Since 2009, February 25 marks a sad day in the calendar of all Bangladeshis as on that day the nation witnessed a gruesome carnage at the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) headquarters in Peelkhana as a result of a nationwide mutiny of the erstwhile BDR jawans who took up arms against their officers on deputation from the army. In the violence and holdup that lasted 36 hours, 75 people, including 57 officers of the Bangladesh Army, were killed. Following the tragedy, 3,036 soldiers have been sentenced to varying terms on charges of taking part in the mutiny, while the BDR has been reconstituted under the Border Guard Bangladesh Act 2010 and renamed accordingly. Meanwhile, 847 people are presently under trial under criminal charges, including murder. In virtually a few hours on this day three years ago, two of the most important security forces of the country against external aggression, the army and border guards, were thoroughly weakened, and in the case of the latter, virtually reduced to rubble. Understandably, it will take many years for the army to recover from both the physical and mental scars of the tragedy, while the border guards, in the mess left by the mutiny, the subsequent trial and guilt, had to be eventually disbanded in its original form, which had been around for more than a 100 years and was the oldest uniformed force of the country. Very few wars can inflict the level of damage on the uniformed forces of a country, which BDR Mutiny did.
What is more troublesome is that while 3,000-odd soldiers have been punished, for taking part in the mutiny, motivated by prolonged ‘grievances’ – according to the findings of both the investigation committees set up by the government and the Bangladesh Army – the alleged plotters are yet to be identified and the conspiracy behind it is yet to be cracked. The report of the investigation committees, which were not made public but found its way into various sections of the media, recommended the government conduct a further inquiry to identify the people behind the scenes who had capitalized on the grievances of the soldiers to stoke the violence, as well as to identify their motives. For reasons best known to themselves, the government is yet to initiate any such inquiry. Furthermore, the government did not pay heed to any of the long-standing ‘grievances’ of the border guard soldiers, sans increasing their ration, in the last three years. On the other hand, while investigations and trials were going on, as many as 69 BDR soldiers died while in custody, giving rise to serious allegations of extrajudicial killing and torture, which, despite the government setting up a committee, are yet to be investigated. All these are ominous signs for the nation at large and does not at any length allay the fear and scope for future trouble.
It is important for all countrymen to know who were responsible for inflicting such harm on the entire country and to what ends. After all, a country needs to know who its enemies and friends are. It is also important that both genuine grievances and perceived grievances amongst the uniformed forces of a country are addressed, so that they no longer remain susceptible to conspiracies in the future. Therefore, it is important the government immediately begin an inquiry to identify and bring to justice the real plotters, to avoid any such incidents in the future. Besides, it also needs to complete the criminal trials as well as the inquiries into the deaths of the soldiers under custody, as soon as possible, so that the families, on both sides, can get a certain sense of closure.