ফিরে যাওয়া

আবুধাবীতে ছোটখাটো একটা যাত্রাবিরতী – মনে মনে প্রস্তুত ছিলাম – আবুধাবী ঢাকা রুটের যাত্রীরা উপচে পড়া বাক্স পেটরা নিয়ে বিমানে উঠবে এবং সাথে থাকবে ডিউটী ফ্রী শপ থেকে কেনা গোটা চারেক ব্যাগ ভরা সিগারেট কার্টুন, দুধ, পারফিউম, কম্বল ইত্যাদি। একটা বেশ কেওস এর জন্য রেডী হয়ে থাকা। ঈদ মাত্র তিনদিন পরে –

বিমানে বসে কিছুটা অবাক ই হলাম – ওভারহেড কম্পার্টমেন্ট গুলো গড়ের মাঠের মত খালি – সীট ও প্রায় অর্ধেক এর উপর খালি। তবে প্লেন ছাড়ার একেবারে আগে আগে – হুড়মুড় করে হাজির হোল শতের উপর যাত্রী। তবে এরা কিভাবে জানি কিছুটা ভিন্ন – কোথায় জানি কিছু একটা মিলছে না। প্রথম যা চোখে লাগল – এরা সবাই ঘরোয়া পোষাক পড়া – স্যান্ডেল, দু একজন তো লুঙ্গি পড়া। এদের কারো হাতেই কোন বাক্স পেটরা নেই – এমনকি একটি হাত ব্যাগ ও নেই। সবার হাতে স্ট্যেপল করা দু পাতা কাগজ। আমার পাশেই একজন, আশে পাশে এরা সবাই।

এর পর পরই প্লেন ছাড়ার সব আনুষ্ঠানিকতায় – ওদিকে আর মন দেয়া হয় নি- ক্রুইসিং লেভেল এ যাবার ঘোষনা শোনার পরই ল্যাপটপ খুলে ওদিকে মন দেবার চেষ্টা করছিলাম। আমার সারির উইন্ড সীটের তরুনের সাথে মাঝের সীটের যাত্রীটির কথা বার্তা শুনে আবার ভালো করে তাকালাম ওদের দিকে।

এই মিডল ইষ্ট ঢাকা রুটের ফ্লাইট গুল অভিভাসী বাংলাদেশীদের এক মিলন মেলায় পরিনত হয় – উইন্ডো সীটের তরুনটি লন্ডনে একটি কলজে প্রকশৌল বিষয়ে পড়াশোনা করে যুক্তরাজ্যেই কোথাও চাকুরী করছে। সে তীব্র আবেগ নিয়ে হৃদয় এর সবটুকু সহমর্মিতা নিয়ে মাঝের সিটের যাত্রীটির কথা শুনছে।

 

এই এয়ারক্রাফটে তারা ১১৭ জন আছে – ওদের সবাই মাত্র দুবাই জেল থেকে ছাড়া পেল, জেল থেকে বাসে করে বিমানবন্দরে নিয়ে এসে ওদের কে প্লেনে তুলে দেয়া হয়। সবাই ই আরব আমীরাতে বিভিন্ন শহরে আবৈধ ভাবে কাজ করছিল – কেউ ধরা পরেছে এক মাস আগে – কেউ ছয় মাস কেউ আরো বেশী সময় ধরে জেলে আছে।

একেক জনের একেক ধরনের গল্প। পাশের আইল সীটের তরুনের দিকে তাকালাম- শিশুর মত আগ্রহ নিয়ে অনভ্যস্ত হাতে সামনের এন্টারটেইনমেন্ট রিমোট নিয়ে দেখছে – এক হাতে মুখ মোছার টাওয়েল টা, মুখ না মুছে, খুব যত্ন করে ধরে আছে – আমি ই কথা শুরু করলাম –

ওর নাম কাদের – ভিসা আছে ওমানের- ওমানের ভিসা পাওয়া যায় – কিন্তু ওমানে চাকুরী নাই – আর আমিরাতে অনেক চাকুরী – কিন্তু আমীরাত ভিসা দেয় না। আগে বাংলাদেশে টঙ্গির কাছে এক বাজারে সবজী বিক্রি করত। আট মাস আগে সহায় সম্পদ সব বিক্রী করে ওমান এসেছিল – পরে টাকার বিনিময়ে অবৈধ ভাবে গভীর মরুভুমি দিয়ে দুবাই এসেছে – এবং এসে একটা কাজ ও করছিল। “ওই দিন কি যে হইল – কাম থিকা বাসায় ফিরতাছি – রাস্তার মধ্যে দেশী ভাই দাড়াইয়া আছে – আমারে ডাক দিল – গেলাম – গপ্প সপ্প শুরু করলাম – আর কোথা থিকা পুলিশ আইসা ধইরা লইয়া গেল আমাগো সবাইরে”।

এরা একেকজন একেক ভাবে এরেষ্ট হয়েছে – এক প্রৌড় ভদ্রলোক প্রায় ত্রিশ বছর আছে মধ্যপ্রাচ্যে – বললেন- “রাত তিনটার সময় যহন দরজায় জোরে জোরে ধাক্কা শুনলাম – তখনই বুইঝা ফালাইলাম দেশে যাওয়ার সময় হইছে” । আমীরাত পুলিশ ইদানিং খুব এগ্রেসিভ ভাবে রাস্তা ঘাটে, বাসা, কাজে রেইড দিয়ে অবৈধ অভিভাসী শ্রমিক গ্রেফতার করছে। কেউ মাত্র দুশপ্তা হল প্রথম বারের মত বিদেশে এসেছে – এসেই ধরা পড়েছে ভুয়া ভিসার জন্য, কেউ ধরা পড়েছে তিন মাসের মাথায়, কেউ ত্রিশ বছর থাকার পর এমনিতেই পাততারি গুটাচ্ছিলেন।

 

বিমানের প্রতিটি যাত্রী গভীর সহমর্মিতার সাথে  ওদের কথা শুনছে – টুক টাক এটা সেটা জিজ্ঞেস করছে – “জেলে কেমন ব্যাবহার করত” – আমি জিজ্ঞেস করি জনে জনে। কারো মাঝেই এই উত্তরের খুব একটা আগ্রহ নেই। এক জন একটু বিরক্ত ভাবেই বলে- “ আরে ওই গুলা মানুষ নি?”

 

জানা গেল – যেহেতু এরা মুসলমান দেশের ওবৈধ অভিভাসী – হিন্দু মুসলমান নির্বিশেষে এই রোযার মাসে ওদেরকে সেহেরী আর ইফতারের সময় রুটী দেয়া হত। জিজ্ঞেশ করি জেল এর ভিতরের অবস্থা কেমন।

পাশের তরুন খুব আগ্রহ নিয়ে বলা শুরু করে – “ ভাই দুবাই জেল হইল পৃথিবীর দুই নম্বার জেল, এক নম্বার হইল অস্ট্রেলিয়ার জেল – আর দুবাই র টা দুই নাম্বার।“ ওর কথা শুনে মনে হচ্ছিল পৃথিবীর দুই নম্বর জেলে থাকতে পেরে সে খুব ই গর্বিত।

 

জানতে চেষ্টা করি কেন আমিরাত পুলিশ এগুল করছে – একেক জন একেক কথা বলে- ওরা বড় পলিসি বঝে না। কেউ বলে “হাসিনা রাশিয়া রে ভোট দিছে, আমিরাত রে ভোট দেয় না- এইটা শুইনা আমিরাতীরা রাইগা গেছে”। আমি বলি ভারতীয় দের ও তো গ্রেফতার করছে – ওরা কোন ব্যাখ্যা দিতে পারে না।

একজন জানায় জেল ভরা পাকিস্তানী, ভারতীয় আর বাংলাদেশী। সে খুব সরল ভাবে ক্লাসিফাই করে – “ইন্ডিয়ান রা জেলে গেছে ব্যাঙ্ক, শেয়ার, টাকা পয়সা ঘাপলা করার লাইগ্যা, পাকিস্তানীরা জেলে গেছে চুরি, যচ্চুরী, খুন, জখম, রাহাজানী, বদমাইশী করার লাইগ্যা অ্যান্ড বাংলাদেশীয়া জেলে গেছে ভিসা না থাকার লাইগ্যা”।

 

বাংলাদেশের এম্বারকেশন ফর্ম ফিলআপ করে দিলাম অনেকের। ওদের সম্বল দুটি মাত্র কাগজ। একটা বাংলাদেশ দুতাবাসের এক কর্মকর্তার প্রত্যয়ন পত্র যে এরা বাংলাদেশী নাগরিক ( ওদের কারুর ই পাসপোর্ট নেই) – আরেকটি ছোট আরবী লিখা চিরকূট- সম্ভবত জেল কর্তৃপক্ষের রিলিজ লেটার।

 

এর মাঝে এয়ার হোস্টেস রা খাবার নিয়ে আসে- অনেকে রোযা- অনেকে বুভুক্ষের মত চেটে পুটে খেল একটু “ভাল” খাবার – অনেক দিন পর।

ওদের গিজ্ঞেস করলাম দেশে ফিরে যাবার টিকেট কিনে দিয়েছে কে। ওদের কোন ধারনাই নেই। বললাম “বাংলাদেশ সরকার নিশ্চয়?” –  দু তিন জন সমস্বরে থামিয়ে দিল “ হুর ভাই” – “বাংলাদেশ সরকার আমরার টিকেট কিনা দিত?  – আপনের মাথা খারাপ হইসে?”। “তাহলে নিশ্চয় আমিরাত সরকার” – আমি বলি। “ না না – ওগুলা তো জালীম। হেরা আমাগো টিকেট কিনা দিত না”। তাহলে কে কিনল এই টিকেট? কেউ জানে না। একজন ব্যাখ্যা দেয়- “এইদা সৌদি গো মিসকীন ফান্ড এর টাকা”। আমি বলি “ আমিরাত অবৈধ বাংলাদেশী ফেরত পাঠাচ্ছে – সৌদি আরব কেন খরচ দেবে”। কারো উত্তর নেই।

 

কেউ একজন সাথের জনকে জিজ্ঞেস করে – “ আপনারা যে দেশে ফিরছেন আজ – দেশে কেউ কি জানে”। না কেউ জানে না- ওরা জেলে ছিল – ওরাই জানত না যে ওরা আজ সকালেই প্লেনে চড়বে। আর একজন অনেক সঙ্কোচের সাথে জিজ্ঞেস করে “ আপনাদের সাথে টাকা পয়সা কি কিছু আছে?” – কারো কাছেই একটা কপর্দক ও  নেই।

“ঢাকা বিমানবন্দরে নেমে কি করবেন?” – “কিভাবে বাড়ী যাবেন? “ – কারো বাড়ী নোয়াখালী, কার চট্টোগ্রাম, কেউ টাঙ্গাইল। “ব্যাবস্থা একটা হইব”। এইটাই কমন উত্তর। কাদের সাহেব বলনে – আমার টঙ্গি বাজার পর্যন্ত পৈছাইতে পারলেই হইল – তাইলে আর সমস্যা না।

 

উইন্ডো সীটে বসা যুক্ত রাজ্য প্রবাসী তরুন ভাঙ্গা গলায় জিজ্ঞেস করে –

“ দেশে গিয়ে কি করবেন” – “জানি না”।

সে খুব অপরাধীর মত – যতটা গোপনীয়তা ধরে রাখা যায় – পকেটে থাকা বাংলাদেশী সব গুলো টাকা মাঝের সীটে বসা যাত্রীর হাতে ধইয়ে দেবার চেষ্টা করেন । আমাদের তিন জনের চোখ ই জ্বলে ছল ছল।

 

“দেখি যাই দেশে , কিছু একটা ব্যাবস্থা হইব – জীবন দিসে আল্লা – রিজিক দিব আল্লা”। আবার পর মুহুর্তেই মত বদলায় – “ধার কর্জ কিছু পাইলে আবার আমু- দেশে কি করতাম? কি আছে দেশত?”

 

ইতিহাদ এয়ারলাইন্সের পি এ সিস্টেমে গম গম করে ভেসে আসে ঘোষনা – পাইলটের কন্ঠে ভেসে যায় আমাদের টুক টাক কথপোকথন –

“২১, ২২, ২৩ নভেম্বর আবুধাবীতে ফর্মুলা ওয়ান ইতিহাদ আবুধাবী গ্রান্ড প্রিক্স – আমাদের সবার সাদর আমন্ত্রন –“

Erasing 25th february and Transcom ( Bangladesh) Limited’s new brand : Manzur

Have you seen todays ( February 25 2014) issue of Prothom Alo? If not let’s see it here –

Prothom Alo 25 february

Do you see where BDR Massacre is in the first page? Helpful Hint: You may need a magnifying glass.

Now let’s see with Prothom Alo’s first page on 15th August.
I am not comparing 15th August with 25th February. I am just trying to see how this newspapers commemorates a national day of mourning –

Prothom Alo 15 August

Or, if 15th August is a matter of different league – lets see how this newspaper treats 14th December- another day of gruesome killings of professionals –

Prothom Alo 14 December

A picture is worth a thousand words. Let the readers make their own conclusions. Looking at this discriminatory news treatment, if a reader concludes that — Prothom-Alo, in collaboration with the Government, is actively trying to erase 25th February from our memory, no one can find any wrong in their assertion.

But this is the same outlet which is at the front line of force-feeding the nation with the memories of 1971 and justice of the killers of 1971. And when comes BDR massacre of 25th February, their double standard is unbelievable.

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You will see suddenly both these Transcom limited owned newspapers’ front pages get filled with news items trying to glorify sacked Major General Abul Manzur and cries for justice for Manzur. It is very puzzling to see that suddenly these two media are making so much effort to glorify Manzur. What is the agenda? A friends tells me, very succinctly, “…All this smokes and mirrors about trying to prove manzur’s innocence, but no mention of the fact that manzur made a radio speech where he took responsibility for the ‘revolution’ that brought down the ‘tyrant’ and ‘un-islamic’ zia.  It’s like trying to say “faruq-rashid didn’t kill mujib, it was all a conspiracy by someone else”.

And here is another double standard – while 5 year old killing of nearly 50 army officers  get 1 column inch news treatment, killing of one army officer 39 years ago gets half front page treatment for four days in a row.

And while prothom-Alo and spurned leftist polpot revolutionary Lawrence Lifschultz are so vocal about killing of Manzur and justice for Manzur, they are equally silent about the killing of another more decorated war hero, Maj general Khaled Mosharraf. Mindblowing hypocrisy of Transcom’s Media business – but why?

বাসে মানুষ পুড়িয়ে মারলে কার ফায়দা হতে পারে ?

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আপনি কি খেয়াল করেছেন যতবারই বাসের আগুনে মানুষ পুড়ে ততবারই জনবিছিন্ন আওয়ামীলিগ যেনো নয়াজীবন পায়? দেশের ৯০% মানুষের মতামতকে উপেক্ষা করে একদলীয় নির্বাচন করার সিদ্ধ্বান্ত থেকে সরে না আসার জন্য যখন দেশের আপামর জনগণ শেখহাসিনার বেহায়াপনায় বিরক্ত, ঠিক সে সময় কিছু দিন পর পর বাসে আগুন ধরিয়ে সাধারণ মানুষ পুড়িয়ে কার রাজনৈতিক লাভ হয় বলেনতো ? বিএনপি তো সাধারণ মানুষের ভোটাধিকার আদায়ের লড়াই করছে, তারা কেনো মানুষ পুড়িয়ে মারবে? একটু ভেবে দেখেন যখনি বাস ভর্তি সাধারণ মানুষ পুড়িয়ে মারা হয় তখনই আওয়ামীলীগের দালালরা নড়ে চড়ে বসে। পোড়া মানুষগুলো যেন তাদের নতুন জীবনীশক্তি দান করে। পোড়া দেহ গুলোর ছবিগুলো ফেসবুকে একের পর এক পোস্ট করে আওয়ামিলীগ ও তাদের অঙ্গসংগঠন প্রচার শুরু করে এই বলে যে ‘দেখেন বিএনপির নেত্রীতাধীন ১৮ দল কত খারাপ। এরা মানুষ পুড়িয়ে মারে।’ দালাল মিডিয়াগুলাও কোনো প্রমান ছাড়া একই সুরে তাল মিলায়। এর পরে চলে মামলা এবং ধরপাকড়। গ্রেপ্তার করা হয় বিএনপির নেতাদের। এই প্যাটার্নটা এখন খুবই স্পস্ট। এখন বলাই যায় আওয়ামিলীগ তিনটি কারণে বাসে আগুন দিয়ে মানুষ পুড়িয়ে মারা হতে পারে । ১ নম্বর কারণ হচ্ছে বিরোধী দলের আন্দোলনের বিরুদ্ধে জনমত তৈরী করা। কারণ এই সরকারের আমলে সীমাহীন দুর্নীতি, অত্যাচার ও লাশের সারি দেখতে দেখতে মানুষ এখন আওয়ামীলীগের উপর বিরক্ত। আওয়ামীলীগের জনসমর্থন শুন্যের কোঠায়। মানুষ পুড়িয়ে মেরে মানুষের পোড়া লাশের গন্ধ বাতাসে ছড়িয়ে বিএনপির উপর দোষ চাপিয়ে আওয়ামিলীগ তার হারানো জনসমর্থন আদায়ের অসুস্থ খেলায় মেতে উঠেছে। ২ নম্বর কারণ হচ্ছে অহেতুক সাধারণ মানুষদের পুড়িয়ে তাদের মেরে ফেলে আওয়ামীলিগ চায় বিরোধীদলের আন্দোলন দমন করতে। এজন্যই তারা কোনো রকম তদন্ত ছাড়া বাসে মানুষ পুড়িয়ে মারার ঘটনায় বিএনপির শীর্ষ নেতাদের বিরুদ্ধে মামলা করেছে। ৩ নম্বর কারণ হচ্ছে এরকম হৃদয়বিদারক ও নির্মম হত্যাকান্ড ঘটিয়ে আওয়ামীলীগ চায় বিরোধীদলের তত্তাবধায়ক সরকারের যে নায্য দাবী তা থেকে মানুষের মনোযোগ সরিয়ে ফেলতে। কথাগুলোর যৌক্তিকতা একটু ভেবে দেখবেন। পোড়া মানুষের গন্ধে হতবিহব্বল আপনি আমি হতেই পারি, তাদের কষ্টে আমাদের দু-চোখ জলে ভিজে যেতেই পারে , গলা ফাটিয়ে অসহায়ত্তের কান্নায় আমরা ভেঙ্গে পরতেই পারি। কিন্তু আমাদের যৌক্তিক বিচার বুদ্ধি রাখাটা এই সময় সবচেয়ে জরুরী। কারণ এখন একটি পক্ষ যেকোনো মূল্যে ক্ষমতার গদি আকড়ে পড়ে থাকতে চাচ্ছে। মনে রাখবেন কথাটা হচ্ছে —–যে কোনো মূল্যে। তা আপনের আমার পোড়া দেহের মূল্যে হলেও।

Right Cause, Wrong Ambassador

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The decision to suspend combined admission test and imposing local quota system for Shahjalal University of Science and technology ( SUST) is a bbackward step and extremely worrisome development. This kind of development will have a long lasting effect on our higher education system and is a very ominous sign. Sensible, reasonable and education people concerned about Bangladesh should raise their voice against such change.

20131126-200615.jpg

I should be very happy at Dr Zafar Iqbal’s stand on this issue. Here he is standing for cause that really matters and is of future significance. His celebrity status should have helped the cause. But I am more worried at him throwing his weight behind this cause. I fear, by his support, he will do more harm to the issue than help it.

Dr. Zafar Iqbal had great following among the young people in Bangladesh. He could have become the universal role model for young Bangladeshis. But by his narrow politicking, blind partisan writings and activities – rather than becoming the role model, he has become a subject of hatred to a big chunk of Bangladeshi youth. Dr Iqbal never wanted to become the role model to whole Bangladesh, rather he opted to become a celebrity for a very narrow group of urban youth. He is now a lighting rod, his names incites passion among everyone. But I am afraid he incites a passion of hatred in the majority and a passion of love in a much smaller proportion.

Now I am afraid that – although Dr Iqbal has finally stood up for the right cause, because Dr. Iqbal is in favor of the cause, many youth will support the other side with the wrong cause. Now they will opt for the idiotic ideas of quota and local admission test for SUST. This is human nature. By supporting this good cause, Dear professor Iqbal, you have just done an irreparable harm to the cause. I really wish, dear Professor Iqbal, instead of doing all the self promoting drama of resignation and public letter, you could have used the good terms you have with your leaders, The Prime Minister and Education Minister and convince them no to change the rule. That would have been more effective.

You supporting the cause, Dr Iqbal, is equivalent to Iran’s Ahmednadaze or Al Qaeda leader endorsing in US Presidential election. Thanks, but no thanks.

Blogger Wahiduzzaman – Release him Immediately

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This is Bangladesh of 2013. This is Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Bangladesh. In this Bangladesh, even if you chop a local government elected leader Sanaullah Babu to death in broad daylight under rolling TV cameras you will not be brought to justice, you will keep terrorizing people – as long as you are a supporter of prime Ministers party. In this Bangladesh you can commit dozens of most brutal horrific murders, you can cut your opposition politician Nurul Islam into pieces before dumping in river Meghna, you will special presidential pardon to get out of jail – as long as you have the blessings of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. In this Bangladesh in front of live news TV camera, a poor Biswajit may be stabbed hundreds of times to death – but the known perpetrators will remain out of reach of any law enforcement – only because the the killers reportedly are followers of Prime Minster Sheikh Hasina’s ideology.

And this is the same country University teacher and blogger Wahiduzzaman will not get a bail on a silly false case and will land in jail – only because he dared speak up in social media against injustices of the government – only because he dared point out the irreparable harm Rampal power plant will bring upon Bangladesh – only because through his writings, he dared expose the extreme injustice imposed the people of Bangladesh by the tyrannical regime of Sheikh Hasina.

Wahiduzzaman is a great geography teacher. He is an environmental activist as well. And more importantly – he is a very popular social media activist and blogger. He is a Bangladeshi nationalist. Through his writings – he brings forward the concerns of the silent and voiceless majority of Bangladesh.

In the past when bloggers representing less than 5% peoples’ views, bloggers disparaging popular faiths, religions were subject to state persecution – the loud progressive class, rightly so, exploded in a chorus of protest. That is the way it should be. Even in farther past when media activist came under the ire of the military regime that preceded this regime, all media and online activists protested in unison. Ideology, party affiliation, faith gaps did not stand in the course of the protests.

But today when Wahiduzzaman spends his first night on the dirty concrete floor of Dhaka central jail, the world is very silent. Painfully silent.

Our progressive class is now dominated by a bunch of Talibans without AK 47. While these so called progressive Talibans can be most lethal, linguistically violent and abusive towards anyone working or writing in favor of any ideology outside of their narrow and petty political standing – when it comes to the writings and commentaries of others – these so called progressive are more intolerant than even the Talibans. That’s why, when Wahiduzzaman lands in in jail, there is hardly any chatter of protests in the social media world.

While the whole world can remain silent about the state oppression and unlawful incarceration of Wahiduzzaman, we cannot keep silent about it.
Wahiduzzaman is one of our own. He is one of the core Nuraldeen bloggers. He is our friend. We demand, in the strongest terms, immediate and unconditional release of Wahiduzzaman.

Because Wahiduzzaman speaks for the oppressed and voiceless silent majority, he is the lonely warrior today. Hardly there is any strong voice out there to speak for him. All the voices who should have spoken out are silenced with state imposed fear tactic, red eye a new draconian law to reign on free cyber activism.

But people fail to recognize one simple fact that if Wahiduzzaman has to land in jail today because he chose not to remain silent and dared criticize anti-people policies of the government – what is the future of a social media activist or blogger under a future government? Where is our constitutionally mandated space for free speech? Or in this new political order all we only have is our right to remain silent?

What are (Were) we thinking? Are ( Were) we out of our minds?

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I was visiting Bangladesh when pilkhana massacre happened. As the events were unfolding on the morning of February 25 2009, I was returning to Dhaka from Chittagong. As I returned to Dhaka that afternoon the general narrative dominating our media and civil society discourse puzzled me. I wrote the following post during late afternoon of February 25 2009. I lost the post as the blog website hosting the post went offline-
Today, after the trial verdict of the massacre came out, a friend discovered the post for me from a web archive-
The narrative of public mind, our media and educated class as I described that afternoon is a fascinating reminder of the fickleness of our collective thinking process –

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Feb 25, 2009
Posted by- rumi
Tag – Army

Are we out of our minds?

Lets first see what happened today in BDR HQ in Pilkhana area of Dhaka.

The soldiers of an armed paramilitary border security force staged a public mutiny. As a part of the mutiny, it is near confirmed that they have killed senior leadership and their family members of this force. TV footages have shows footage of uniformed bodies lying on the ground within the HQ campus. They did not stop there. These rampant gun-trotting soldiers attacked civilians around the HQ. Poor people like rickshaw-wallahs, peddlers, pedestrians were killed. TV reporting has shown bodies lying near Dhanmondi lake and bleeding to death. There was no one to save that life. Another footage showed a father was running aimlessly helplessly holding his school dressed daughter on his chest. Undressed bodies are being recovered from sewage draining out of the BDR HQ area.

The government has shown utmost restraint so far. None other than the PM has declared a general amnesty. Political delegation has visited the revolting soldiers. Even PM and other senior leaders of the government met 16 members of the revolting forces.

In TV channels, all day we have heard how corrupt was the reportedly slain officers of BDR. Jawans staging the mutiny got unprecedented media access and a total one-sided propaganda dominated the media as well as the blogs all day. We’ve head all day how bad was BDR DG. We never bothered to dig his side of the story. And we’ve never bothered to ask even if all the corruption charges were true, is there any justification of the mindless killing that took place today?

Electronic media was one step ahead. They have transmitted all the real time info of all army movement to the BDR folks.

We have heard how deprived the BDR folks were. We were told again and again how army gets five times more benefits that of BDR. We were not told how BDR jawans get 100 fold more benefit that police forces. And how police forces gets thousands time more benefit compared to a vegetable vendor or a rickshaw puller.

The morning of August 16 1975 is still very vivid in my mind. The talk of the town that day was similar to all the talks we heard today. Stories of unbelievable massive scale corruption, arrogance of all those killed were all over the town.

We got to remember and remind ourselves that taking up arms and start indiscriminate killing just out of speculation is never a right thing to do.

Our government must take a decisive stand against this mutiny. This mutiny must be trampled first. If an investigating team identifies any injustice, necessary steps must be taken in the future. But negotiations must not be only option in dealing with such a situation. Once the revolting soldiers disobeyed and rejected the amnesty offer of the supreme commander, the immediate next step would be containment.

If government submits to BDR demands today, the police will revolt and kill tomorrow. Then army will also revolt with their demands. Not to mention other professionals like rickshaw pullers, street vendors etc.

I am hearing all the latest developments in negotiations. News tickers are showing that after a meeting with home minister and reps of the mutineers, the rebel soldiers have agreed to lay off their arms. If this turns to be true, this will be great news. I am however very skeptic about this. I fear this will end in total collapse of rebel chain of command.

While government need to be decisive in not tolerating such mutiny, utmost caution must be taken to minimize loss of lives. Sometimes simple waiting and patience game can do the job.

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And BTW, Bangladesh armed forces have done a super job so far. A reminder to all of us, this is the kind of job military is for. They have mobilized and got ready to storm the BDR HQ in a very quick time. Despite all the anger and provocation from inside, they have kept their fingers away from the triggers most of the time. And even they have been quite tolerant to the menacing natured electronic media people of Bangladesh and curious onlookers. 46th independent infantry brigade has done the job it is intended to do.

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The following are the comments made by bloggers and readers —

BDR, Mutiny
35 Comments

Globetrotter • Feb 26, 2009 @1:33 am
I agree. There can be no pardon for cold blooded murder. The story about the DG of BDR shooting and killing a Jawan is nonsense, and even if all the allegations of corruption are true, it doesnt justify a mutiny of this scale. The rule of law must be upheld at all cost.

Fariha • Feb 26, 2009 @1:34 am
kintu rumi bhai, amnesty na dile plan-B ta ki hoto?

Globetrotter • Feb 26, 2009 @1:38 am
fariha, the amnesty should cover those jawans who got caught up in the events, and took up arms later. But those who first broke the command structure and slaughtered their officers must be tried and punished.

Fariha • Feb 26, 2009 @1:41 am
hmm..but in the face of the growing unrest in the city, what else could the PM have done but grant them all general amnesty? A full investigation to find out who broke the command chain first would’ve been impossible in the afternoon, no?

Arif • Feb 26, 2009 @1:46 am
Faria,

Plan B jodi kono akta follow hoito, tailay plan A niyee akta lekha akhon lekha hoito.

Globetrotter • Feb 26, 2009 @1:47 am
…and what signal would that send, fariha? If you don’t like your superiors, kill them. Create enough “unrest” and lo and behold! You will be granted amnesty!

Shabab • Feb 26, 2009 @1:50 am
Fariha,

In this extraordinary situation, I think its fair for the government to withdraw its amnesty. I agree with you that there was little to no options for the government in the evolving crisis. It did the right thing to go ahead and negotiate, offering amnesty as the bate. However, there is a serious concern of the precedent this amnesty sets – for the sake of the nation’s integrity, the government will have to deal with this strong handedly, even if that mean going back on their promise.

Fariha • Feb 26, 2009 @1:51 am
but that is exactly what happened.

what do you think the PM should’ve done to tackle the situation?

Globetrotter • Feb 26, 2009 @1:57 am
I think I am repeating myself, but the general amnesty should not cover the ring leaders of the mutiny. Let us uphold the rule of law, otherwise this will happen again and again.

Fariha • Feb 26, 2009 @2:01 am
And you think just granting general amnesty to only the seemingly innocent jawans (who in all likelihood could’ve fired at the civilians and media) as opposed to all of BDR with the mutiny planner would’ve helped resolve the crisis?

The BDR reps who went to Jamuna would’ve happily gone to gallows knowing that their voice was at least heard and their lower ranking jawans would get amnesty?

Either you’re naive or i’m just disillusioned!

Badmarsh • Feb 26, 2009 @2:03 am
Preventing future mutinies should be done through institutional reform. The sub-game perfect outcome (in game theory jargon) of crushing this one violently to prevent future mutinies does not apply here. Institutional reforms in the police & BDR have been long overdue.

mamoon haroon • Feb 26, 2009 @2:09 am
How can Sheikh Hasina “pardon” killers within the BDR while she pursues the killers of her own father and family. Shoudn’t justice be awarded to all, without prejudice!

Bluish red • Feb 26, 2009 @2:29 am
Uff horrible…if i work with a group…and if someone from other part comes and shoots at any of my friend/collegue…i’ll definately shoot them back.,thats a reflex…
Bdr’s dint start it..1stly some of bdr shoulders were killed by DG and highier officials…that is what triggered them up…and i think u guys know it well…after watching whole days news..

Bluish red • Feb 26, 2009 @2:32 am
Someone has compared bdr jawan with veg vendors or rickshaw pullers…well bdr and army’s r said to get the same benefits …ensured by their ranks,,….comparing them with veg vendors or civillians is very low level joke i guess

Globetrotter • Feb 26, 2009 @2:34 am
Fariha, I am not naive, I just believe in the rule of law. And I am against appeasement. I think youre taking a myopic view. Other countries have had mutinies. The lesson to be learnt is appeasement brings more pain, not less. Usually this is done by initially diffusing the situation, and then investigating and bringing the perpetrators to justice.

Globetrotter • Feb 26, 2009 @2:36 am
Let’s use common sense here, shall we? The DG and about 40 of his fellow officers are surrounded by 10000 BDR jawans. But the DG shoots and kills a BDR jawan anyway. Makes sense, doesnt it?

Bluish red • Feb 26, 2009 @3:20 am
Huh…the dg shooted at one shoulder inside the darbar hall…ya use common sense,,how can 10000bdr be inside the darbar hall in a meeting,surounding the dg?? Does it make sense…we all heard it through news channels,only a limited no of jawans had the chance to be in the meeting which were held early in the morningwhere the 1st incident took place…
So i think u guys shuold use commomsense,as well as hear the full news before u make any silly comment here.,

Muhit Rahman • Feb 26, 2009 @5:14 am
It is nice to see and read so much interest in developments in Bangladesh. Most of the comments have some merit and some of the comments have considerable merit. However, if one were to make just one conclusion from all the reports – that would be that it is clear that a definitive account of events is yet to be established. Given that, I’d encourage everyone to be a bit more patient and a bit less judgmental. As facts are determined – and surely [I hope] there will be some serious investigations – the right course of action will become more apparent.

Meanwhile, I will commend the restraint shown by the Bangladeshi government and all other powers, whoever they might be, in their response. I only wish that curfew had been slapped on immediately in the affected neighborhoods (with exceptions to allow people to go home or pick up children, etc., and for reporters and emergency personnel) in order to limit the onlookers who, in famous Bengali tradition, seem to have come out in thousands!

There will be a time for finger pointing and for justice. The first and foremost job at the moment should be to bring the situation under control. I am happy to see that that seems to be the way we are going. Meanwhile, once again, I would suggest that we (the commentators) hold our fire as well.

Regards.

mamun haroon • Feb 26, 2009 @9:05 am
I am curious whether the Prime Minister of our country has the constitutional power to pardon murderers, which she promised to the mutineer.

Doesn’t the ability to arbitarily pardon murderers tentamount to or even exceed dictotorial power??

Does her pardon mean that the families of those who have died during the mutiny will not be able to file charges againts suspects involved in the murders which took place inside the BDR compound?

Asif Syed • Feb 26, 2009 @9:56 am
Why do we hate BD Army so much ?

Arif • Feb 26, 2009 @10:00 am
What is the just thing to do?
– Announce amnesty and solve the crisis for now.
– No amnesty, use force, kill more (including civilians).
– Promise amnesty, make them surrender, break the promise, and lose all trust from the border security force.

I am not sure what is the just thing to do.

Robot • Feb 26, 2009 @10:14 am
Arif, what abot amnesty for the movement but not for killing?

I think Blogger Rumi made a good point on the August 75 issue. Was the young chidren of sheikh family made any crime?

The army budget/army adminstration need to be more transparent.

Arif • Feb 26, 2009 @10:23 am
How you know who killed whom? Did you see Munni Saha’s report? Did you find any command? But lets wait few more hours to figure out actual loses.

Arif • Feb 26, 2009 @10:24 am
ps. 75 has nothing to do with this incident. This analogy is very annoying.

Rakib • Feb 26, 2009 @10:27 am
I am sad to write this. Unconfirmed report indicates much more ghenious disaster. Brutal killing took place. Women, children are taken hostage and here we are doing what! Bashing army! We talk about due process and here we are castigating one side without knowing what is taking place! I hear 100s dfead and here we are pardoning the killers!

From TV, a pregnant lady locked in quarter gurad, woman with children hgiding in bathroom, corpses hidden, thrown in sewerage line, only to float in kamrangir char! I just heard one officer dead, who I know to be honest personally and here we are raping the deads, castigating them without due process without even knowing what they did!

Did the officers commit such crime to deserve such indignity! Such brutal killing! Raped in dead!

Blogger, its time to think. This mutiny will have far reaching consequences if not addressed properly. Tomorrow, Ansar will revolt. Day after Police. Next Army.

Its time, we condemn the killers.

Thank you RUMI……………For being the sane voice in the middle of nowhere.

THANK YOU.

SC • Feb 26, 2009 @10:57 am
Just finished talking to my family in Dhaka. Two of my relatives (both army officers) and their young son are among the hostages. No whereabouts of them till now. Heard Matia Chowdhury is going in again to continue the discussion. Talking to a crying teenager whose mom, dad and brother are still missing in the melee is not easy. Army did not setup any information cell for the families.

I made my opinion known in http://unheardvoice.net/blog/2009/02/25/bdr-mutiny when the events were unfolding. I heard some other voices here and in the TV expressing similar thoughts addressing “amnesty”, “intelligence failure”, “corruption rumor”.

I will start with the quotation from a passionate blogger, “They’ve already killed their officers, so they know that they will have to face the music from the army.” Note that, not “music of the law” not “music of the land”, I guess it was not poor choice of words; it just reflects our national psyche and might be one of the root cause of the somber happenings. “Army as institute, as individual is superior to the rest of us and they can do anything they want” – has destroyed the essential characteristics of a patriotic army. This fact along with the failure to maintain chain of command from the officers, the lack of loyalty among the jawans, killing of a general in front of his officers (I hear the number was around 100 in the Darbar Hall) is disgracing to any professional army. The managers should go back to the drawing board and look deeply in their training program rather than lecturing on democracy.

Another one, “However, there is a serious concern of the precedent this amnesty sets – for the sake of the nation’s integrity, the government will have to deal with this strong handedly, even if that mean going back on their promise”. I was among the first who questioned the amnesty and asked for clear answer from the PM, but, I think it is a heinous suggestion. PM is not a police officer who can make false promises in order to draw a confession.

Another blogger used smiley faces and other jolly expressions in the same link. It is purely distasteful when we are facing a grave situation.

Not everything is dark and gloom. A civil government handled the situation with dignity and without huge loss of life. We have seen courageous young leadership Gini, Taposh, Nanak, Azam. Even at the height of the tension, parliament continued the regular business. The civil government was able to rein in the military. Someone, please, confirm that army was deployed at the direction of PM, not by some general to save their comrades – that will make my day.

Though the slain officers, jawans did not receive the dignity they deserve, we as a country should not treat the rebels the same way. Let them face the army court or civil court as appropriate and NO retaliation against the families.

Ahbab Aziz • Feb 26, 2009 @11:50 am
Many, if not most, of the people of Bangladesh have been surprised by the turn of events surrounding the BDR mutiny. However, is there any reason to be so surprised? I don’t think so, as this sort of event is not totally unexpected when lack of accountability is rampant in the armed forces, as in other sectors of the country. To stop this kind of marauding things from recurring, accountability must be established in the defense services, which cannot be done keeping them beyond the purview of civilian / elected authority. The elected govt. must take the lead in ensuring accountability in the armed forces if healthy chain of command is to sustain.

Fariha • Feb 26, 2009 @11:57 am
Ahbab Aziz, you’re right..

With due respect to the dead, I don’t think anyone was surprised by the stories of rampant army abuse and corruption.

As far as the chain of command of BDR being broken, that is a shame. But we have to remember here that this is, as some have correctly pointed out, a failure of their commanding officers who turned out to be members of the army. Bullying is not the best leadership style.

Abul • Feb 26, 2009 @12:11 pm
The Mutiny and the Untold Stories

The recent mutiny of the BDR is the result of extreme polarisation that have developed within BDR forces along the dividing line of Army vs Non-Army. And this polarisation has come into fruition involving this DAL-BHAT KORMOSHUCHI. This DAL-BHAT has been enough to spark the whole tragic event. In analyzing the even, one must reflect on it. Blame game will not lead anyone to anywhere else.

Indeed, it has been very naive on the part of our army personnel to get involved in profit making activities. For that, they have now paid a heavy price. Their image has been tarnished to a large extent. It is not good for the country. It will only contribute to the loss of people’s trust on them in the long run.

However, one must acknowledge that this state does not appear to have any mind or vision. The short-sighted policy makers never realise that the security forces can never be monetised which can only breed greed. This is not the proper economic force to generate money by doing ’social business’. Indeed such kind of activity always weakens their morale. As a result, in many cases, the border line between an army officer and a businessman gets blurred, creating further ‘anti-army’ sentiment among mass people even.

It is also true that it seems sky is the only limit for the army officers. They get plots at DOHS, almost free of cost and many other facilities which no one can get even by doing a very decent job in Bangladesh. Taking the advantage of their structural closeness with the government, the Army officers always make fortunes not only for themselves, but also for their families. Indeed, they have already established medical college, engineering college, university and what not with the money of the tax payers. Still their children and relatives get preference for admission. Their children/relatives pay less amount of money than general students for studying in those institutions. Just imagine how this structural position of advantage is being institutionalized by the Army officers for their next generations also in a country which already has huge gap between poor and rich.

Bangladesh army is also doing business in many other sectors. Even for purchasing armaments, some retired army officers do commission business. Their ‘military-business empire’ have also extended more rapidly particularly in the last two years. Even the Cantonment area now includes Bijoy Shoroni with a new connecting road for Mirpur and Old Airport cantonments. Still some people are more concerned about the subsidy of the state for the public universities. None raises eyebrows with regard to the business ventures of Bangladesh Army with tax payers’ hard earned money or to the issues of transparency and accountability in financial matters. It reminds me of the book written by a Pakistani Author Ayesha Siddika titled PAKISTAN MILITARY INC. Under the circumstances, Army officers should also realise what actually has gone wrong on their part taking the condition of present Pakistan into account.

In fact, it is the ultimate outcome of the whole society becoming a MONEY SLAVE. Defence officer seeks to have a comfortable life like a businessman and businessmen want to have state-power along with their money power. It is also true for other professionals. None is satisfied in this age of ECONOMIC GLOBALISATION. Thus it is more like that this kind of events will take place in the coming days also.

On the other hand, the whole event has also put the utility and credibility of the DGFI into question. If they are very good in arresting students and teachers and punishing them for collecting statements, why they were not being able to sense this incident! Indeed all the intelligence agencies failed in the past to prevent some zealots from hurling grenades on the political leaders and exploding bombs countrywide.

However, it is really shocking for all citizens of Bangladesh to witness such tragic event. Not a single citizen likes to see such event in the country. As citizens of Bangladesh we must condemn the incident.

Asif Syed • Feb 26, 2009 @8:06 pm
Is it really that hard to condemn the killing of a human being ? Do we always have to find some reason behind the killing ? Do we need numbers to make this situation more dramatic ? Isn’t every single life precious whether that person is an Army, BDR or civilian ? There is no doubt that the demands of the BDR revolters legitimate, but was this the way to go ahead ? Do you think this wound will just heal in few days ? Can anyone here please answer ?

Abul • Feb 26, 2009 @9:44 pm
“An eye for eye an makes the whole world blind”.

Rudro • Feb 26, 2009 @11:48 pm
It is so disheartening to watch this killing and chaos. Our society could not get over with the culture of ‘taking law in own hand’ and ‘extreme mrasures’. If this kind of mutiny still happens, we do not have the assurance that another coup would not happen and disrupt the present positive politacal development in the country.

But I see some encouragement in fact that army showed tremendous restraint so far letting PM, Home Minister and MPs tackle the situation. I think the political leadership has also shown maturity.

Finally one suggestion: Can we start a discussion and campaign for REMOVAL AND RELOCATION OF MILITARY AND PARAMILITARY ESTABLISHMENT FROM THE HEART OF THE CAPITAL DHAKA. It will diminish the influence of the entrenched power structure for the better future of Bangladesh.

Saleh Tanveer • Feb 27, 2009 @3:47 am
This mutiny brings to the fore deep problems within BD society and culture at the present time:

No grievance, no matter how legitimate, gets attention of authorities unless aggrieved people resort to violence and destruction. On the other hand, no matter how unfair demands may be, aggrieved parties feel that violence will get them what they want.
We have degenerated into a culture where burning of random cars following an accident, random killings and destruction of property to advance a political cause, mutiny in the armed forces are all considered legitimate tools by the aggrieved. There is no societal outrage unless it touches our near and dear ones.

Beyond punishing some of the involved Jawans of BDR, which many in the privileged class will call for, our politicians are incapable of arresting this destructive trend since they themselves have contributed to this culture in the name of “brihottoro shartho”.

indianguy • Feb 27, 2009 @1:31 pm
I feel bad for he senseless loss of life. A few important things come to mind. Sheikh Hasina just won a landslide victory, after 2 years of military rule. This is one incident that would at the very least strain her relations with the army.
The army I am sure realises that the mutineers have shaken the very core of the army command structure, and would have pushed to use force. Sheikh Hasina keen to avoid bloodshed would do anything to avoid use of force.
But the general amnesty, granted to those who were supposed to protect Bangladesh but instead turned their guns on their fellow citizens is a terrible idea.
All their gripes do not take away from the fact that they have killed Bangladeshi’s. I am not sure why I don’t sense aany public outrage.

Reza • Mar 1, 2009 @1:24 am
Mr. Saleh Tanveer,

Your comments came across as insensitive and cruel.

Are you sure that only representatives of the “privileged class” will seek punishment for the BDR criminals? Is there no room for punishment proportionate to the criminal act in your book.

I am confident that the vast majority of Bangladesh will seek justice for the prematurely killed soldiers of our army. And as for societal injustices, mass rebellions have never been the solution. By killing innocent officers, the BDR soldiers have made it exponentially difficult for future generations of their rank to seek any benefits.

A look back on the war that was never fought

2

20131105-082040.jpg
Some sort of trial was going on for the Pilkhana massacre of 2009 that killed about 74 people including 57 smart officers belonging to Bangladesh Army. 847 people were charged with murder in a Dhaka civil court. Trial started on August 24 2011.  847 people were tried over a period of nearly 300 days. The verdict was announced yesterday. 152 people were given death sentence while 161 were given life in prison. 362 defendants got various jail terms while 271 were acquitted.

If one wants to put the stats of the trial process – it will be like this –

1 judge
847 defendants
300 plus days of trial
<.5 days for each dependent
152 lives to be taken by state
161 lives to kept behind bars till death
262 will be behind bar on various terms
271 will get Scott free

Wow!

This judge must be a super super superman!

_________________________________________________________________________________

The above stats are sufficient to show the political nature of the trial. Awami League government needed a political gimmick to keep people and the army happy. A major strategic blunder was committed 4 years ago that took 74 lives including 57 of our brightest and the best military officers. If PM Hasina could act swiftly and smartly on the ill fated morning of February 25 2009 – this gimmick of blood feast would not be needed.

The following piece written originally a couple of days after the Pilkhana massacre described how our government failed on February 25 2009.

_________________________________________________________________________________
In February 25-26, 2009 a group of violent soldiers of the Bangladesh border security force, BDR, revolted. They occupied the part of capital Dhaka where their garrison is located and held hundreds of military officers, general soldiers and civilians hostage. During this occupation of nearly two days, the marauding soldiers committed one of the worst massacres in the history of Bangladesh. During this rebellion, 57 senior officers of Bangladesh Armed forces were murdered.

In response, instead of a bold decisive action against the soldiers involved in the killing spree, the one-month old government of Awami League opted to negotiate with the mutineers, thus indirectly giving those soldiers enough time to hunt and kill the senior officers trapped inside the occupied Peelkhana campus and commit an array of other crimes including loot, arson, rape etc.

Immediately after the incident, considering the sensitivity of the issue or out of political indecisiveness, while the main opposition party refrained from being overtly critical of the government’s stand, the media gave the government a free ride by not critically discussing the government’s handling of the mutiny.

The media spin that was most widely used during the immediate aftermath was this — by sacrificing 57 senior army officers, the government prevented an even bigger civilian casualty in the heart of Dhaka. This logic is based on a hypothetical scenario that a group of paramilitary soldiers without heavy weapons will fight a fierce artillery gunfight and war with a combined force of the army, navy and the air force and thus endanger the safety of residents living nearby.

Although the government’s decision got a free ride with the media and civil society at the time of the incident, it is imperative that we discuss the decision from a critical point of view. This kind of discussion is very important for formulating a national strategy for any such problem in the future.

First basic flaw in the civilian casualty spin is the hypothetical nature of the consequences. It is very difficult to believe that a group of BDR soldiers will be able to fight such a fierce war against an all-out ground, aerial and naval assault by the conventional forces. This sort of situation is not unprecedented in Bangladesh. Since independence there are instances where similar occupation/hostage situation in the heart of Dhaka or other parts of the country were dealt with decisive military counter-offensive without any civilian casualty. Examples that can be cited include the 1977 occupation of Dhaka Airport at Tejgaon, 1994 occupation of Ansar HQ in Khilgaon, 1977 revolt in Bogra cantonment.

Second logic was that it was a hostage situation and the government had no option but to give in to the demands of the killers. Examples of Pakistan Lal Mosque, aircraft hijacking, and lately, Mumbai Taj Hotel incident, etc. were cited. But one has to understand that Peelkhana is not an aircraft or a mosque or a hotel. It is a part of Bangladesh, double the size of Vatican City. This area of Dhaka has two graduate level colleges, three schools, several mosques, a botanical garden with rose/orchid sections, paddy fields, markets, shops and even a zoo within its walled boundary. In addition, there are residential quarters, lush green fields and a sports complex. It was not a hostage-like situation; it was occupation of a part of Bangladesh. A war was declared. A soldier, called to duty by the government, was shot and killed on the morning of Feb 25 in front of BDR gate without provocation and another soldier was wounded who later died. Civilians were also shot at indiscriminately and killed by the rebel BDR soldiers.

Although heavily armed military units were deployed within 30 minutes of the first shot at Peelkhana, the forces were kept idle and later withdrawn. While the supreme commander and the army chief is expected to be in a secure war room in defence HQ, our army chief was seen sitting all day at the unsecured civilian residence of the PM that was also within firing distance from Peelkhana.

The rest of the story is more pathetic. Frantic SOS calls from the brightest officers stopped one after one. Mysteriously, after two days of permissive killing, a large number of mutineers fled the campus under the cover of darkness. No effort was made to prevent them from fleeing. Two days later when mass graves, charred bodies were being discovered, most of the killers were out of reach with an unknown amount of weapons and ammunition.

A frequently made point is that bloodshed had been avoided by the government’s ‘cool headed’ act. It is painfully difficult to understand what this school of thought tries to say. In any conventional war of modern time, loss of any general or other senior level military officer is seen as major debacle. In all recent war literature, loss of senior officers, especially generals, is depicted as one of the worst-case scenarios. We did not lose one general but more than 50 of our smartest, brightest and senior-most military officers. The whole of our army’s senior command got destabilised. How can one find solace that Sheikh Hasina’s able leadership had avoided blood loss? What about those 57 military officers’ blood?

In the coming years, there will be more discussion on the handling of Peelkhana massacre. This would look like a big failure of the prime minister and will keep haunting her.

During the wee hours of August 1975, When the killers were encroaching the Dhanmondi compound of PM Hasina’s father, Bangbandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, his frantic phone calls did not bring any help from the army high command or his paramilitary Rakhkhi Bahini. This has always been an issue of pain for Hasina. A 15th August style massacre was replicated under her watch. Children of Major General Shakil or Colonel Mujib lost both of their parents and hundreds of others lost their parents, husbands, brothers, sisters, sons or daughters. Even teen-aged domestic aids were killed.

This failure was not Hasina’s alone. It was a failure of total civilian and military leadership. There was an inherent problem among her advisers. In Pilkhana type situation, it was the job of the military chief to set up a command centre, devise a strategy, design specific plans and present the prime minister with the defence/military perspective in dealing with such scenario. In this regard, the person who failed most miserably is the then army chief. Post 1/11 role of this army chief created an uneasy relationship between him and the civilian leadership. The prime minister probably could not trust this army chief. Hence she kept him sitting in her living room all day under a house arrest of sort.

The government was very new too. It was the job of the chief of army staff to advise and convince the prime minister to take prompt action and present her with the strategy and the plans. But this chief’s post 1/11 activities handicapped his ability to perform his job with authority. This army chief had no moral or legal right to remain as army chief after his failed ‘coup’ of 1/11.

In an ideal world, there must not be any lack of trust between the head of the government and the army chief. If that develops, any patriotic army chief, who cares more for his forces and the country than his own job, should resign. But Moeen U Ahmed was so eager to keep his job that he totally failed to defend the country as well as protect his officers. He failed his army as well as the nation.

We must learn from our experience of 25-26 February, 2009. As a nation, we must know what we will do if Myanmar sends 500 mercenaries to take over Cox’s Bazaar, or the Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh takes over Bholarhat Upazila and impose strict Islamic law or the Maldives sends troops to capture Mongla port. Would we send the local MP with a white flag to negotiate with mutineers/invaders?

We always talk about the spirit of 1971. On the night of 25th March of 1971, EPR jawans/officers were attacked in the same garrison in Peelkhana. Those soldiers did not raise a white flag citing the case of neighbourhood civilians. As a war was declared, EPR jawans fought back. This was the spirit of 1971. A war was imposed on us on Feb 25-26, 2009. We raised a white flag without fighting. This was not in line with the spirit of 1971.

If we have to send local MPs with white flags to deal with occupation and mutiny and make the army retreat with their dead comrades, why do we build and maintain the armed forces?

A battle was imposed on us on Feb 25 2009. We failed to respond appropriately, thus losing 57 of our brightest military officers.

It is a shame. And it was a command failure of the civilian and military leadership.