Jail Killing Day and its aftermath: Part I  

Jail killing day observed: Country is pathetically divided even on this issue

-Ajoy Roy

 

The tragic day was 3rd November. On this day 29 years ago four national leaders namely Tajuddin Ahmed, First Prime Minister of People’s Republic of Bangladesh, Vice President of the republic Sayed Nazrul Islam, Finance Minister Capt. Mansur Ali, and AHM Quamruzzama, Minister of Interior affairs, relief and rehabilitation were gun downed by one Naik Risalder Mahiuddin led killer team sent by Rashid with the approval of Kh. Mushtaque Ahmed, the majors-installed puppet president of the country. Awami League & its front organizations, and some secular cultural bodies observed the day. Outside to this fold no organization, small or big observed the day or remember their contribution in our war of liberation. We have forgotten those great names who led us to victory in our liberation war. The Government of Khaleda-Nizami never even mentioned these names not to hold any state function in their honour. To them only exists General Zia. Why a people’s government would be so mean. How pathetically the country is divided even at this level. We remember Khaled Musharaff, our most gallant freedom fighter as traitor, Indian agent & pro-Awami man (sic) forgetting his contribution in our liberation war. We forgot the contribution of Gen Manzoor as freedom fighter, only remembering him as conspirator of killing of Gen Zia in Chittagong plot. We forgot Col Taher for his gallant fight in Chilmari, Kamalpur battlefields where he lost one leg, but we killed him because he acted against the army bureaucracy and conservative military school of thought, which went against the interest of Gen Zia.   

          

Khaled-Shafayat attempted Coup of 3rd November

 
From 3rd November to 6th November it was a transition and critical period. As we know, following the great tragedy of August 15 (1975) Farukh-Rashid-Dalim gang took control of Bangabhavan, where they put Kh. Mustaque Ahmed as a puppet Rastrapati of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh. Mustaq termed these killers as ‘Surya Santan’ (sons of Sun). The killers and soldiers under their command, especially the tank regiment did not return to barrack after even months; instead, they stationed themselves in and around Bangabhaban. The trio all the time remained in the president’s palace surrounding the crooked so-called president Mushtaque. These created great resentment amongst the ordinary soldiers and senior officers. Significantly, General Osmani, the commander in chief of Bangladesh liberation army, and Khalilur Rahman, the then director general of BDR extended all out support to Mustaque and then played significant roles during those crucial days in saving his life. It is still a mystery to me why the elder general, who was then appointed as the advisor of defence affairs to the President, acted in a strange way. Major General Khalilur Rahman was made chief of defence staff. Both were above the rank of chief of staff. The then army chief Major General Shafiullah was forcibly sent to retirement on 24th August, 1975. Major General Ziaur Rahman was appointed chief of staff and in his place. But Zia failed to restore the chain of commands in the army. As is known today, the senior army officials, especially who fought so gallantly to liberate our country during war of liberation, asked Zia to take serious steps to restore discipline in the army. They also insisted to take disciplinary action as envisaged in army rules against the killers of Bangabandhu who after the event of August ’75 were running the country defying all constitutional and institutional authorities including the army. The situation had become simply intolerable to these army officials beyond limit. So they decided to act, as the army chief failed.        
 
An ill planned military coup under the leadership of Major General, then Brigadier, Khaled Musharraf took place on 2nd November night. The immediate aim of the coup was to (a) restore chain of command in the military, (b) eject illegally occupier of the chair of the Rashtrapati, and (3) set up a government as permitted by the constitution. The sentiment of pro-liberation army officials who did not approve of Farukh-Rashid gong’s occupying state power illegally in the name of military coup can be typically expressed in the language of Brigadier Shafayat Jamil (addressing to Farukh and Rashid who were present in a meeting of the army high command following a few days after the incident) as: “You are all liars, mutineers and deserters. You are all murderers. Tell your Mustaque that he is a usurper and conspirator. He is not my president. In my first opportunity I shall dislodge him and you all will be tried for your crimes.” From August to November till they were evicted from President’s palace, the killer gong practically ran a parallel army administration with the help of Mushtaque, Khalilur Rahman and the general Osmany. Zia had practically no power – he submitted to their ill wishes.
 
The situation prevailed at that time is as follows. Farukh-Rashid duo trio used to stay in the President’s palace with a dozen of tanks inside the Bangabhaban. 12 tanks were placed in Ramna race course maidan, and 10 tanks were kept within the cantonment in ever combat position. This means that tank regiment and the artillery units were outside the army chain of command. These units were entirely under the control of Farukh and Rashid; Zia, Khalilur Rahman or Osmany had no control over these units. Other trio Dalim, Nur, Sharuiar and & gong used to stay inside the Bangladesh Radio buildings with some soldiers under their command.
 
The d-day was set on 2nd November. 46th Brigade under the command of Brigadier Shafayat Jamil swiftly moved into action. They moved into Bangabhavan, took control of Bangladesh Radio; its transmission was suspended, and took position in other strategic positions to make ineffective of possible tank actions. On the 3rd November morning the air force MiG Fighter Jets flew over Bnagabhaban sky in a threatening posture. General Zia was made ineffective and isolated from the killer-gong by a company of first Bengal led by Captain Hafizullah in the early morning of 3rd November. His telephone line was apparently snapped without knowing that a line in the bedroom was still operative. Osmany moved to Bangabhavan after receiving a desperate Rashid-SOS in the morning of November 3, who recalled the situation in this fashion when he tried to get hold of Zia over phone: “His wife picked up the telephone and, said, ‘Zia can’t come to the telephone … there is some difficulty.’ When I insisted on talking to him, she told me in a hushed sort of voice that there were some men in the hall with him and he couldn’t come to the phone. I realized then that Zia was under some sort of restrain.” After some ding dong negotiation with Mushtaque and the negotiating team of Khaled Musharraf Farukh-Rashid gong agreed to surrender and leave the country. But by this time Kh. Mushtaque had completed his mission of jail killing. How this was brutally executed by Kh. Mushtaque with the aids of Rashid and other killers – I have described in a series of articles posted in Mukto-mona forum recently.   
 

On 3rd November night under the cover of darkness they were whisked away to Bangkok 

 

Annihilation of four national leaders & with it secularism and liberal democracy 

 

Before the deportation of Frarukh-Rashid gong, when Mushtaque-Farukh-Rashid trio saw that their days were over, they quickly moved to execute their original plan eliminating top AL brass the jailed 4 national leaders, Tajuddin Ahmed, Sayed Nazrul Islam, Quamruzzaman & Mansur Ali once for all. All now knows what the hated trio did in the morning of 3rd November when the ‘counter coup’ of Khaled Musharraf was set on. The previously ‘selected combat team’ led by Naik Risaldar Musleuddin sent to the jail with strict instruction to finish off four national leaders. The killer team of Musleuddin, sent by Mushtaque-Farukh-Rashid-Dalim gong, meticulously carried out the order inside the Dhaka Central jail in a room, where the ill-fated leaders were dragged in for execution. The facts relating to jail killing was now well documented as would be obvious from my previous postings wherein a series of depositions made by the jail authorities was presented, as well as from the tape recordings of statements of various officials of the jail including the then IG prisoner made by late Brigadier Aminul Haque (later on Attorney General) when he interviewed them at the order of General Khaled Musharraf in the evening of 4th November, 1975.

 

The Fate of Khaled-Shafayat inspired Coup

 

The coup leaders at this point took too long a time to inform the nation what their plan was. The radio and TV remained silent for complete 2-days. As a result, all sorts of gossips spread throughout Dhaka. All the cantonments outside Dhaka became restless and soldiers were contemplating to move towards Dhaka. The anti counter coup forces of other nature utilized the crucial two days. Although Farukh-Rashid was removed from the scene, and Mustaque was made ineffective, the coup leaders suffered from indecision. They ultimately forced Mushtaque to sign proclaiming two presidential orders: (1) in the event of falling vacant of the office of the Rastrapati, the chief justice of the supreme court would become the Rastrapati, and (2) Brigadier Khaled Musharraf with the promotion to the rank of Major General would replace General Zia as next chief of army staff. Mustaque was then forced to resign. He was then interned in the presidential suit in Bangabhaban. The day of 5th November passed with drafting of would be presidential address to the nation. Justice Sayem, chief justice of newly created Bangladesh Supreme court at the first instance refused to become part of the plan, but finally gave in to constant insistence of the coup leaders. At last the silence was broken. Justice Abusadat Mohammad Sayem addressed the nation over radio and TV in the evening of 6th November. In his address the new President made clear that his government was neutral, non-party and interim, and committed to independent but neutral foreign policy with ‘unqualified support’ for the Islamic world. He dissolved the parliament promising a fresh election within six months. The most significant part of his address was that he cleared the army from killing the founder of Bangladesh Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. He assured the nation that a proper investigation of Bangabandhu killing and jail killing would be done, and culprits would be punished according to law. In many ways Sayem’s address was remarkable in a sense that it gave an immense of dignity to Khaled-Shafayet led coup.

 

But it was too late. A message received at the Bangabhaban from cantonment that a mutiny among the common soldiers had already started with chanting slogans

 

‘Sepai, Sepai, Bhai Bhai

Officer der Rakta Chai’

 

(All sepoys are brothers, we want the blood of the officers)

 

Khaled Musharraf hurriedly left Bangabhaban with Col. K. S. Huda, the 72 Infantry Brigrade (stationed at Rangpur before the coup) and Lt. Col Haider, CO of the 8th East Bengal based in Chittagong requesting Shafayet Jamil to stay back at Bangabhaban. He however requested Brigadier Shafayat Jamil to stay back. 

 

Already the deadly sepoy mutiny broke out against the very military authority and bureaucracy. The officers of their own companies, regiments, brigades, etc. were the immediate targets. A counter coup had been switched on. The coup of Khaled is destined to fail because of ill plan & indecision and lack of swiftness & surprise. It is learnt later that during captive condition Zia managed to send a message to Col Taher requesting him to rescue. Taher immediately moved in and set his modus operandi role on inside the cantonment. At about midnight of 6th November the sepoys led by one Major Mahiuddin who took part in Bangabandhu’s killing mission rescued General Zia and brought him to Field regiment.

 

Khaled with his two colleagues apparently left Bangabhaban for Cantonment, but changed his plan on his way. He first went to a relative’s house at Muhammadpur, but then took shelter in 10th Bengal after being assured of his safety, which a day before moved from Rangpur and took position at Sher e Bangla Nagar.

 

The gallant Freedom Fighter Khaled Musharraf gunned down

 

The night passed quietly for General Khaled Musharraf and his two associates. They had breakfast in the morning (7th November, 1975). Then came the dreadful moment. Some sepoys belonging to the Bengal Lancers and 2 Field Artillery came over urging the jawans of 10th Bengal to join hands with the mutineers. The soldiers however remained unmoved and there is no record that 10th Bengal joined the mutiny. But this created some confusion and panic among the junior officers hearing the dreadful slogan ‘Officer der rakta chai’. Khaled, Huda and Haider were then in the office of the CO. Around 11 a.m. two company commanders named Captain Asad and Captain Jalil all on a sudden entered the room and gunned down all three patriotic gallant freedom fighters. This is simply a cold-blooded murder. A most ghastly day in our history, and most unforgettable incident. Why did they do it? Is it because they developed fear complex or were they influenced by Col Taher’s message of revolution ? We would never know. But surely they committed most heinous crime in our history and they should be answerable to the future generation if not to justice.

 

While Khaled and Jamil were busy consolidating their position in Bnagabhaban instead of uniting the pro-liberation forces in the cantonment under their command and disarming the resenting forces coming from Pakistan and the soldiers of Bengal Lancers and 2 Field Artillery whose open allegiance to Mushtaque regime was no secret, who felt insecure after their leaders were forced out of the country. Col Taher and his JSD saw a grand opportunity to seize power through a sepoy mutiny in this confusing situation prevailing in the cantonment, if they could inspire the soldiers to revolt against the military establishment and capture power. Using some genuine demands of the ordinary soldiers, and hate & resentments of those soldiers mentioned above, the members of the Ganabahini (People’s Army), an underground military organ of JSD under the leadership Col Taher infiltrated in the cantonment. They in the disguise of ordinary soldiers distributed leaflets in the name of Biplobi Sainik Sanstha (Revolutionary Soldiers’ Establishment) urging to join anti establishment sepoy mutiny with arms to overthrow the present occupant of the state power. They raised the terrible slogan : ‘Sepai, Sepai, Bhai Bhai Officer der Rakta Chai’. Col Taher and his team very cleverly used the popularity of Gen. Zia and resentment of ordinary soldiers against the officers simultaneously.  

 

The dreadful Seventh November : The Mutiny of the Sepoys

 

The anti AL forces of all shades that included JSD, the left & ultra-left, religious & communal forces and pro Pakistani fundamentalists & anti liberation political parties hailed the overthrow of Khaled Musharraf’s short lived capture of power. Khaled’s attempted coup was looked upon as pro Indian & pro Mujib move with an aim to return of state power to AL. This sentiment has been typically expressed in one of the left oriented weekly, Samyabad, which summed up the events of 4-day coup of November as “ When Khaled Musharraf and his faction came to power they immediately engaged themselves in bringing about an increase in Indo-Soviet political dominance over the country. The Awami League and its tail – the parties of the Moni-Muzaffar circle- came out openly and made all efforts to reestablish the image of Sheikh Mujib.”                        

 

The mutiny of sepoys, led by Col Taher erupted just after midnight of 6th November. The night was terrible and difficult to forget. I was then at DU residential quarters, and heard whole night full throated slogans like- Bangladesh Zindabad, Sepai Biplab Zindabad, Gen Zia Zindabad, Col Taher Zindabad, Naraye Takbir Allah ho Akbar etc., gun-fire shots, sounds of machine guns & fire-cracking sounds from distance north, most probably from the cantonment. The last slogan is always a terrifying one to me, which I had been hearing since my boyhood during Pakistan movement and during communal riots. On the following morning the mad soldiers spread all over the city, especially in the area of DU campus, Motijheel commercial area and Purana Paltan on tanks and trucks firing gun shots towards the sky. Many students including girls, evidently pro JSD, and some ordinary men were found to ride over the tanks. But most of the people on the streets were on lookers with curiosity and fear. Small processions with pro mutiny elements parading the streets with various slogans- some were chanting ‘General Zia Zindabad, Sepai Janata Bhai Bhai carrying Zia’s portrait; some found chanting ‘Col Taher Zindabad, Long live Revolution, Bangladesh Zindabad’, even processions supporting evicted president Kh. Mushtaque Ahmed and carrying his garlanded picture found parading the streets with full throated slogans- Bangladesh Zindabad, Kh. Mushtaque Ahmed Zindabad, Naraye Taqbir Allah Hu Akbar. It must be admitted that during those days following the failure of Khaled Musharraf’s ill planed coup, Zia emerged as hero of the hour. It is no denying of the fact that he was then most popular military personality in the cantonment. This is obvious as the soldiers were found killing their own officers and hunting theme quarter to quarter not only inside the cantonment but in the city as well, with the slogan Gen. Zia Zindabad. At about 6 a.m. morning a tape-recorded address of General Zia was broadcast through radio Bangladesh. Although Col Taher wanted him to take to Radio station, but sepoys of 2nd artillery & some officers present there prevented the move on ‘security reason’, instead a recording unit was summoned. The speech was very brief in which he announced that he had taken over the office of the Chief Martial Administrator temporarily at the request of the armed forces in the prevailing situation of the country. He urged upon the soldiers to return to the barracks asked them to restrain from killing of soldiers and other peoples whom they thought anti mutiny elements- civilians or military. He also called for a greater unity and asked all to return to work immediately. In the meanwhile supporters of Kh. Musgtaque took him to the Radio station for broadcast. But unfortunately for him at that instant Col. Taher’s people were controlling the station. They did not permit him to make any statement unless Taher gave approval. Taher then arrived at the station later and drove him out with his followers. However Abu Taher’s attempt to bring Zia again to Radio station with a view to make statement in line with JSD’ view of revolution again failed. Col Taher perhaps did not understand the real character of Zia- he was basically an opportunist man, hesitant but cruel, ambitious, religious and proponent of Muslim and Islamic ideology. He had never been a revolutionary leader- this was not in his nature. Col Taher made a desperate attempt to bring Zia in a meeting of thousands of mutineer-soldiers assembled at the racecourse maidan, but he failed. Failed he to get approval of his party’s new proclamation from Zia’s mouth in presence of thousands of soldiers. Thus the dream of JSD and Taher as envisaged in the Proclamation that reads, “Our Revolution is not for changing the leadership only. This revolution is only for the interest of the poor and depriving class. We have accepted you (Zia) as our leader in this revolution. For this reason you are to express very clearly that you are the leader of that class. And for that you have to change the structure of the armed forces. … From today onwards the armed forces of the country will build themselves as the protector of the interest of the poor class”, withered away in fiasco.

 

But his attempt failed miserably. The more conservative and conventional elements of the army held the day. Since then Col Taher’s grip over Zia was slipping away and the initial control of JSD and its front organizations. The dream of Col Taher and JSD to occupy state power trough the so-called Sepoy_Janta Revolution within a few days evaporated away, instead they found themselves in the Dhaka Central jail. Col Taher was arrested probably on 24th November from an Assistant House tutor’s quarter, the resident of a Physics lecturer, who happened to be one of my students where he was hiding since his control over Zia and the Cantonment slipped away. Thus brought the end of so-called revolution as conceived by one of our great freedom fighters Col Abu Taher, BU.

 

(to be continued) 

    

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