Today morning Dhaka was rattled by a fierce gun battle inside the headquarters of Bangladesh Rifles (BDR – paramilitary border security force) situated in the heart of the capital. Rumors had started to fly and later it emerged that junior officers have taken control and locked up seniors officers in a mutiny. Gun and mortar shell firings were heard and local media reported that 3 civilians and 2 BDR officials have died. But the real toll can be way more as eyewitnesses saw more dead bodies being carried inside the BDR compound. The compound was circled by the security forces and the armed forces were sent in to quell the mutiny but the BDR members resisted them. BBC has posted some pictures and some background of BDR.
There was a crisis for information and the website of the country's major 24 hour online news source was inaccessible probably due to heavy traffic. That's where citizen journalists filled the void.
Civilians fleeing from the scene. Copyright Drishtipat and used with permission
Unheard Voice, the blog of the human rights group Drishtipat started live blogging almost instantaneously and many eyewitnesses updated in the comments section. Here are some eyewitness pictures posted in Unheard Voices blog.
There were questions all around why they mutinied and these could be gathered from the various citizen media sites in Bangla and English:
* The disparity between army pay scale and BDR pay scale was a sore point.
* Discrimination and mistreatment
* Corruption of BDR high officials especially in Operation Daal Bhaat
* No peacekeeping missions for them
Earlier in September 2008 some irregularities regarding Operation Daal Bhaat was highlighted in this Bangla Blog.
Here is a video of rebel soldiers placing their demands [bn] uploaded by YouTube user Azadvision:
Bangla Blogging platform Sachalayatan has been updating the news via posting phone reports from its citizen journalists in Dhaka. Some are updating the news via twitter like Asif Saleh and Rajputro.
BDFact has been updating on different issues:
The blogger placed some pertinent questions:
1. Did they ask for financial support and additional privileges? For how long these demands were made and not being addressed? Why? We need sequential stories.
2. All sector commanders were present in today's meeting at Darbar Hall. So, it cannot be the case that it was an accident. It must be a preplanned event. Who masterminded this? [..]
7. What is now happening outside capital? Do we know for sure if situation is under control, or not?
This is a defining moment for Bangladesh.
The blogger updates about the negotiation phase:
A 15-member BDR team, led by Nanok (state minister for LGRD), has moved to PM's house to start negotiation. Their immediate demand is to free BDR from military's control.
Meanwhile, UNB reported soldiers took control of Goalkhali BDR camp here after the revolt by their colleagues at the Bangladesh Rifles headquarters in Dhaka, triggering tensions through the southern city.
Journalists trying to cover and keep away from the firing. Copyright Drishtipat and used with permission
And in my own blog I have reported:
UNB ticker reporting: “PM announces amnesty for rebels; BDR delegation promises to surrender arms.”
LGRD's Nanok confirmed the amnesty after meeting of PM with BDR representatives. The Jawans promised that they will turn in arms (possibly by next morning. After Army and RAB are withdrawn). Rebel Jowans are claiming they were fired upon first, during meeting in the Darbar Hall in the morning.
A commenter at the Unheard Voices blog spells a hard truth:
This immediate acceptance of agenda set by the BDR also sends dangerous precedents for other groups to do the same thing if they feel marginalized. In Bangladesh, if no one listens to you then go on rampage and your demands will be met immediately. It’s been proven a successful strategy for the Students, Garment Workers, Political Parties, and now the BDR.
Ack Ack Gun on Satmasjid, Road 7A. Copyright Drishtipat and used with permission
Everything was calm and quiet in Dhaka in the evening and Rajputro sends this twitter message a while ago:
The situation is far from over and still volatile. Please keep an eye on the above mentioned citizen media sources to get the latest updates.
Still there is no hope of a peaceful settlement.
It’s really disappointing.
Also follow breaking stories at #dhaka
I am really worrying ….though I barely recall the 1975 mutiny, as a little kid, I saw how officers and families were scared, some were killed and I saw dead bodies at 55/C Shaheed Moinul Rd (Rupsha Barrack) in Dhaka Cantt, where my family used to live then.
There could be various reasons for this mutiny, it didnt just break out of nothing but the first part is to be on the safe side, I understand it is at times not possible in such situation though.
In general social equity is a challenge in country like Bangladesh where rich and powerful pretty much exploit commoners openly. There were lot of concerns by many belong to different walks of life bringing military corrupts to justice but that didn’t happen during Fakhruddin-Moinuddin government. Hannan Shah was given hard time because of his BNP affiliation and Altaf Chowduhry landed in the jail on corruption charges. There are many retired army officers as well as some in service are known to heavily corrupt and just a few among them lost their job only as that was “punitive measures” taken against them. But they never went under Dudok investigation and served any kind of jail terms. In general military corrupt personnel are exempt in general no matter what harsh measures have been taken against others. BDR lower ranking who are leading this mutiny mostly belong to deprived part of the society i.e. they are commoners.
BDR’s such deadly outrage reminds establishing social equity and taking military non-military everybody to task who are in fault.
Again think deeply as isn’t it something lack of social justice and equity in general? The mutiny throws copious thoughts to all of us on our levels and stand on justice as a whole.
“Copyright Drishtipat and used with permission “…as if someone cares…purai bhua just like the pitures and the coverage.
1. This is tragic and someone should take responsibility of this incident immediately whomever might be behind this. I think it should be the home minister, Shahara Khatun. It’s her failure not being able to thwart this massive killing of innocent people. She should not be evaluated by what she has done (photo op of BDR soldiers surrendering to her in national TV) after 50 army Officers are being killed but how this situation got so bad! She is the head of BDR and it’s her responsibility to manage the troops. She should set an example by resigning as a home minister immediately.
2. Prime minister, Sheik Hasina should not declare public forgiveness for this mass killing. By doing so, she compromised with the rebels. Very bad example for the future of Armed forces division of Bangladesh. Next time, police gets pissed off, are they going to start shooting their commanders and civilians! Also who gives rebel’s authority to kill execution style just because they were pissed off about something? Bangladesh is a democratic country with law and order, even if it is weak.
This is a sad day for Bangladesh.
Though you took the alias “non violence” you didn’t justify that name. Here are some of my thoughts on the issues you addressed:
1. I personally thank Shahara Khatun for her role on this. She is head of BDR that means what? Not sure how much politically involved you are, but I am sure you understand that she took this role for few months where as this BDR outrage is has been created over a long period of time, probably since the liberation of our country. The moment you said omeone should take responsibility of this incident immediately , you simply rushed in to a judgment, something either Army officer or BDR jawans took at the heat of the moment at Darbar Hall. What we need to do is sit back, look at the incident, history behind this, and then take action for this horrible tragedy and make sure something like this don’t happen in future. If that requires putting the harshest punishment on few, I am all for it, but there has to be justification for this. Just taking some BDR jawan and hanging them for their crime is not going to solve anything. I salute Sahara Khatun for what she did at that moment as I don’t thin I would have the guts of doing such. Because of her, many more lives were saved, because of her BDR jawans probably thought of withdrawing their weapons. Blaming her for this would the last thing that would cross my mind. Wasn’t she aware of the fact that BDR jawans are deprived of the basic necessity, mistreated by Army? May be she was, but so was the other heads of BDR for the past 37 years. Did anyone did anything?
2. Prime Minister Shaikh Hasina did the best thing at that moment. What would your suggestion for that moment? Put the Army artillery in charge, bombard the Pilkhana and kill 5000 BDR jawans? That may not the be most ideal thing to do, but I believe right thing to do at that moment. If I was a BDR, I would not surrender unless there was a pardon, because I know as soon as I drop my weapon, Army would walk in and kill every living thing that would crawl in front of them. Yes, I do agree with you and said many times before, what we have to make sure is take measurable and drastic measure so next time someone else from any arms carrying group does not take such action. But not at the expense of the wrong cause. So yes, I personally think Shaikh Hasina did an appropriate thing, which was right at that moment. She took a decent, strong stance showing her valor.
If I had the option of giving a suggestion our PM, I would suggest her to create an independent committee who will get to the bottom of the whole incident, perform a root cause analysis and based on the result take severe action.
some quick comments:
no single group was the innocent party here. both BDR & Army had their faults. we all know how the Army treats those outside the forces. so no wonder this thing came to happen.
Then again, resorting to violence and murder can not be tolerated under ANY circumstances. those [ bdr or army] who were involved in the killing of army officers and the civilians should be brought to justice, amnesty not withstanding.
now i want to bring another topic, is it about time the peelkhana and cantonment be moved outside dhaka city? they take up too much valuable resources inside the city. WE SHOULD DEMAND THESE MILITARY INSTALLATIONS BE RELOCATED OUTSIDE DHAKA.
secondly, there should be a separate investigation on how the army came to surround the bdr HQ soon after the incident. who authorized the mobilization order for armed forces into the capital? this goes to the heart of civilian control of the armed forces and so called democratic practices.
I support the BDR NCOs and JCOs. They are treated like a slave army while they do all the work (guarding border, operation daal bhaath, etc) while the do nothing army gets rich by going on UN missions and making thousands of US dollars a month. An BD Army officer gets roughly $4,000 USD/Month for serving in a UN mission abroad. BDR gets $0. Plus no BDR commissioned officers (all BDR COs are from Army), less pay, bad housing, no hope for promotion, bad subsidized food. Why should the Army with its corrupt officers enjoy all the benefits while doing a fraction of the work BDR does. BDR Jindabad, please take over the country and kick out useless Army.
Ummmm, I agree and strong disagree with your standing.
Below are some of my thoughts:
1. Yes, the BDR is severely oppressed by the Army. And yes, handfuls of the corrupted Army Officers are taking full advantage of them, while the BDR personnel’s are suffering, paying prices with their miserable lives.
2. Yes, it is unfair that BDR is not entitled to join the UN forces that will upgrade their lives, which will improve the life style of at least some. This would probably at least give them some sort of hope of being selected and have a wonderful life. My heart is for the BDR jawans.
3. Does that mean, one should take such a bloody way to make their point? Yes, there were times when one don’t have an alternate choice, when they think their back is against the wall. Our country was liberated based on such violence when 3 million lives were lost. But at any point, we should not compare that with this.
4. Doest his mean if my son can’t get enrolled into college I will walk into the college and start shooting at the teachers? Where does this stop then? For every social unjust, do we end up in a mass coup, killing someone to make my point? I could somehow justify going after some, but going after family and kids, not sure how I one justify such brutality, or barbaric act?
My only wish, something position comes out of this, so we can avoid something similar in future. Passing the bucket of blame on BDR’s or Army’s is not a good idea and will not solve anything. We have to be more prudent, patient, and sympathetic. After all, either Army/BDR, they are your or my brothers, and sisters.
I am totally agree with you. I think its a high time to think twice about security of the country and who is behind this massacre? Has it happened for Dabi Adai Naki Onno Kisu?
The Home Ministry and intelligence chief(Director of DGFI) should take the responsibility.
The intelligence falters as usually.But this time, there should some retribution for their failure.
I am amazed to hear a note of sympathy from some people for the misguided BDR jawans. In a developing nations there may be legitimate grievances. But this is cold blooded slaughter. The reports are that at least 40 senior army officers were gunned down. Are we condoning murder and mutiny? Mark my words, if the perpetrators of this mutiny are not brought to book there will be no discipline in any sector in Bangladesh