On the dark night of August 15, 1975, a heinous act took place in Bangladesh when the Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, was assassinated along with his family, leading to a significant shift in the country’s power dynamics. The use of military and violence to seize power in politics in Bangladesh led to a period of instability and fear. The assassination of the elected government marked a departure from democracy and a move towards authoritarian rule influenced by Pakistani ideology. The day of November 7, 1975, played a pivotal role in shaping the political landscape of Bangladesh.
You can also read: November 3rd: An Inhumane Tragedy for the Bengali Nation
The History Turns Wrong
Before November 7, 1975, there was division within the military, and a military uprising occurred in the early days of November under the leadership of Khaled Mosharraf. At this time, there was no discipline, policy, or order within the military. But the Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (JSD) managed to unite the leftist fraction of armed forces and support from a paramilitary force. Under the leadership of these military units, they freed Ziaur Rahman from house arrest and orchestrated a military coup. November 7, 1975, marked the first publicized killings of two Sector Commanders and one Sub-Sector Commander of the war of the newly independent Bangladesh.
In addition to this, within the military, 13 individuals were victims of the bloodshed. None of the Sector Commanders had been martyred directly on any battlefield during the War of Independence. That’s why the brutal and terrifying nature of the events of November 7 was a dark chapter in history. General Ziaur Rahman, who was directly involved in the assassination, led the alleged military uprising, known as the ‘Sipahi Biplob’ (Soldiers’ Revolution).
After the assassination of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his family, General Ziaur Rahman was declared the Chief of Army Staff by the self-proclaimed President Khondaker Moshtaque Ahmed. On the other hand, a faction within the military harbored resentment and sought to avenge the killing of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Major Khaled Mosharraf led this faction, which formed its own paramilitary force and military organization.
The organization led by these military officers managed to free Ziaur Rahman from house arrest and staged a military uprising. November 7, 1975, marked the beginning of a systematic process of killing the brave freedom fighters of Bangladesh, members of the Mukti Bahini.
On November 7, 1975, after the assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, leading to a series of events shaped the history of Bangladesh. It was a day when the military took control of the country, marking a significant shift in the nation’s political landscape and leading to a period of instability and uncertainty.
An Ultra-Left Movement Helps a Right-wing Coup ‘état
At the beginning of November, a faction of the military, led by Khaled Mosharraf, staged a coup. They immediately arrested the then Chief of Army Staff, General Ziaur Rahman. Subsequently, Khaled Mosharraf assumed leadership of the military. The part of the military involved in the assassination of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman could not be held accountable. In a separate incident, four national leaders of the Bangladesh Awami League were killed in jail by the assassins of Bangabandhu. Soon after, the leader of Leftist JSD, Colonel Taher led a mutiny within the military.
On this day, during the so-called Sipahi Biplob (Soldiers’ Revolt), three prominent freedom fighters, Khaled Mosharraf Bir Uttam, K. N. Huda Bir Uttam, and A. T. M. Haider Bir Bikram, were assassinated. They were shot and killed in the office of the General Headquarters of the 10th Bengal Regiment. The company commanders, Asad and Jalil, were responsible for the murders.
Prior to these events, in the early morning of November 6, Faruq, along with a group of Lancer troops, went to free the imprisoned Ziaur Rahman, who played a key role in the assassination of Bangabandhu. They rescued Zia and brought him to the headquarters of the 2nd Artillery Regiment under Colonel Rashid.
Prominent International Journalist Anthony Mascarenhas wrote in his book, “The Rape of Bangladesh,” that during this period, soldiers committed heinous acts, including the killing of 13 military personnel, a female doctor, and even the wife of a military officer.
In the book “Muktijuddho O Tarpor,” researcher Golam Murshid mentioned that after gaining independence, Ziaur Rahman, who was newly re-appointed as the Chief of Army Staff, chose not to talk to Bangabandhu’s assassin and offered a short and concise statement. He then took on the role of Deputy Chief Martial Law Administrator. Ziaur Rahman initiated a crackdown on the JSD and Gonobahini. In July 1976, Colonel Abu Taher, along with several other party members, was sentenced to death, and on the 21st of that month, Taher was executed.
Zia’s Rise to Power and Brutal Revisionist Regime
In the subsequent years, through various power grabs and a questionable referendum election Ziaur Rahman established himself as the President. Despite his rise to power, his rule was marked by more than 20 coups and uprisings. After one rebellion, he executed numerous military personnel, often without proper legal proceedings. This led to a situation where only 11 officers remained in the Air Force after the uprising on October 2, 1977, with just three of them qualified to pilot aircraft.
According to Markus Franke, due to these uprisings, approximately 4,500 military personnel were killed. In particular, on May 30, 1981, in Chittagong, after Ziaur Rahman was assassinated during a military uprising, many freedom fighters, including Major General Manzur, were hanged, and several others were shot and killed.
The rise of Ziaur Rahman’s power marked a significant transformation in the character of Bangladesh’s struggle for independence. Under his rule, Bangladesh witnessed a prolonged period of illegal military rule. Ziaur Rahman’s rule was a dark chapter in the history of independent Bangladesh.
During his time in power, he did not commit any unlawful acts to establish himself permanently. He declared himself as both the Chief of the Army Staff and the President, removing Justice Sattar from the presidency. Ziaur Rahman disrupted the established democratic process, suspended the constitution, and sidelined secularism and socialism from the constitution. He also banned politics and formed his own political party.
Furthermore, his government facilitated the return of war criminals and promoted divisive religious politics, giving rise to religious intolerance. In the face of widespread allegations of extrajudicial killings by security forces and the dismissal of thousands of military personnel, Zia has hindered the path to justice for the ruthless violence on August 15th by issuing an Indemnity Ordinance.
Additionally, Ziaur Rahman’s government provided diplomatic jobs to killers and halted investigations into the genocide. He released 11,000 war criminals, including members of the Razakar and Al-Badr forces, from jail and granted citizenship to their leader, Golam Azam, allowing him to engage in politics.
Ziaur Rahman, a power-hungry authoritarian ruler, issued unlawful military proclamations without adhering to the Constitution and the Army Act. The Army Act clearly states that no one can participate in elections or engage in politics until their service term expires.
However, in 1977, on May 30th, Ziaur Rahman conducted a controversial “yes” or “no” referendum in which he stood as a presidential candidate, defying the law. Again, on September 30, 1978, when the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) was founded, he was the Chief of Army Staff. Both elections and political party formation were entirely illegal and against the law, involving anti-national elements.
The history of November 7 reflects that Ziaur Rahman and the extremist communal groups benefited the most from the killings of military personnel. In contrast, the people of Bangladesh and the spirit of the Liberation War suffered the most.
In continuation of November 3, the largest number of freedom fighters were killed in the country on November 7. This day is the day of the tainted conspiracy to kill the brave freedom fighters of Bangladesh, the day of betrayal. This day was marred by a heinous conspiracy, and it played a pivotal role in shaping the political landscape in Bangladesh. And through this, the politics of Pakistani ideology emerged in Bangladesh. The nation had to pay the price for 21 long years.
It wasn’t until 1996, under the leadership of current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, that the Awami League government came to power and the nation began to move towards the path of light, eradicating the stains of corruption and darkness. It was the dawn of a new era for a free Bangladesh, emerging from the swamp of sins and filth, ultimately reclaiming its true spirit of independence.