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Bangladesh: Anatomy of a Coup

Lawrence Lifschultz and Kai Bird
Economic and Political Weekly
Vol. 14, No. 50 (Dec. 15, 1979), pp. 2059-2068
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4368234
Page Count: 10
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Bangladesh: Anatomy of a Coup
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Abstract

When, on the night of August 14, 1975, Shaikh Mujibur Rahman was killed along with a large number of members of his family and friends, it was put out that the assassins had acted unilaterally, with no larger political objective than of ridding the country of a tyrant. Unspecific talk about 'foreign involvement' in the assassination or, more explicitly, of CIA involvement, was, on the basis of evidence available then, rightly dismissed as specious propaganda. These conclusions need to be now completely re-examined. According to new information obtained from interviews with senior US embassy officials then in Dacca, from well-iinformed Bengali sources, and from official documents available in the US now consequent upon the Freedom of Information Act, it now appears that not only did the US have prior knowledge of the coup, but that American embassy personnel had discussed possibilities of a coup more than six months prior to his death. But the links of the conspirators with the US do not date merely to the period immediately preceding the coup; they go back to the days of the provisional government of Bangladesh functioning from Calcutta in 1971. This article lays bare the anatomy of the coup. The article is being published in two parts. The first part, published last week, critically examined the dominant version of the 'facts' surrounding the August 1975 coup. Part two, being published this week, describes the manner in which intelligence bureaucracies function and argues that the dividing line between American foreknowledge of the conspiracy to kill Mujibur Rehman and actual complicity in the killing is very thin; but it can be inferred that the US authorities in Dacca preferred 'to know nothing'. The end of Mujib, as the end of Bhutto in Pakistan four years later, highlights the peculiar perils which a client state has to face; it also marks the end of an entire era of false hopes and illusions surrounding the prospects for social democracy in conditions of severe backwardness and underdevelopment.

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