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:
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.