Siddique said.

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 plot must be identified as well.”

Talking to BSS, Dhaka Speedy Trial Tribunal public prosecutor Advocate Mosharraf Hossain Kajol earlier said a criminal case is a continuous process as it never gets finished for all.

The investigative 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 our next generation’s sake, 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, those can give vital information regarding the dark chapter of the national life, who ran research on the matter, can be appointed as the members of the commission.

“Our law minister is a learned person and he himself took part in the hearing. The matter is in very good hands. 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 were angry at him, whose plans were spoiled by him, etc.

Referring to his own observations about the carnage, Prof Arefin Siddique referred to several little 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 for 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,” Siddique said quoting a published interview of the 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 of 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 the direct killers to justice.

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 on that year.

And other convicts are still on the run.

The government said a process was underway to track the other convicts down and bring back home to expose them to gallows.