The 11th anniversary of the atrocious carnage at Pilkhana BDR Headquarters in the capital is being observed today (Monday 25th February 2020).
Families, friends and comrades of those brutally killed inside the BDR Pilkhana in the name of mutiny have learnt to move on. However, as they say, "Life will never be the same again". The harrowing memories will be the life-long scar deep within their hearts.
On 25-26 February 2009, Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) rebels massacred74 people (57 Army officers and 17 civilians) that ultimately ended with the rebels' surrender.
The cold blooded elimination of 57 army officers, including the then BDR chief, is the biggest massacre of military commanders in the nation's history. We know that a total of 47 Army officers were killed in the 9 month-long War of the Liberation in 1971, whereas 57 Army officers were brutally killed in a just 33-hour coup!!
I did struggle a lot but it seems this gruesome incident left a wound that will not heal completely. It is impossible for me to register any kind of cruelty to anything living and here we are talking about the senseless killing of 74 human beings. I can understand how nerve testing it is for the families of the unfortunate ones to cope with the irreparable loss.
The matter that dismays me most is the assuagement of grief among people from every sector (except families of the victims) over these 11 years' time.
This is very much part of our history and should not be allowed to be forgotten. I can very clearly recollect that on those two days in 2009, then on subsequent three anniversaries, there used to be serious discussions, interviews of family members of the slain army officers with clips of the incident aired by broadcast media and newspapers carried articles, Op-Eds and special features on the tragedy.
Popular lyricist and vocalist Hyder Husyn's magnum opus penned down on 26th February 2009 using footage of the havoc created inside the premises, corpses unfolding the grotesque disaster that will continue to ache the nation's heart, was aired repeatedly on every television channel.
The opening lines of Hyder Husyn's song as transliterated are: "To what extent should brutality be, so the nation is seen shameless? I failed to scream and weep even though I tried".
However, for reasons unknown, this song is NOT aired by television channels now.
This is a very painful sting for us. I am not denying that the day goes completely unnoticed every year. Floral wreaths are still placed on the plaque at the army graveyard where all the ill-fated corpses lie buried and media channels air pictures of significant personalities placing the wreaths.
But such indifference towards this particular day will only create more dissatisfaction among the families and friends who have lost their loved ones. They still feel, they have not been given due importance because their main THREE questions remain unanswered:
1. To expose the actual cause and motive behind the barbaric incident. It is not logical why a group of paramilitary soldiers would start an armed mutiny and killing spree in a campus surrounded by the general population. They definitely knew that the news would get out quickly, and that they would be vastly outnumbered by the heavy panoply of the army. By all rational thinking, this was nothing but suicidal.
The mental incompetency can't be ruled out; it could play in few heads but not for the larger group. At least the leaders are expected to know the actions would take them to a 'point of no return' and that their actions would result in court-martial and serious consequences;
2. To complete all legal procedures for the execution of the judgment. Not that everyone was happy with the trial and verdict with as many as 50 custodial deaths before the trial and lack of transparency in the legal procedure - as they term it. Still, they want to see the execution of the judgment. On 27th November 2017, the High Court had confirmed the death penalty for 139 out of the 152 accused who were handed capital punishment by a lower court for their involvement in the killings during the mutiny.
Terming the offenders "most brutal" and "cold-blooded" murderers, a three-member special bench of the High Court pronounced the verdict in the biggest-ever criminal case in the country's history in terms of numbers of accused and convict. (latest report: The High Court on 8th January 2020, released the full text of its 29,059 page verdict that confirmed the death penalty for 139 accused and upheld life imprisonment of 185 others for their involvement in the massacre during the BDR mutiny in 2009);
3. To declare 25th February as "Shaheed Shena Dibosh". It is unfathomable for the victims' families why this much respect cannot be spared for the officers - mostly of high ranks and portfolios.
Their skill and loyal service must be recognized. As to my knowledge, before being promoted to the rank of major in the army, one must have ten years of service, and at least two years serving as a captain. Most captains in some cases get promoted to major, after five to six years as captain. So, it is not hard mathematics to calculate how much resources we have lost from the army in less than 2 days.
Besides, I come across many questions /concerns /comments about our armed forces through interaction with people from different professions. Some have expressed grave concern over the multifaceted implications following the incident. It is not only about the murder of 74 people, the relevant authority need to seriously take into account the fact that the country's security was put at great risk in the two fateful days of February 2009.
Undoubtedly, we have highly competent armed forces with well-trained officers to manage such unforeseen crises. But these well-trained officers stood helpless during those unprecedented, horrendous 33 hours on 25-26 February. That's why it is imperative to execute the verdict - to prevent a recurrence of such a tragedy, and to fend off any future attempt to target a security element of the state.
In any crisis of our country, be it man made or natural or in disputes - whether on land, in the air or on the sea, we have had our armed forces in the forefront to resolve those issues promptly and professionally.
Personally, I have watched how the army has worked relentlessly in resolving the Rohingya refugee crisis. According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), more than 723,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since 25 August 2017. The exodus is one of the world's worst refugee crises in decades, and so far Bangladesh, already a very poor country, has borne much of the burden.
I wish to see the return of those days when joining the armed forces was regarded as very dignified/prestigious because the passion stemmed from patriotism and NOT financial benefits/facilities.
25 February will go down in Bangladesh's history as one of the most infamous ones. "Why so many lives were snatched away, in the name of mutiny"? This question will continue to haunt us, as they remain unanswered till date!!
The writer is a freelance
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