Monday, March 2, 2009

BDR tragedy - revenge for Padua and Boraibari?

It is now widely believed that the barbarous mutiny at BDR HQ (Pilkhana) in Dhaka was perpetrated in revenge for the death of 19 BSF jawans killed (after they intruded on to Bangladesh territory) in the counter-attack by the BDR at Padua of Sylhet and Boraibari of Roumary on April 18, 2001. The BDR was then headed by Maj. Gen. ALM Fazlur Rahman who has since maintained that the three BDR soldiers killed in that encounter should be decorated with National Sword as Birsreshtho and should be commemorated in exactly the same way as the martyrs of 1971. This has regrettably not been done by any of the governments since the incursion by the BSF into Bangladesh in 2001 and it was surprisingly not one of the demands of the rebellious BDR soldiers in the Pilkhana mutiny of 2009.

While the mutineers were able to recall many injustices committed against them over the several decades since independence this single most glaring example just managed to escape their over-wrought attention. Revenge for Padua and Boraibari was the principal justification for the planning and execution of the mutiny but another important objective was to have Bangladesh accept a Peace Mission from India to protect the Kolkata-Dhaka Friendship train service as explained in some news reports. The real purpose for this Peace Mission would be to act as an occupying force and spark further trouble and enmity between the army and the BDR that was likely to ensue after the savage murders at Pilkhana. This would have held out the double benefit and advantage to India of furthering their agenda for securing a transit facility across the country and at the same time cripple the defence and security services of Bangladesh.

This would merely be the fulfillment of what had been planned after the 1971 war with Bangladesh having no standing army and the defence needs of the country being organized under Indian army tutelage and control as spelled out in the 7 point agreement signed by the Mujib Nagar government which had only been partly implemented after liberation. The internal law and order situation would according to this agreement be handled by a paramilitary force trained and equipped by India’s external intelligence agency RAW.

The first part of this plan was thwarted when the Indian army was forced to leave (which would probably be the same fate of this proposed Peace Mission but with more violent and disturbing consequences for India) after resentment began to grow amongst freedom fighters and the ordinary people of Bangladesh against their prolonged presence which was seen to be tantamount to being an occupying force.

The second part of the 1971 plan was suddenly disrupted after the August 15, 1975 coup when the paramilitary force called the Rakkhi Bahini was disbanded soon thereafter. The Rakkhi Bahini earned the reputation of being an undisciplined, brutal and violently vindictive force under the direct control of Sheikh Fazlul Haque Moni and later Tofail Ahmed. It has now been recommended that after the mutiny at Pilkhana the BDR force should similarly be disbanded and like the Rakkhi Bahini have its members assigned to other security forces of the country.

In its place a new paramilitary organization would be established and given the name - as one senior army officer has proposed - the Bangladesh Border Force or BBF. This would be the appropriate outcome for the BDR which has by its despicable and heinous acts condemned itself to utter oblivion.

A further comparison may now be made with the situation prevailing immediately after 1971 relating to the suspicious role played by the Awami League leadership. The conduct of the AL government during the recent mutiny is increasingly coming under close and intense scrutiny especially in its failure to act in a timely fashion to counter the revolt by sending in the army directly into Pilkhana compound on the very first day of the uprising. To stall such a move the AL administration sent Sahara Khatun, Jahangir Kabir Nanak and Mirza Azam to negotiate terms with the mutineers. None of these individuals have any experience or expertise in conducting such negotiations and they carry little weight or influence within the country or party but were nevertheless chosen.

There were, however, several senior leaders in the party who were far better qualified to undertake this task but were simply not asked by the Prime Minister. It is a surprise and a miracle that after the number of civilians that were killed or injured outside the gates of Pilkhana these ‘negotiators’ (Sahara Khatun, Jahangir Kabir Nanak and Mirza Azam) managed to successfully dodge the bullets and were not automatically set upon by the rebels on their entry into the compound. Another aspect of the AL handling of the crisis that has raised objections relates to their deliberate policy of dividing the country on purely partisan lines on the issue of the rebellion.

In a time of national emergency it would be expected that the government would attempt to unite the country by calling for all-party involvement in the decision making process. Instead the AL (on the basis of accusations made in the Indian press and media) started pointing fingers at the opposition parties for complicity in the mutiny. The view has been expressed in some quarters that this self-defeating approach to the revolt was deliberate so that the army would be undermined in revenge for their role in the 1/11 takeover and also in their pursuance of corrupt politicians in the AL and their ultimate trial and prosecution during the tenure of the two year caretaker government.

This is entirely consistent with the AL’s inherent distrust of the armed forces –originally encouraged and inspired by India – which also existed during the government of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and became greatly intensified after the coup’s of 1975 which saw the AL pushed into the political wilderness for the next two decades. Against this inclination of the AL the people of Bangladesh will expect this government to declare the victims of the mutiny as martyrs to be honoured in the same way as the freedom fighters who lost their lives in the 1971 war but which still has not been done for the BDR soldiers who died in Padua and Boraibari while protecting the territory and borders of the country against Indian intrusion and aggression.

1 comment:

  1. No comment. Fortunately or unfortunately I was the commander of the Baraibari battle.