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11 Years of BDR Rebellion

No suggested probe to identify plotters, plot

Muktadir Rashid | Published: 00:58, Feb 25,2020

 
 

The actual reasons, plot and plotters involved in the massacre of officers of the erstwhile Bangladesh Rifles during the rebellion by the border force’s soldiers remain unidentified even though 11 years have passed by after the incident.

The rebellion played out at the BDR headquarters in Dhaka and elsewhere on February 25-26, 2009.

The government has initiated no investigation as recommended by the two probe bodies instituted—one led by the civil administration and the other by the military— to ascertain the reasons, the plot and the plotters.

The High Court, too, in its full verdict, released on January 8, 2020, in the murder case over the February 2009 BDR mutiny recommended forming an inquiry commission to unearth ‘the facts behind the incident’ and disclose to the nation about the identity of the ‘real vested interest quarters’ involved in it.  

On November 27, 2017, in a short verdict delivered by a three-judge HC bench of Justice Md Shawkat Hossain, Justice Md Abu Zafor Siddique and Justice Md Nazrul Islam Talukder upheld the death sentences to 139 BDR soldiers for slaying 57 commanders on deputation from the army during the mutiny.

The life-term imprisonment to 185 BDR men and the varying terms of punishment to 200 others were also upheld by the bench.  

Asked whether the government would form any inquiry commission as prescribed by the High Court, home minister Asaduzzaman Khan said on Monday that he could not comment without knowing the decision over the matter.

Additional public prosecutor Musharraf Hossain  Kajol claimed on the day that the investigation was carried out identifying the real perpetrators. 

On February 25, 2009, several hundred paramilitary BDR soldiers took up weapons against their officers deputed from the army at the Durbar Hall during their annual gathering at the force’s headquarters at Pilkhana in the capital.

During the mutiny that began shortly after then-BDR director general major General Shakil Ahmed stood to deliver his speech at the Durbar Hall the mutineers gunned down their commanders.

The BDR men began the rebellion, as they claimed, to realise their demands that included not sending army officers on deputation to the BDR as its commanders.

In the two-day mutiny, 75 people—57 army officers, wives of two army officers, nine BDR soldiers, five civilians, an army soldier and a police constable—were killed.

In 2010, the Bangladesh Rifles was renamed Border Guards Bangladesh, BGB in short.

Families and friends of slain officers and convicted soldiers both said that the nation should know the ‘actual’ reasons behind the rebellion and the plot and plotters of the massacre as no investigation or trial revealed them although the trials of all the cases but one were completed.

‘I don’t believe that the perpetrators have really been identified,’ said retired Lieutenant Colonel Mustafizur Rahman, who served in the army intelligence and watched the trial.

‘If investigation is conducted,’ Mustafizur, who also served the Border Guard Bangladesh, said, ‘the truth will definitely come out one day.’

Slain colonel Quadrat Elahi’s son Saquib Rahman is still unsure of what reasons there might be to instigate such bloodshed, or who the plotters might be, but said, ‘It was certainly not just the BDR soldiers.’

‘I don’t think that the actual conspirators have been identified,’ said Saquib, who teaches law at a leading private university, adding, ‘I have lost my hope. I am sorry for such a big disappointment…’

Kamrul Hassan, the eldest brother of a soldier initially convicted but later acquitted by the High Court, on Monday said that his family lost everything to get justice.

Kamrul, who spent most of his time in the court lobby for the last few months for the bail of his brother, said that they were yet to get justice and the actual criminals were not identified.

Families of victims and convicts demanded that the reports of the government inquiry committee, headed by former secretary Anis-uz-Zaman Khan, and of the investigation, conducted by the army, be made public, although neither of the probes could reportedly identify the plot or the plotters.

The report by Anis-uz-Zaman Khan recommended an investigation into the failure to gather intelligence about the planned mutiny.

The government report also stated that the committee was unable to determine the identity of the individuals who planned the mutiny and set it in motion.

The committee also found that many mutineers took up arms spontaneously, either because they believed the propaganda that the army was taking over, or because they were coerced or found it expedient to do so.

The report highlighted the lack of cooperation in the investigation from the various security forces in the country, including the Directorate General of Forces Intelligence and the Rapid Action Battalion.

The report stated that as the committee ‘did not have proper tools, technology, and technique for questioning the suspected persons to reveal the truth, almost no person presented or brought to the committee for questioning provided any important information or proof’.

From the army, a 20-member team conducted their investigation. But the force did not make the results public either.

New York-based Human Rights Watch obtained a copy of the army investigation report and stated that the army report faulted the government for not having taken a stronger line against the BDR personnel before the rebellion.

The rights group also urged the government to set up an independent investigative and prosecutorial task force with sufficient expertise, authority, and resources to rigorously investigate and, where appropriate, prosecute all allegations of unlawful deaths, torture, and mistreatment of suspects in the BDR mutiny, regardless of the perpetrator’s rank or institutional affiliation.

Justice Md Abu Zafor Siddique of the High Court division bench advised the formation of an inquiry commission in his 11 recommendations in the 29,059-page full verdict.

Justice Md Shawkat Hossain agreed with different recommendations made by Justice Abu Zafor and Justice Md Nazrul Islam Talukder. 

Justice Abu Zafor and Justice Nazrul recommended not engaging the BGB in any activities like Operation Daal-Bhat as, they observed, it degraded the force.

They also recommended an inquiry into the BDR’s intelligence failure to obtain prior information about the mutiny and to take action against the responsible members.     

The full verdict also recommended steps to send BGB members on UN Peacekeeping missions, which BGB members said was still an illusion.

On November 5, 2013, the third additional sessions judge court, presided over by M Akhtaruzzaman, sentenced 151 BDR men and civilian Zakir Hossain to death, 160 BDR men, two civilians and retired BDR subedar Md Torab Ali to life terms and 256 others, mostly BDR men, to imprisonment for varying terms and acquitted 278 accused, mostly BDR men.

The two civilians who were given life terms were the late BNP leader Nasiruddin Pintu and a local AL leader.

The number of the acquitted later increased to 283 in the High Court verdict.

Over 17,000 soldiers faced different trials for their alleged involvement in the third rebellion in the force since the country’s independence in 1971.

A number of border force special courts, led by border guard officials on deputation from the army, jailed 5,926 soldiers for varying terms—from four months to seven years—in 57 cases, including 11 in Dhaka on charges of taking up arms against their officers deputed from the army.

All those trials were completed by September 2012, according to the border guard headquarters officials.

Eleven years after the munity, family members said that 283 were languishing in jail despite being acquitted of murder and other charges as the trial of another case related to explosives was pending trial.

The 790 accused in detention petitioned the Dhaka metropolitan sessions judge’s court on March 31, 2019 for a speedy disposal of the case filed under the Explosive Substances Act.

According to the prosecution, the trials in both the cases—one for the murders and other heinous crimes and the other over explosive substances—commenced on January 5, 2011 but the explosives case was still pending trial.

The judge, KM Imrul Kayes, has continued the trial and so far completed the recording of 146 of the 1,344 prosecution witnesses.

Defence lawyer Faruque Ahmed stated that the 790 accused had been languishing in jail for 10 years.

All convicts of munity charges except those who were also named in the murder and explosive cases have already come out of the jail after serving out their sentences, he noted.

According to a study carried out by rights body Odhikar, at least 47 BDR personnel died in custody.

The representatives of president Abdul Hamid and prime minister Sheikh Hasina would place wreaths on the graves of the military officers, slain in the rebellion, at Banani Army Graveyard in Dhaka today.

Chiefs of the three Services, the home secretary and the Border Guard Bangladesh director general will also place wreaths on the graves at about 9:00am.

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