Monday, August 17, 2009

Foreign enemies got benefited [Says BDR boss at first Darbar after mutiny]

BDR Director General Maj Gen Md Mainul Islam addresses the BDR jawans during a Darbar yesterday.Photo: STAR

Julfikar Ali Manik and Kailash Sarkar

About six months after the Pilkhana massacre on February 25-26, the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) chief yesterday for the first time hinted that the country's foreign enemies benefited from the carnage.

Without naming any such enemies, BDR Director General Maj Gen Md Mainul Islam yesterday at his Darbar said, "The people who started the mutiny have definitely done it for their benefit. BDR has not gained anything; whatever has happened has been a loss. This must have benefited someone. Our enemies have benefited."

"It has to be remembered that Bangladesh is not free from enemies in the international arena. Bangladesh's enemies definitely exist. When Bangladesh's people thought of autonomy by casting vote, Pakistan's occupying forces attacked us. Therefore, there are still many people against us," said Mainul.

Yesterday's BDR Darbar held at the Darbar Hall of the force's headquarters in Pilkhana was the first such conference after the bloody mutiny in February, which started from a Darbar at the same place.

The mutiny left 74 people, including 57 top- and mid-ranking army officers including the then DG, killed.

BDR officials said in the history of BDR this is the first time journalists were allowed inside the Darbar Hall during a BDR Darbar.

Explaining the unprecedented presence of journalists in the Darbar Hall, the BDR DG told The Daily Star, "After the mutiny people have become curious about BDR and how it functions and the media have been called in to satisfy their curiosity and to get people more involved in the functioning of BDR."

After the Darbar, the DG met journalists briefly to speak about the programme.

When journalists asked whether foreign enemies were involved in the mutiny, he said, "Under the current global geo-political situation, there exists a power of some sort against each country. I am not saying anything about foreign nationals or people of our own country [were involved in the mutiny].

"There must be someone working against the sovereignty of the country. Someone must be working against us somehow. That is why soldiers said in Darbar that BDR has not gained anything, so I said surely the enemies of the country have been benefited from the carnage. But I cannot say now the names of the enemies now, as I do not know the names. But we certainly have enemies," Gen Mainul said.

Keeping in mind the horror of the mutiny at the Darbar Hall in February, BDR authorities yesterday took huge precautionary measures to ensure security.

Sources said around 2,500 BDR soldiers attended the Darbar and the same number of people from the army, Rab and police were deployed to ensure security in every places there including the main entrances, the arsenal and the kote (ammunition depot).

Emphasising the need for ensuring fair trials for the crimes committed during the mutiny, Gen Mainul told the Darbar, "It is everyone's duty to provide facts about the mutiny if we expect justice."

He asked BDR soldiers at Darbar, "Give the right information about the mutiny with one hand and you will receive justice with the other."

Gen Mainul repeatedly said there would be very little possibility of getting justice if BDR personnel did not provide the correct information about the massacre.

Many among the soldiers who attended yesterday's Darbar were also present at the last Darbar in February.

Gen Mainul expressed his disappointment over the lies some soldiers told about the carnage.

Citing an example he said 50 soldiers claimed separately that they took shelter in a bathroom in Pilkhana during the period from February 25 afternoon to February 26 but the bathroom only has room for seven people at best.

When The Daily Star asked the DG whether they are facing any large obstacles in getting information and evidence, he said, "We have information and evidence and the CID too has got plenty of information and evidence but what we want is spontaneous flow of information."

The BDR DG also said he had observed many of the soldiers prefer to keep quiet when they go on leave or speak to people over phone following the advice of their "well-wishers".

"I would like to tell you clearly that it would be entirely impossible to ensure justice if you hide information whether it is for yourself or for others," said the DG.

He told soldiers, "Leave the friends of outside [people who do not belong to the force] and accept the friends from the inside [people in the force]."

When the soldiers told the DG that they have confidence in him, the DG said, "Take me with you if you have confidence in me, I am with you too, we must ensure justice together."

Forty minutes into his speech the DG asked journalists to leave the Darbar Hall as he wanted to speak to the soldiers in private about the flow of the information regarding the carnage.

The BDR chief asked soldiers over a dozen questions. The soldiers answered all of them except the one on whether they are discharging their duties like they used to before the mutiny.

After a pause, the DG said, "I know the army, navy and policemen are now discharging their duties at different gates of the Pilkhana headquarters and the BDR arsenal and the kote. We have failed, as we could not take up this responsibility, especially in Dhaka. This is a regretful situation for any force."

Through the questions and answers between the DG and the soldiers in the Darbar Hall it was learnt that the BDR soldiers have been getting their salaries, food, rations, and doing exercises and taking part in sports but they are yet to start discharging their professional duties in Pilkhana.

Gen Mainul said the soldiers have not been doing their duties or even cleaning their arms for the last six months in Pilkhana.

"Thousands of arms have remained uncared for over the last six months. Soldiers' arms rusting before their own eyes is a dark chapter for any force," the BDR chief said, adding, "Arms are our power. The government handed those arms over to us to guard the borders."

The BDR DG said when an investigating authority seizes the arms for the soldiers' mistake and those rust and get wasted, nothing could be more tragic for a force.

BDR DG Mainul said he observed that when BDR soldiers return to Pilkhana after enjoying their vacation, they come in without wearing their Identity Cards.

"When I enquired, the soldiers said they do not wear the IDs outside the compound as they feel ashamed of their identity after the mutiny," he said.

The mutiny stopped the marriage of a BDR subedar's daughter, said the DG citing it as an example of a negative social impact of the mutiny.

He said the groom's family thinks that if the subeder gets arrested for any reason, they would not be able to show their face in society.

The wife of a freedom fighter who embraced martyrdom during the Liberation War wrote a letter to the BDR authorities after they had arrested her son, a BDR soldier.

The DG told the soldiers at the Darbar Hall, "She says in the letter that her husband wished his son would serve the country but the BDR authorities arrested that son. She also said that she believes a son of a freedom fighter can never do such an evil act."

"After conducting an investigation, I found that her son with arms and a grenade in hand gave a statement near a Pilkhana gate during the mutiny," the DG said, adding, "I had to write to the mother 'your son couldn't uphold the principles and values of your husband'."

He said it is evident in different reports and investigations that some BDR soldiers, especially who are young, forced many BDR subeders and other personnel to take up arms and join the mutiny.

"This is a democratic country, her independence has been gained in exchange of millions of lives and did not come out of anyone's kindness.

"The inciting remarks made against army officers, to show grounds for the mutiny, remind me the statements made during our war of independence," said Mainul, adding, "In those days Al-Badr, Razakar and Al-Shams used to circulate rumours against freedom fighters as it was circulated on February 25."

The BDR DG said most of the BDR force stay at the border operation posts (BOPs). During the mutiny they maintained their chain of command and carried out their duties preventing the inferno of Pilkhana to reach the BOPs. "For this reason BDR has been able to function the way it is functioning today and for this reason I was able to hold the Darbar today," he said.

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