Published:  12:00 AM, 16 December 2016

Bloodbaths before and after independence

Bangladesh: A Legacy of Blood is a historic book authored by eminent journalist Anthony Mascarenhas. The book illustrates the blood-spilling military takeovers and political ups and downs in Bangladesh following the Liberation War of 1971. The book lays emphasis on two vital figures of Bangladeshi politics, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Ziaur Rahman. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman is the architect of the independent Bangladesh and that's why he is adorably known as the father of the nation. Bangladesh won the Liberation War of 1971 through his outstanding leadership. His patriotic spirit and devotion to Bangladesh illuminated him with a saint-like image. But a group of derailed military officers supported by anti-liberation forces assassinated him with most of his family members on 15th August 1975 which is one of the greatest tragedies in the history of Bangladesh. Whenever we speak of independence, we are under moral and historic obligations to recall the contributions of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman with love and honor. Some of the heinous villains who killed Bangabandhu have been in the meantime executed while some other assassins are still absconding.

Bangladesh proceeded through a blind alley of politics since the assassination of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Military ruler Ziaur Rahman grabbed power following the murder of Bangabandhu on 15th August 1975 and the assassinations of another four founding leaders of the country Taj Uddin Ahmed, Captain Mansur Ali, Syed Nazrul Islam and AHM Quamruzzaman on 3rd November 1975. During the military governance under former president Ziaur Rahman, democracy was marooned under his army-controlled administration across Bangladesh. Some more military disturbances took place during the regime of Ziaur Rahman. The country was frequently rocked by troubles and a veil of uncertainly stuck to the nation's destiny as people could not figure out when and how the democratic principles of the country would be restored.

Ziaur Rahman was also assassinated by a military coup which happened on 30th May 1981. Ziaur Rahman launched Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) during his presidential tenure. In the wake of the murder of Ziaur Rahman, Lieutenant General Hussain Muhammad Ershad took over the state power of Bangladesh and held the presidential post of Bangladesh since the assassination of his predecessor Ziaur Rahman till 1990. Hussain Muhammad Ershad resigned from his presidential office in 1990 following a mass movement against him by all the major parties of Bangladesh.

To write a few words about the author of the book, Anthony Mascarenhas was born at Belgaum in the Indian province of Karnataka. He penned a couple of insightful books on the history of Bangladesh including Bangladesh: A Legacy of Blood and The Rape of Bangladesh. In both these books Anthony Mascarenhas made references to the political turbulence and bloodshed through which Bangladesh was born and the bumpy political terrains the country had to cross after becoming independent in 1971. Anthony Mascarenhas worked for different newspapers in India, Pakistan and United Kingdom. He was one of the philanthropic journalists who carried out widespread coverage of the genocide and human rights violation by the Pakistan army while the Liberation War was going on. He received Gerald Barry Award and International Publishing Company's Special Award for objectively describing the inhuman torment by the Pakistani forces on the civilians of East Pakistan during the war of 1971. In this way Anthony Mascarenhas turned out to be a friendly figure for Bangladesh by supporting our Liberation War through his write-ups in different newspapers and magazines which drew attention from the global leaders to the horrendous scenario of Bangladesh during 1971. Reportedly, former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi once said that an article by Anthony Mascarenhas led her to prepare the ground for "India's armed intervention" with the Liberation War of Bangladesh. 

Anthony Mascarenhas incurred anger from the Pakistan government after publishing articles and reports about the havoc and mass murders Pakistan army was conducting on the civilians of East Pakistan during the independence war. For this reason, he had to leave Pakistan and move to England along with his family soon after his war reports were published.

Anthony Mascarenhas, in the preface of the book Bangladesh: A Legacy of Blood, wrote that, "This book is the unvarnished story of their (the early leaders of Bangladesh) times, essentially the sad history of the first 10 years of Bangladesh. It is based on my close personal knowledge of the main protagonists; on more than 120 separate interviews with the men and women involved in the dramatic events; and on official archives and documents which I had the privilege to inspect personally. The dialogue, whenever used, is a faithful reproduction of the words which my informants said they actually used during the events in which they were involved." These words by the author show how much hard work was done by Anthony Mascarenhas to make this book moving, reliable, informative and evidential to present the history of Bangladesh vividly and strikingly. This book was published in 1986. Anthony Mascarenhas passed away in the same year. The paperback version of the book contains 192 pages. It was published by Arnold Overseas of UK. This book is valued by historians and avid readers as an important source to learn about the provenance of Bangladesh and the tragic occurrences the people of Bangladesh had to face during 1971 and afterwards.

It's a pleasure to observe that at present Awami League, the main pro-liberation political party is now in power and the current government has been working proactively and relentlessly for the development of Bangladesh under the firm leadership of Prime Minsiter Sheikh Hasina who upholds the patriotic image of her father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Let's look forward to a much more beautiful and prosperous Bangladesh in days to come.


The writer is a columnist  for The Asian Age.

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