People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 9

March 08, 2009


BDR Revolt: Serious  Challenge Before Hasina

Gautam Das

Revolt in the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR), the biggest para-military force in Bangladesh and mass killing of a large number of middle and top ranking Army Officers by the mutineers of the BDR has created wide spread resentment in the Bangladesh Army. Within one and half month after assumption of office, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is facing a very grave and difficult situation. Main opposition party Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its ally Islami fundamentalist Jamat E Islam Party has criticized Sheikh Hasina for diclaring General Amnesty to the mutineers and demanded removal of her Home Minister Sahara Khatoon. The Army Officers forced the government to remove the Home Minister from the inquiry panel as she negotiated with the rebels. They also demanded disband of BDR. The army authorities separately set up inquiry panel headed by a Lieutenant General. The army guarded by tank and armoured personal carrier still searching inside BDR Head Quarters Pilkhana in the heart of the Dhaka City and also patrolling the important streets.

The mutiny in the BDR had started on February 25 morning, the second day of the celebration of weeklong annual congregation of the paramilitary force. On the day, Director General of BDR Major General Shakil Ahamed and other officers had assembled in the Darbar Hall inside the Campus to award medals and prizes to the officers and Jawans for their performances. According to norms, all officers and Jawans shall attend the Darbar without arms. Eyewitness report said, when the Chief of BDR was addressing the Jawans in the Darbar few hundred armed Jawans, mostly young, stormed the Darbar hall and started indiscriminate firing upon their officers. Mutineers killed their Director General,other commanding officers and also attacked official quarters of the officers and killed wife of the slain BDR Chief, ransacked and looted houses, burnt officers’ vehicles. When a section of the mutineers were killing their officers inside their headquarters, another section of the mutineers took control of the gates to prevent other forces. They also indiscriminately fired upon the public who were passing the road, but not knowing what is going on inside BDR headquarters then. At least 67 army officers were killed by the mutineers inside the BDR Head quarters. Some of the family members of the officers were also killed.33 injured army officers were rescued. Outside the campus4 civilians including one college student were killed and 131 were injured.

Within few hours of BDR mutiny, the Army took position outside the BDR headquarters. To prevent armed clashes between Military and Paramilitary and also to defuse the situation, Prime Minister Shiekh Hasina sent some of her Ministers and MPs to start dialogue with the mutineers. The ministerial team could pursue the mutineers and a delegation was escorted out to the Prime Minister’s office. After two hour long talks the mutineers agreed to surrender arms and go back to barracks. As per understanding reached with the rebels army was withdrawn and the Govt. declared General Amnesty to the mutineers, though it was not known what exactly happened inside the BDR Campus till then. The mutineers surrendered their arms to the police authorities on 26 February evening almost after 36 hours of revolt. It was later known that they delayed their surrender so that they can dispose the dead body of their officers brutally killed by them and also can escape from their headquarters safely.

The mutineers during their discussion with the Prime Minister on February 25, alleged that they wanted to submit a memorandum on February 24 to the PM during the inaugural ceremony of the annual meet, but the officers prevented them from doing so. They also alleged that all commanding officers in the BDR organization were deputed from the army and often they had to suffer humiliation at the hands of their officers. Jawans are poorly paid, whereas officers are enjoying various facilities etc.

From some quarters it was circulated through a section of media that the BDR revolt took place at heat of the moment as the Jawans were denied to make air their grievances to the political authorities. But the fact tells otherwise. A deep rooted conspiracy has been hatched outside which has been executed very skillfully by killing large number of army officers serving in the BDR organization.

Some officers of the army who could somehow escape from the killer Jawans told the reporters that they saw truck loads of arms and ammunitions were brought from outside and quickly distributed among some selected young jawans. They also distributed large numbers of printed leaflets narrating their grievances to incite the rank and file against their officers. Those young Jawans after killing their officers dump dead bodies in the evening by digging grave. Many dead bodies also thrown into sewerage which were later recovered from the canals.

Who instigated the BDR jawans to kill their officers? What was the motive? Who was the main target? These questions are of great importance which are verring around in the minds of the people.

BDR is the offshoot of erstwhile East Pakistan Rifles which was renamed as BDR after liberation of Bangladesh in 1971. Bangladesh has almost 4000 kilometers of borders with India and a very small strech of border with Myanmar, near Arakan. Successive Bangladesh governments have built and strengthened BDR as the first line of defence against India. Over last 38 years North-Eastern states of India and as well as West Bengal are facing brutal attack of armed extremist and secessionist groups who were trained and armed in Bangladesh territory. Not only that, Islami fundamentalist terrorists operating in India are also using Bangladesh soil as their safe hideout. Can anybody believe that these anti-Indian forces were operating without the knowledge and help of BDR ? Over the years several thousand misguided youth have surrendered to different security agencies and they revealed that once they cross over to Bangladesh they are completely free to move anywhere. They used to get arms training and all other assistances from them. Many of the rivers are flowing from India to Bangladesh and it is the sad experience to Indian people that it was the BDR who prevent them to use water for drinking and irrigation purposes.

Only recently after establishment of new government the Bangladesh authorities started taking some steps to change the attitude of the BDR and to end hostilities towards Indian people. Slain BDR Chief Major General Shakil Ahamed was playing a very positive role in this regard.

In the recent Parliamentary Election in Bangladesh, arrest and prosecution of Liberation war criminals was one of the major demand of the people. The Sheikh Hasina Government passed a resolution in the newly Elected National Parliament to bring the war criminals into justice. It is known to everybody that notorious Rajakars, Al Shams, Al Badars, who helped the Pakistany army in killing thousands of people and gang rape women during Bangladesh Liberation Struggle in 1971 had converted themselves into Jamat E Islami Party, a Islami Fundamentalist Party who was alliance partner of BNP. During BNP-Jamat alliance Govt. Islami Chhatra Sibir, student wing of the Jamat E Islami party captured all the University students Hall, Medical College students Hall except Dhaka University, during their rule in between 2001-2006. Not only that during this period they infiltrated their cadres in the army, paramilitary and police forces and also in the administrative cadres.

Decision of Awami Legue Govt. led by Shiekh Hasina to create a task force to combat terrorists, passing of resolution against war criminals, steps to improve all round bilateral relation with India including providing of transit facilities naturally enraged those political forces in Bangladesh who are continuously spreading anti India canards.

Targeted killing of army officers who have the track record of fighting against the fundamentalist forces in Bangladesh is no doubt a deep rooted conspiracy. Political forces defeated in the Election are out to destabilize the Awami Legue led secular- democratic Govt. After the BDR revolt,statements made by former Prime Minister and BNP President Khaleda Zia, her party MP Salauddin Kader Chaudhury and also the statement made by Jamat E Islami Party indicates such sort of things. On March 3 Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in her first public meeting after the revolt warned her countrymen and said,conspiracy has not ended. Many of the BDR rebels who fled away, are still at large. Possibility of their joining with fundamentalists and extremist forces are not ruled out.

Bangladesh Government and army separately started conducting inquiry. But Prime Minister Shiekh Hasina’s decision of inviting Americans intelligence agency FBI for its help has created some amount of resentment among some of her supporting parties. It is an open secret that ISI of Pakistan is very active in Bangladesh and they are being aided by CIA. Decision to invite an Imperialist intelligence Agency has already been criticized by many political parties. The situation developing in Bangladesh require cautious watch.