BDR mutiny: The criminals must be identified

THE whole nation passed through a period of suffocating tension from February 25-26 on account of the BDR mutiny. People running for shelter, movement of army, defiance of the BDR jawans- all attracted our attention for 48 hours. Educational institutions were closed down, shops and business were also closed down, and normal activities came almost to a stand still. In fact, the magnitude of the crisis was such that it undoubtedly can be described as a national crisis for which a national unity was inevitable.

Prime Minister’s offer on general amnesty and the deadline for the rebels’ surrender of arms put an end to the horrific 33 hour mutiny. The heinous killing of huge number army officers and their wives and children by the mutineers manifest the worst kind of cowardice and a heinous conspiracy.

From the number of killings it can easily be guessed that it was a conspiracy for the BDR jawans who have always been loyal to the army command, killed so many of their unarmed commanding officers. What they said that they did it as some of their demands were not met is simply absurd.

It is not only a debilitating blow to the army as an institution, but also seemingly a conspiracy against the nation itself. Irrespective of party affiliation and opinion, the nation must cope with this challenge concertedly.

In retrospection it is clear that the mutiny was designed to generate a wrong impression among the people about the army. Soon after their attack on the unarmed military officers the mutineers began to spit venom against the army by giving statements to the media. They raised the allegations that the army had deprived them of many things during the last two years cannot be acceptable because simply for deprivation and the so-called corruption committed by army cannot be the reasons for unleashing a genocide against the army.

The slogan “people-BDR brotherhood” chanted by a small segment of people who assembled at the BDR gate from nowhere sounded quite ominous in that it amounted to an evil effort at putting the army against the BDR. Some analysts suspect that the mutiny was led by some yet unknown elements who desired to break the chain of command in the armed force and thus endanger the national security in Bangladesh.

The media which was initially busy in airing the anti- army statements subsequently could learn their mistakes knowing the magnitude of casualties of lives of the army officers and massacre the BDR jawans had launched against the unarmed army officers and their innocent family members.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina deserves appreciation because of her sagacity in handing this critical situation. She declared general amnesty and also at the same gave ultimatum with strong warning that led the rebels to surrender their arms. Had the Prime Minister not declared general amnesty the mutineers would not have easily surrendered their arms. Rather they could have killed all the army officers and their family members they had kept with them as hostages. Or had she instantly allowed/ ordered the army to attack the mutineers there could have been more casualties of lives and an anarchic situation throughout the country. Had the army attacked the mutineers at Pilkhana the BDRs deployed at district level and the border regions could have reasonably joined this revolt as a result of which the entire situation would have gone beyond the control of the government. And what would have been its future only the God knows.

It is really shocking and disappointing for the entire nation which saw through media how the army officers’ dead bodies rescued from manholes, sewerage lines and mass graves. It’s really an irreparable loss for our nation. How can we pacify the pains of the victims’ families who have become victimized by some misguided mutineers? Now the government will have to take immediate measures to restore confidence in all forces. It is very much clear that there was a conspiracy against our sovereignty. Those who were behind this mutiny might have been motivated by some enemies of the state. There are so many questions coming into our minds about this tragic incident. The government will have to investigate into the matter to find out who were really behind this event and what their intention was.

According to the Economist (March 5), “Rabid nationalists, on the fringe of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), blamed India for the uprising, which occurred at the huge headquarters of the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) force, then flared at paramilitary camps around the country. Some also accused the ruling Awami League party of plotting it, to rid the 45,000-strong Rifles of the army officers who lead them, and create a private political army. Others blamed some faction within the regular army, which has bred over a dozen coup attempts in Bangladesh’s short history. Indian newspapers, just for a change, pointed the finger at Pakistan. After all, the League’s two-month-old government, led by Sheikh Hasina Wajed, wants better relations with India.” It also adds, “But in the absence, so far, of any evidence for these theories, another, almost-equally bizarre, explanation seems possible: that the mutiny, which claimed 74 people in all, including two army wives, was a scarcely planned act of madness by some hot-tempered men with guns.”

Meanwhile, Commerce Minister Lt Col (retired) Faruk Khan on March 12 linked the carnage at BDR Pilkhana headquarters to Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) saying that some of the border troops rounded up for alleged role in the bloody mutiny are found to have connections with JMB, the banned Islamist outfit responsible for terrorist attacks including the near-simultaneous countrywide blasts in 2005. Mr. Faruk, who has lately been assigned with coordinating the probes into February 25-26 bloodshed at Pilkhana, was talking to reporters at his secretariat office. He said “We have gathered that a number of BDR jawans arrested in the mutiny case were involved in JMB somehow or other”, adding that “I won’t give more details as that might alert others having links to the mass killings,”.

But many quarters have started blaming each other or some quarters without any investigation and on the basis of assumption. This kind of activities will surely benefit the criminals responsible for this tragic event. Hence, none should make any such comment on assumption ahead of the investigation.

We express our deepest shock and heart felt condolences for the families, relatives and friends of those who have laid down their lives for the cause of our security. We also join the nation in mourning for their souls and pray that the Almighty will grant them eternal peace. In the end we thank the army officers who have showed their utmost restraint and sincerity without making any counter attack on the BDR jawans which could cause more casualties and an overall instability throughout the country.

Prof.  Omar Faruque, editor of the Weekly Dhaka Post