The political complexity that Sk. Mujibur Rahman faced in 1975 was far greater than any that has been faced by rulers after his death. Various ruling groups and class that have run Bangladesh after that have represented different interests -political and economic- but the essential problem of governance remains unaddressed and historical continuity was broken.
Much of the historical flow was diverted and in the absence of any continuity, what we have is a situation where the nature of political governance remains uncertain. It goes beyond the tragedy of the killings, incompressible in its brutality from which we have not yet recovered. In many ways, politics itself was mauled and no can be sure that it survived fully fit after that. It was much beyond the killing of the founder of the state from whose collective trauma many have not recovered. It's also about what it did to the state of Bangladesh.
The inheritance of 1971
Discussions on the event of August 15 are often not seen as part of a continuity from 1971 and as an event in isolation. Much of the discussion also excludes the weakness and problems of the governance mechanism that led to the situation after 1971. Liberation didn't mean the end of problems and freedom in the way people in occupation imagined. If anything life was tougher from before. But many of the contributory causes were located in 1971 and the weaknesses caused by the trauma of invasion.
There has been very little damage assessment of 1971. What people looked at were physical infrastructure damage and not much else. However, the platform on which the country and its economy stood was itself imperilled. Hence, the shortage economy produced many windows of opportunity which rogue elements took advantage of and post 1971 life was very difficult for most.
The damage done by 1971
What the Pakistani occupation did was not just severely damage the infrastructure but the social and psychological infra-structure as well. It would seem that the 1971 war didn't have the cleansing effect on society as some think it should have - the social value structure crumbled in many cases. The result was what may be termed as the birth of an illicit economy which has not disappeared even now. The connection economy structure was built in that period as the new state was finding it difficult to control such activities given the many difficulties faced.
The 1973 famine was a big reminder how fragile the economy was and also how deeply corruption had quickly set in. It was caused by several factors both national and international but the suffering of victims was high. Yet a small rogue element also tried to take advantage of the situation.
Meanwhile the political situation was becoming complex.
In 2010 I had asked Prof. Rehman Sobhan about the role BKSAL may have played in the political space. He said that the objective of Sk. Mujib was to create a political alliance; a broad based one which would include all elements including those antagonistic to AL. He felt that it was a unification move. That alliances constitute the biggest pusher of history is a fact but whether this model was appropriate for its time and place is what should be discussed.
One state, many actors
I had also participated as a researcher in a series on November 3 and 7 events at the DBC TV channel where politicians and army personnel involved with the November coup came and talked. What I could gather was that there is not even several but many groups and individuals involved and their interpretations of the events are very different.
It was not easy even to understand the complexity of their motivations. Nor did most agree on what would be called the facts of the matter. So we have not gone very far even in understanding what happened in November, let alone August.
During that TV series it became obvious that everyone thought that they had a duty, role and status which were higher than that of others. Even the August coup participants thought so it seems. Thus normal rules of the state didn't apply to them. One ex-army officer summed it up both the perspective of the three coups and the problems of institutional governance. "We are not just soldiers, officers and servants of the republic. We are freedom fighters and had risked our life by fighting against the Pak army which recruited us. We took the highest risk and we can't be treated like others." Clearly, the notion of importance of the role in 1971 played a major role in deciding what could and can be done. The chain of command was ignored.
Historically speaking, the period from 1971 to 1991 - the first two decades was the formative phase and no institutional process or system was yet established. However, the motivations of the persons concerned involved in the August 15 killings needs greater scrutiny. It's important that we all know the process of events, motivations and psychology of the persons involved in the killing.
It's not just the leader who was killed but the family as a whole and later his main political deputies. It's no ordinary assassination attempt but a full scale massacre from which Bangladesh has not and may not recover. The psyche and the political process have been permanently damaged but we still don't know enough.
We need to know it all from the roots, social, political and historical. Only then can we try to understand what is happening now and what will happen later. It's the most important body of facts for us all.
May every victim of August 1975 rest in peace and justice always be done.
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