Welcome to the Adda Madam!
Indeed it was a 'pleasant surprise' if at all, for in Khaleda Zia's pronouncements and subsequent denial what we have witnessed was a mere exposition, to 'unseen strains' in our relation's with India that many people in Bangladesh have always believed in private. These are 'open secret's' that have been openly and heatedly debated, in all Bangladesheez drawing rooms for decades - with or without inebriation's or inhibitions! All of this in the penultimate Bengalee disease of the 'adda' or gossip sessions, and all pointing to one general direction: the series of assassination's of Bangladesh political and military leaders and suspicions of India's involvement - specifically that of New Delhi?
Therefore if at all there is anything that can be said in appreciation of Khaleda Zia's 'bold statement' followed by 'cowardly denial', it is 'welcome Madam - to the SURREAL world of Dhakkaiya adda houses - where life is one REAL party? '
The first question she has to face from the addabaz (gossip addicts!) with extreme propriety is : 'well madam, if it was not New Delhi and if it was not India, then who, may we kindly know is the foreign hand that was responsible for Mr.Zia's death, and which country's 'hegemony' was he resisting that he had to pay so dearly - with his life ?'
I guess there will be no easy answer available from Khaleda! Lets give credits to the fact that the adda houses are brutally frank in the question's they ask.
However this 'very late' discovery of a 'conspiracy theory' against the 'patriot' Mr.Zia, proves that the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) is neither nationalist nor a party in any sense. If it took them this long to get a hang of the 'true feelings' of the people of Bangladesh - about the death of her 'husband' - there is no way we may think otherwise! Addabaaz or whatever - a democracy is a democracy, and the democracy of the Bangladesheez drawing room is fortunately more tolerant and plural than the democracy in its Jatiyo Shongshod or National Parliament, best described by a obscure singer in dHAKA as 'a national wrestling exhibition' of hooligans !!
THE MESSED UP BNP/AL CULTURAL INADEQUACIES
Traumatized by its defeat in the 1996 election the BNP suffers more from a deep cultural identity crisis then a political crisis. I guess its because of the 'Madam supremo' Khaleda Zia's appreciation and aping of the Pakistan Army Cantonment culture, down to the way she dresses and the coiffures she meticulously puffs up with a 'a nationalist blow drier' (to quote Farhad Mazhar's, Oshomoiyer Note boi)- not to forget the Bismillah's and shukriaz of 'Pakistani Army officers wives espirit de corps' till this very day.
Her appreciation of that cultures though painfully reminding us of our cultural inadequacies that ultimately led us on to the war of liberation in 1971, is probably excusable. What is NOT excusable, is when she attempts to justify that chicanery as the 'nationalist culture' of Bangladesh !
Similarly the Awami League (AL) also has a culture of intolerance remnant of a 'peculiar breed' of Bangladesh bengaleez who pride themselves in equating Bedouin's culture of the deserts as the 'pucca Muslim' culture as also the Brahmin fundamentalist culture as the 'pucca Bengalee' culture - as if in the last twenty eight years of our 'spirit of our liberation war mania' we have not been able to acquire or inherit any natural cultural gains!
FLASHBACK TO THE SPIRIT OF '71
That mentality foretells, the War of Liberation we might have won - a flag and a map determining our 'geographical liberation' complete - the war to 'LIBERATE our petty minds' ironically ended on the 16th December 1971?
While we surrendered arms and munitions at the behest of the 'Father Of The Nations' proclamation that 'the war is over and peace must return', I wonder if that illustrious son of the soil left any edict anywhere that says 'surrender your souls and conscience as well to India'?
The liberation war thankfully has become private property of private museums, where the 'chic' meaning to those days of glory in our history - is more about packaging, promotion and marketing it as a 'product' - no dishonest endeavor - only that it is not honest enough to answer few basic question's.
They are -
Who the hell are you guys at the Liberation War Museum, and who has given you the authority to interpret the Liberation War that only seems to be focused at achieving one objective: make India's role in 1971 and thereafter CUTE and CORRECT to be accepted without questions? How do you explain that when the retired General Aurora recently visited the museum and called the Mukti Bahini guerillas a 'sapper force that blew bridges and were fast with country boats' that non of you so called freedom fighters raised any objection?
Fortunately these are not 'common mentalities' of the common Bangladesh bengaleez. Indeed those that indulge in such hypocrisies are minorities' 'rare commodities' at best, in helms of power and authority of some form or the other. This 'elitist' mentality is thankfully going out of 'fashion'!
THE ANTI-INDIAN BANGLADESH YOUNG
Let me clarify that while 'anti-India hysteria' is cool and fashionable among the young of Bangladesh i.e. those born after 16th December 1971, by 'anti-Indianism' the young of Bangladesh of any shade of political affiliation, mean and agree that it is the 'ruling elite class of New Delhi' that is implied and accused - NOT THE PEOPLE OF INDIA! Indeed the people of India should be supporting us as we try and investigate shady activities of its own power elite, an exercise that will ultimately benefit India and its future relationship with Bangladesh, not harm it.
"India is responsible for killing Ziaur Rahman as he did not accept Indian hegemony and wanted to make Bangladesh self-reliant," the United News of Bangladesh news agency quoted - is a point of view of Khaleda Zia that is shared by many and probably rightly so. However down in the adda houses this falls within the category of CONSPIRACY THEORY # 2 which deserves no immediate discussion or numerical advantage, before we have had a chance to look logically at:
CONSPIRACY THEORY # 1: INDIA's HAND IN THE SHEIKH MUJIB MURDER
The irony of our 'suspicious' but friendly relations with India yet, is there are also those in Bangladesh who believe with some conviction that other than Ziaur Rahman, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman too was assassinated at the behest of New Delhi.
Conspiracy theorist dwelling in the adda house discourses, have long believed that the 'founding father of Bangladesh' was 'bumped off' by Delhi, because he went across to Algiers to make peace with the Islamic ummah in 1974/75 - in defiance of an Indian 'order' that made it albeit mandatory for him to visit Delhi, before he was 'allowed' to go anywhere else . He also made the cardinal mistake of shaking hands with the Pakistani General Tikka Khan the 'butcher of Bangladesh' - as also 'attempt's' to transfigure himself into a pan Islamic sentinel by hobnobbing with the likes of Yasir Arafat of Palestine, Houari Boumiediene of Algeria and yes - Zulfikar Ali Bhutto of Pakistan !
THE GLOBAL SCHEME OF THINGS circa 1975
The Indian propaganda post Sheikh Mujib's assassination ofcourse attempted to change the course of adda debates to finger pointing towards the USA, who had only a few months back 'bumped off' Salvador Allende our 'socialist friend' in Chile. In the global scheme of things 'the Yankees' as they were called back then - were indeed the killers - the CIA - an 'available group' of elusive murderers to be blamed, never to be scrutinized or investigated and not to forget that they remain as elusive in 1999 as they were in 1975!
Too fast and too soon the desperate and beleagured Sheikh Mujib, tried to make contact with the rich 'Islamic Ummah', only to feed his famine stricken people - as more than a million had already died, thanks to the US anger that sought to starve us, only because we had to sell jute to Cuba, a country who like us were also starving, thanks again to the US blockade and the dwindling resources of USSR to feed it on a 'day to day' basis.
It was the Russians who made us see logic in the 'world revolution' picture and we were a socialist country and had to support our socialist brothers anywayz ! Lest we forget, this was one of the way (selling jute to Cuba) that simplistic to a fault Sheikh Mujib thought we could express our gratitude to the USSR for its solid support in 1971. The Mukti Bahini guerrillas of Bangladesh relied heavily on Russians arms and munitions in 1971 - that ofcourse came - through India as much as the Soviets controlled the Chittagong Port post 1971!
India on the other hand, devastated economically and having just relieved itself off the burden of feeding millions of our people for almost a year, and then participating with its army, to side our liberation war, was also in no way capable of feeding Bangladesh on a 'day to day' basis after 16th December 1971 - and try as they must, the Indian capitalist class - exploited the situation by sending in garbage - and the first real sentiments of 'anti-India' chic was BORN right there!
Indian TATA buses - that last for years anywhere else in the world - would conk out in three to four months in Bangladesh. Indian sarees that India prides itself in - would be reduced to mosquito nets after a couple of wash. The first anti India distrust arose from those, first 'shady deals' those first deceits with a new born state that the ruling elite in New Delhi encouraged.
Those 'shady deal' have never quite disappeared. For instance after the installation of the AL Government in 1996, Marwari brokers and crooks in Hongkong together with Bangladesh collaborators in a 'joint operation' busted the back of the Dhaka Stock Exchange to an amount that has still not been calculated.
A NATION OF 'AGENTS' AND SPOOKS
While I have yet to meet anyone in Dhaka carrying a business card saying 'agent for the RAW/CIA/ISI in Bangladesh' - our political, business and cultural arena thrives with 'agents' and they happen to represent the interest of almost all countries of the globe except BANGLADESH.
WELCOME TO THE PROVINCE!
While in 24 years Indian TATA trucks and Maruti cars as also Indian sarees and designer outfits has gained respectability and trust - what has not happened is any change of the demeaning and patronizing attitude of the ruling class of New Delhi towards Bangladesh.
Those dhoti clad politicians of New Delhi are no different than the ones they have replaced ceremoniously over decades - and truly Indian politicians just like their sycophants and imitators here in Bangladesh, display no attitude that bears well with the propensity required to catch up with the global world. IT chic - well that's a passing yet obnoxious phase!
Sadly for the ruling elite in New Delhi, Bangladesh is therefore no more than a pariah state and deserves no more importance than say - Patna or such other nondescript town's and province in India?
The Indian ruling class mentality towards Bangladesh is one of a tyrannical colonizer. Its columnist and intellectuals (especially from Calcutta) carry the mandate of promoting India at the expense of the destruction of Bangladesh and its natural cultural, economic and political gains.
However what gives more credence to the Sheikh Mujib killing and Indian involvement's is the open statement in court by the killers of Sheikh Mujib. They had said in court, that 'India was informed' about the plan to assassinate Sheikh Mujib ?
If that be the case, I guess twenty four years later, a generation of Bangladesh Bengalis can therefore 'legally', openly and clearly ask the Indian government to clarify - or let the Bangladesh public have access to information from its Government, what the killers - who have already been sentenced to death meant, and specifically WHO, it is in India that they ' informed' prior or after the killings of Bangladesh's founding father?
The suspicious role of General Hossain Mohammed Ershad - then studying in an Army Academy in India needs investigation. Ershads pathological dishonesty does not allow us the liberty to believe anything he has to say till this day about the August 1975 killings - so the Indian's have to help!
What has been revealed during the testimony of the accused in court, is 'General Ershad secretly met the killers besieged in the President House - immediately after Sheikh Mujib's death, and that he was ordered back when his presence was discovered in Dhaka'.
In the addas of Dhaka we have believed that it is possible that the Indian ruling class backed Ershad's lust and eventual capture of state power through a peaceful coup in 1983/84 came only as a 'reward' for his planning and execution of Sheikh Mujib. Nine years of a fascist communal dictatorship is what we were savagely doomed to.
Being the senior most army officer then residing in India, its is possible that he masterminded the entire assassination as he very clearly knew the command and control structure of Bangladesh Army and the precision with which it was demolished and reduced to a farce on 15th August 1975 - is indicative of a clear 'inside job'?
CONSPIRACY THEORY BOOKS
Also let us not forget that General Ershad had taken pain in commissioning Anthony Mascarenhas then dying of cancer to write a book called `A Legacy of Blood' - the author had access to invaluable intelligence, including the first public photograph of a dead Sheikh Mujib, that could come from only one source in dictatorial Bangladesh of those day : General Ershad ?
The manner in which the book was published, publicized and marketed appeared to be calculated to achieve two objectives - hang the killers and make Ershad look innocent. What was not bargained for when the book was published was that the Awami League will ever come to power, and that the killers would be ultimately apprehended and put on trial. The thought of Awami League coming to power back then was not only a dream, it was a mirage not worth chasing.
While on books let me also point out that there are a number of publications available in Bangladesh (maybe not in India) on the conspiracy theories pointing towards India's involvement - and the one I wish to quote is by the Paris based, Bengalee pundit and conspiracy theorist Obeid Jaigirdar.
In his 1998 book [Bongobondhu Hotyakando o Onyanayo nibondho, Bostu Prokashon, 68/2 Purana Paltan, Dhaka - Killing Of Bangabandhu and Other articles] in page 12, Obeid writes:
'L. Khatib needs no introduction. Everybody was acquainted with him well. He tried to unearth the background of the Sheikh Mujib killing as a personal endeavor. After having collected information from various sources he wrote a book called 'Who Killed Sheikh Mujib'. The august publishing house of India, Vikas Publications after having released the book in India had all its copies sold-out in less than a week. A few days later, L.Khatib died at the house of a journalist in Calcutta under very mysterious circumstances. His relatives received the news about his death a day later - as did the West Bengal Police. Over the years the case has been hushed up. Under similar mysterious circumstances, Vikas never published a second edition of the book. Copies of the book are now rare'
Vikas today has a moral right to publish the book and reveal to the Indian and Bangladesh public as to its exact unedited contents or explain to us clearly why it cannot be done.
I think it is time India did some serious answering to some very hard questions and it can start with Vikas - a public publishing house in India.
First Published on the Internet on 17th August 1999