"These are my own children, they will not harm me."
These words, attributed to Father of The Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, were uttered some time in December, 1974, mere months before his assassination.
The declaration was in response to a warning by RN Kao, a top R&AW boss, who had just met Mujib and had conveyed information about a conspiracy afoot against him.
This was not the first time Mujib had downplayed the importance of a plot against him.
Minutes of a staff meeting headed by Kissinger after August 15, show that the US, like many other countries, had advance knowledge of the assassination. Tellingly, the minutes show that Mujib had been warned by American officers in Bangladesh and he had responded with the same disregard.
Asked by the-then US secretary of state Henry Kissinger about US alerting Bangabandhu to the danger of an attack, Alfred Atherton Jr, assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern and South Asian affairs, said, "He [Mujib] brushed it off, scoffed at it, and said nobody would do a thing like that to him."
It seemed that the mere suggestion of his people, and they were his people, would turn against him was a thought that he could not entertain for too long.
But times were changing and Bangabandhu would soon realise the reality of what he was dealing with. He was surrounded by enemies.
And they were closing in.
The sons of sin
While Sheikh Mujib was busy laying the groundwork for how a brand new nation was to be run, a steady procession of his enemies were making their way back to Bangladesh.
A section of Bengali officials, who would join the ranks of Mujib's clandestine opposition, had begun the journey to Dhaka from Islamabad.
With a fierce idealism that was yet to be tempered by the gritty reality of politics, Mujib, unbeknownst to him at the time, was offering garlanded welcomes to his final traitors.
In his book, From Rebel to Founding Father, renowned journalist Syed Badrul Ahsan hammers in on the point that not all of these returnees were "swayed by patriotism towards their new country".
"Many had happily been part of the Pakistani civil service…," he wrote, adding that the government's failure in screening the returnees would prove detrimental and eventually fatal.
A number of these Bengali diplomats would in fact served the Pakistan government till as late as 1974, until finally being forced to relocate to Bangladesh. Once there, they would be offered jobs within the ranks of the government.
Similarly, a number of returning military officers and soldiers would be absorbed in the armed forces of Bangladesh.
Again, none of these returnees were vetted either.
Among them, some openly expressed their disdain for the Mujib government.
The government's amnesty in 1973 for Bengali collaborators, detained under the Collaborator's Act of 1972, was another self-harming step.
As many collaborators, whose cases had not been properly investigated, went free, they went back to their old habits fomenting dissent and a communal form of politics that the new country was desperately trying to shrug off.
Many would creep back into politics, bringing their insidious nature of beliefs into the system. The malaise was returning, but no one had seemed disturbed by it yet.
By 1975, Mujib was well aware that darker forces had begun to conspire against him.
As Mujib dreamed up new ways of governing the country for his people, some among the general populace were actively working to overthrow him.
Some historians have pointed to the government's failures in numerous areas, the formation of BAKSAL and even recalling army from their anti-hoarding drives after allegedly raiding some Awami League leaders.
While some of these could have been a cause of disgruntlement, what was to come was not expected.
Khandaker Abdur Rashid, a close relative of Khandaker Moshtaque, Farookh Rahman, Shariful Hoque Dalim and others would spend their days inside Dhaka cantonment, plotting a murder.
These officers had all reported to Mujibnagar at the end of the war, claiming they had defected from the Pakistan army. Political analysts, however, have often labelled these same people as the Fifth Columnist, working for Pakistan and its aspirations more than anything else.
Another character of note was Khandaker Moshtaque, then the most senior leader in the Awami League and a man that Mujib was said to have thoroughly trusted.
Moshtaque is said to have been a mole in Mujib's government. Although he denied any role in the August 15 assassination, Moshtaque would proclaim himself the president.
More damningly, he would also absorb the slaughterers of Mujib and his family into his government as advisors.
This man, who had for years stood beside Mujib and who Mujib had a lot of affection for, would go on to praise Mujib's killer and bestow upon them the name Shurjo Shontan (sons of the sun).
The motivations of Moshtaque, one of Mujib's most trusted lieutenants, had been on display much earlier, when Bangabandhu had still been in prison.
He had apparently tried to contact the US Consul General George Griffin in Kolkata through Zahurul Qyum, an Awami League MP elect from Cumilla.
In Kissinger's The White House Years, Moshtaque appears prominently. Making contact with the Griffin, Moshtaque tried to broker a deal for Mujib's release, saying he would convince the Mujibnagar government to call off the Liberation War and forge a federation with Pakistan.
This plan of his was not discussed nor approved by the Mujibnagar government, but this did not dissuade Moshtaque in the least.
The role of General Zia, the-then deputy chief of army staff, is also murky. While he had not agreed to be part of the plan, he had given his tacit approval.
A few months before Bangabandhu's assassination, Zia had been given a diplomatic posting either in East Germany or Belgium. He convinced Bangabandhu to cancel his appointment and pledged his undying loyalty to him.
True to form, Mujib believed the sincerity of the soldier and cancelled the appointment.
On the night of his death, Bangabandhu had been preparing for his address at a convocation at Dhaka University.
He would be returning to the same university that had rusticated him for radical politics. But this time he would be doing so in the position of chancellor.
But by then much had been done and tanks had already begun approaching his house. There was to be no address.
The massacre was about to begin.
It would rain the next day when Bangabandhu was being buried at his village in Tungipara. But the indelible stain left in Bangladesh's democracy could never be washed off.
What was also noticeable according to historians is the lack of resistance to the coup.
Bangabandhu's few loyal companions were being rounded up. In a few months they too would be killed by the very men who had murdered Bangabandhu and once again there would be no general resistance.
The sons of the sun would prevail and the great betrayal would be executed to near perfection.
It would also unravel very soon.