Aug 15 in world media | The Daily Star
03:15 PM, November 19, 2009 / LAST MODIFIED: 04:16 PM, August 14, 2016

Righting The Grievous Wrong

Aug 15 in world media

Even before the people of Bangladesh could come to terms with the fact that the nation's founding father had been assassinated, the world media were prompt to pick the putsch for drawing very diverse sorts of analysis.

And understandably so, if someone sees the historic political events centring the killing of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on the fateful night of August 15, 1975, begin unfolding during that particular juncture of time through the prism of Cold War realities.

In its August 16, 1975 issue, the Washington Post reported from New Delhi, "A military-backed government believed to favour both Islam and the West took power in Bangladesh today after a bloody predawn coup."

The report portrayed Mujib as a leftist president. "The overthrow claimed the life of leftist President Mujibur Rahman, the Father of the impoverished country's independence movement who had assumed near dictatorial powers," it wrote.

The newly installed president, Khandaker Mushtaque Ahmed said in a broadcast 18 hours after the coup that Mujib was responsible for Bangladesh's poverty. "There was corruption, nepotism and attempts to concentrate powers on one hand," the Washington Post quoted Mushtaque as saying.

It commented that the death of Mujib was a personal blow to the then Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi, who had often endorsed Mujib's policies of secularism and socialism, the two pillars of her own government.

Soviet newspaper the Izvestia published news of the coup on an inside page without any comment.

Soviet communist party's mouthpiece the Pravda, however, contended that political observers in various countries were asking if "forces hostile" to the aspirations of Bangladesh people might exert "an influence of future developments in the country".


"This anxiety is well-founded since such forces actually exist," Pravda asserted. "These are imperialism, Maoism and internal reaction."

Exactly one week after the August 15 massacre of Bangabandhu family, Christopher R Wren wrote for the New York Times from Moscow, "The Kremlin, in its first substantial reaction to last week's coup d'état in Bangladesh, hinted today [August 22] that the overthrow of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman might sway her away from the Soviet Union and toward China."

Indian newspaper the Hindustan Times reported with Dhaka dateline on September 1 that Chinese recognition comes a week after the Soviet Union recognised the new regime and a few days of India's official statement that it would continue its relation with Mushtaque government.

On the eve of the first anniversary of Mujib's assassination, Anthony Mascarenhas of the Sunday Times took an interview of two of the self-proclaimed killers--Lt Col Farooq and Lt Col Rashid--for the current affairs programme "World in Action" on London's ITV.

In that interview broadcast on August 2, 1976, the killers described how they met the then deputy chief of Army Staff Major General Ziaur Rahman on March 20, 1975, and shared their plan to bring in a change in the country but, Zia said, "I am sorry, I would not like to get involved in anything like that. If you want to do something, the junior officers should do it themselves."

Lawrence Lifschultz who along with Martin Woollacott gave one of the most detailed accounts of what had happened on the night of August 15, revisiting the history of that night and the preceding days to reveal the conspiracy behind the putsch. The Guardian ran it as its lead story on August 28, 1975.

Four years later, Lifschultz wrote "The intrigue behind the army coup which toppled Sheikh Mujib" published in the Guardian on August 15, 1979.

Lifschultz wrote, "According to information obtained from senior US officials at the American Embassy in Dacca [sic] and from well-informed Bengali sources, it appears that the United States had prior knowledge of the coup which killed Mujib, and that the American Embassy personnel had held discussions with individuals involved in the plot more than six months prior to his death.

"In reporting the coup no foreign or Bengali journalist probed beyond superficial aspects of what had happened...The version of events that the [military] officers had acted alone, without prior political planning, was a myth that came to stand as fact," Lifschultz added.

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