BDR rebellion reprobe left unattended for long enough

Updated at 12:13am on February 26, 2020

THE government still not holding further investigations to identify the motive and the plotters of the rebellion in the erstwhile Bangladesh Rifles, which left 75 people including 57 commanding officers deputed to the paramilitary force from the army dead, even after a decade and a year is unsettling. Soldiers of the force, which was later renamed as the Border Guards Bangladesh in 2010, took up arms against their commanding officers in the force’s headquarters in Dhaka on February 25, 2009 and the rebellion, which spilled over to some other sector headquarters, ran to the second day. Two committees, one instituted by the civil administration and the other by the military, investigated the incident that time and they both failed to establish the motive and to identify the people who came into play in the rebellion. A few of the findings and recommendations of the committee that the government instituted were made public in May 2009. Although both the reports, which are yet to be made public, are reported to have failed to get to the motive and the people behind the rebellion, both of them, it was learnt, suggested further investigation of the rebellion to establish who, if any, hatched the plot and why.

The report of the government committee also recommended an investigation of the intelligence failure while it spoke of a lack of cooperation from various security forces in its investigation. The committee explained its failure by noting that as it did not have proper tools, technology and technique for questioning suspects, almost none brought to the committee provided any important information. The army committee, as the New York-based Human Rights Watch said to have obtained a copy of the investigation report in 2012, blamed the government for not taking a stronger stand against the border force before the rebellion. It is purported that the grievances that the soldiers in the force harboured against their officers may have been the immediate reasons but not that serious and there could be some other forces that may have cashed in on the grievances, instigating the soldiers into taking up arms against their officers. The High Court in its full verdict, released on January 8, 2020, in the murder case over the rebellion recommended the institution of an inquiry commission to unearth ‘the facts’ of the incident and make public the identity of the ‘vested interests’ involved. The court in its short verdict on November 27, 2017 upheld the death sentence given to 139 BDR soldiers for killing their commanding officers, the life-term imprisonment given to 185 BDR soldiers and imprisonment of 200 others for varying terms.

It is, in what has happened, imperative for the government to set out further investigation of the rebellion, keeping to recommendations of earlier investigations and the court verdict, to establish the motive and whether there had been outside hands in the event. This is important for the government to do so for strategic planning and to stop such events — the 2009 rebellion in the border force has been the third one since Bangladesh’s independence in 1971 — from recurring in the future. The people also have the right to know of the whole issue that the government should not deny them.