A pre-planned attack and pre-meditated murder:
I watched in stunned disbelief as a BDR soldier (I hate the word Jawan–what exactly is that?) justified the mutiny and shooting of the officers in front of TV cameras.
He said that they were upset about the pay disparity between the Army officers who commanded them, and the rank and file BDR. He claimed that the DG’s wife and lots of other corrupt officers stole from the operation Daal-Bhat (a chain of fair-price shops run by the BDR during 2007-2008). He went on to claim that the first shot was fired by an Army officer, and the rest just spontaneously happened.
There are a few major problem with this story. First, we know from accounts form some officers that not all BDR soldiers participated in this, and some of them died while trying to prevent the massacre. We all saw the red bandannas being worn by the attacking faction. This served as a uniform so they could easily identify friend from foe. Second, now we know that the involved soldiers did not turn in their weapons to the ordnance officer after the Prime Minister’s speech and inspection parade, but falsified the storage records to show that they were turned in.
What where they thinking? Insanity? Complete collapse of reason? Why would a group of soldiers start an armed mutiny and killing spree in a campus surrounded by the general population? They had to know that the news would get out quickly, and that they would be vastly outnumbered by the heavy armor of the Army. By all rational thinking, this was nothing but suicidal. If they thought their demands would be met and everything would got back to barracks to just carry on their duties, they were delusional. All possibility of a peaceful resolution disappeared after the first drop of blood was shed.
Again, this was not something that got out of hand–this was planned and designed. I am ruling out mental incompetency–it is possible in one or two people but not for the large group. At least the leaders had to know that there will be no going back from this–their actions will result in court-martial. Knowing that, why would the still do this?
The weakest excuse was the demand to have an officer cadre of BDR’s own, and not Army officers sent by deputation. Of all our armed forces, BDR has the most interaction with their counter-parts from India and Myanmar. It is unthinkable that the government would reduce the requirements for becoming an officer (which is now HSC and a 2 year course from Bangladesh Military Academy). Did they think their own officer cadre will be their brothers, and that the soldiers in Bangladesh Army enjoy some cozy relationship with their officers?
The leaders of this massacre had no chance of becoming officers in the BDR. When the Army officers came to BDR, they became BDR officers–plain and simple, and I don’t buy that excuse for a minute.
Motivated by money, protesting against the oppression by and corruption of the Army? I don’t think so. People do not take on a suicidal course of action for money. However, I am not ruling out some fanatical elements, or even the influence of mind-altering drugs.
Government knew the extent of the killings soon enough. The Darbar (a open forum–from the colonial times, where the commanding officer hears questions and grievances from the soldiers) started at 9 AM on February 25th, the 2nd day of BDR Week. There were about 3000 soldiers and 165 officers in the hall. After the shooting started around 9:30 AM, one of the officers present, a Major Zayedi, called Maj Gen (Rtd.) Tarique Siddik, the prime ministers security advidser and described the scene.
Unexplained brutality. We saw dead bodies that were beyonett charged. Dead bodies where hacked into pieces and dumped into sewers. There are unconfirmed reports of the DG’s wife being burned alive. There are reports of rape of women, substantiated by the TV images of women coming out in torn clothing. This is from the notes of the son of an Army officer, who wrote from Dhaka:
Wives of the BDR officers(yes, they were BDR officers) were scared to death after they heard about the massacre at Darbar Hall (auditorium). They started breaking into quarters and looting around 12.30 pm. They dragged many women and girls with them. I don’t want to explain any farther.Most of them didn’t know that their father or husband is already dead. But what they didn’t know something even more uglier is about to happen. I would’ve write this whole thing in full details but there are some people I know who will never forgive me if I do so. But these are truths, please try to except it. As I did.
Why this inhuman behavior? Forget Geneva convention–every soldier knows that he might face an enemy in the battlefield, and abusing a dead enemy is simply not done. So why did they bayonet the dead officers? Why did they cut them up? Surely they were not dumb enough to think they can just hide the evidence and claim the officers were never there in the first place? I don’t even want to contemplate the burning alive (regardless of her alleged crimes) or rapes.
Soldiers are trained to kill–that is part of their job description. But this defies all explanation.
The 4:00 PM Deadline: The following is from one of the people involved in the negotiations.
Gen Moeen came to the PM’s residence around 10:30. He was joined by the Navy and Air chiefs around 11:30. By 12:30, everyone in Jamuna (PM’s current residence) knew that more than 10 officers were already dead, and the others may be killed any time soon. Gen. Moyeen informed the PM that the situation in the cantonment was getting explosive: Army officers there were not going to sit idle as their brother officers were being killed. He said that if things didn’t improve by 4:00 PM, the situation may get out of control. This is when the PM asked for 12 volunteers to go in and negotiate.
Jahangir Nanak and Mirza Azam, and other brave men and women. Nanak and Azam were the first to respond, and went into the battle-zone. Nanak returned with a team of 14 BDR soldiers to the PMs residence, but Mirza Azam was kept as a hostage by the rebels to ensure the safety of the 14.
Later, other MPs, including at least two female MPs, also went into Pilkhana. What these men and women did was above and beyond the call of duty. Specially Mirza Azam: he had to know that elements within the Army may act without permission and detain or kill the 14 BDR soldiers, which would have put his own life in jeopardy.
Amnesty: A group of Bangladeshi bloggers were discussing this online as the events were unfolding. We agreed that announcing the general amnesty was probably necessary to defuse the situation, but at the same time (this is before the extent of the massacre was known) argued that killers simply could not be let go scot-free. Here is what Mash said in an email:
Amnesty is a very bad idea. Let’s turn the tables and examine this. Do you want amnesty for Mujib’s killers? I am pretty sure the answer is no. Giving amnesty for pure murder will lead to breakdown of law – as Bangladesh history shows.
That summarizes the sentiment pretty succinctly. The answer to pay disparity or corruption by officers is not murder, and murderers can not, should not, be allowed to go free.
I stated that I will personally profer a pen to Sheikh Hasina to sign the order withdrawing the amnesty.
The government has since clarified that statement and said that the amnesty was extended to the general rebels, but anyone involved in the killings will face trial.
Moyeen under pressure: Gen. Moyeen was under tremendous pressure from junior officers to act with decisive force against the BDR, but he followed the chain of command. We commended Gen. Moyeen for this.
Hasina–this is leadership. Under tremendous pressure, the PM opted for the difficult path of patience. It would have been easy for her to order the Army to go in to the Pilkhana with their tanks and turn the heart of Dhaka into a war-field, but she kept her head. Finally we see some of the steel and lion-heart that her father had.
Khaleda Zia and BNP: One of the first statements from BNP was that it will work with the government and help it to resolve this issue. Later BNP raised their standard refrain of looking for external enemies (which in this case is an entirely valid demand), and overall, BNP behaved like a responsible opposition is supposed to behave.
Escalation scenario. We now know that Mrs. Zia did not spend the night at her Cantonment residence, so it is obvious she was concerned that this could spread further. One early speculation was that this was engineered by the Army so they could impose marital law in the name of keeping law and order. We could have seen hundreds of dead civilians.
What is going on now. Buses and other transportation are being searched by the Army and RAB, and men with crew-cuts are being dragged out and being taken away. We just hope no vigilante justice is not served on them.
What should have happened. BDR’s demands are not new. They staged a mini-munity during the last BNP tenure, but that was quelled without any blood-shed. But the scale of the 2009 mutiny defies all logic. There is obvious finger-pointing towards the DGFI, NSI and MI–were they all asleep?
We know that DGFI was responsible for the arrest and torture of some of the MPs on both sides of the isle. Knowing that, allow me to present some scenarios, and matching recommendations or comments.
- DGFI and the other intelligence agencies did not have a clue. Hard to believe, but not impossible. If so, the answer is simple: fire the leadership. That should have been done anyway as soon as Hasina came to power.
- DGFI and the other intelligence agencies did know, and did warn the government, but it did not reach high enough. Possible, but unlikely. If DGFI knew, they would not have let their brother officers die
- DGFI and the other agencies knew about this plot, but kept it secret to advance their own agenda, or were involved with the planning themselves. Possible, but unlikely. DGFI can not keep their involvement secret after this massacre
- DGFI and the other intelligence agencies did know, and did warn the government. The government sat on it in order to discredit DGFI. This is just ridiculous. Again, DGFI would not have just sat back and let other officers die
- Other theories: RAW did it, because by weakening the BDR, India gains.
- Ulfa did it, because the government is extraditing Anup Chetia to India
- ISI did it, because they wanted to stage a full-scale coup and overthrow AL
- Jamaat did it, because they want to stop the war-crimes trial
But here is my own conclusion (without any documentary evidence): the leaders of the mutiny were promised some sort of immunity deal by someone very high up–someone they had reason to trust and believe who could deliver on his promise. Follow that trail, and the master-minds will be found.
Field-grade officers are explosively angry. Gen. Moyeen had a series of meeting with the officers, who are demanding a solution (in other words, an eye for an eye). The Officers are very angry and frustrated, and they didn’t even let the govt officials and ministers to attend the janaja of the first seven officers. Reportedly Abdur Razzak and Tofael Ahmed where man-handled at the Cantonment mosque. They are blaming the government for letting the BDR jawans get away.
Was there corruption by the officers? It is well-known, and accepted by most officers, that the 3-year posting to BDR is an opportunity to make a lot of money. Operation Daal-Bhat allegedly resulted in Tk. 40 crore (400 million) profit that never saw the light of day. Some other snippets from a list of allegations:
- The director general of the BDR has smuggled Tk 30 crore (300 million) to his mother-in-law’s account in the United States. His wife was caught at the airport, but the whole incident was suppressed
- 22 army officers have embezzled Tk 2 crore of Operation Dal-Bhat through bank signatures of BDR personnel. They embezzled another Tk 60 crore from the profits of Operation Dal-Bhat.
- A relative of the DG went missing with Tk 50 crore of Nur Mohammad Rifles Public School, but the matter was never investigated.
- [Former] director general Rezaqul Haider Chowdhury took away Tk 40 crore and that incident was not investigated either.
(before anyone accuses me of dragging the names of good officers who died, remember that just as corruption does not justify killing, death does not wipe the slate clean either. I am not saying everyone was corrupt, but not investigating the corruptions has no excuse either, and both the CTG and AL has at least some of this blood on their hands)
Next steps: This seems obvious to us, but in the land of politics nothing is as it seems. First, ensure justice. Find those with their hands on the guns, find who did the planning, all the way up the chain. Then try them in an open court martial, with reporters present. The country needs to know how deep and wide the rot is.
Sunlight is the best disinfectant.
J @ Shada Kalo [http://shadakalo.blogspot.com] writes using a pseudonym and is best known for exposing government, military, corporate foul plays through whistle-blowing investigative reports.