33 hours that shook Dhaka

 

Liton Haider
Chief Crimes Correspondent
bdnews24.com

Dhaka, Feb 25 (bdnews24.com)— It was barely past 9 am on Feb 25, 2009 when gunshots rang out of the then BDR’s Peelkhana headquarters. While many people thought the firings were part of some programme in ‘BDR Week’ celebrations ongoing on at the time, the mutiny was on. Well and truly.

The rebellion by a section of the then Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) members at their Peelkhana headquarters will complete its third anniversary on Saturday.

Sparked off at the Peelkhana headquarters on Feb 25, 2009, the mutiny claimed 73 lives, including 57 army officers then deputed to BDR. While the fire soon spread to other BDR camps across the country, no killing was reported outside the capital.

Post-mutiny, BDR was renamed Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB).

On Saturday, BGB organised a ‘milad-mahfil’ (special prayer) and placed wreaths on the graves of those killed on the third anniversary of the bloody mutiny.

Though there had been suggestions about conspiracies behind the rebellion, police investigators concluded that the pent-up anger in a section of BDR men against their superiors from the army fuelled the revolt.

Fifty-eight cases were filed against the mutineers, including for crimes such as murder and looting. BNP leader Nasiruddin Ahmed Pintu and several others were accused in the case filed over the killings.

The trial of the killings is being held under the Bangladesh Criminal Procedure Code, and not military law. Around 1,000 people have been declared accused in the cases.

The trials of the other accused, however, are being held under the old BDR laws. According to BDR laws, the most severe punishment for mutiny is seven years in jail, which has been amended to incorporate death sentences in certain cases under new BGB laws.

In 51 of 57 mutiny cases tried so far, 3,036 BDR personnel have been punished and 77 acquitted. The trials were held at various BGB sectors across the country and the headquarters at Peelkhana.

As the trial of the massacre began, BDR was officially renamed BGB by hoisting a new flag on Jan 23 last year.

THE MUTINY AND THE FLURRY OF MEETINGS

On that fateful Feb 25, 2009 morning, as the media thronged the main gate of Peelkhana and TV channels began showing footage of the mutiny, on the senior armed forces personnel soon sat with prime minister Sheikh Hasina to discuss ways to tackle the issue.

While army officers inside Peelkhana could not be contacted soon after the mutiny began, heavily armed defence personnel took position around the BDR headquarters to prevent escalation and spread of the mayhem.

The mutineers soon began negotiating with a government delegation led by the Awami League lawmaker Jahangir Kabir Nanak and Fazle Nur Tapas.

Later, agriculture minister Matia Chowdhury and several other high-ranking government officials met the mutineers at a restaurant near the Peelkhana main entrance.

The mutineers held discussions with the prime minister on Feb 26 morning. They laid down their arms the same day and Shahara Khatun went inside the Peelkhana. She brought out several army officers and their families with her.

On the evening of Feb 26, when the BDR headquarters finally became empty, the police and the army moved in and took control, ending the 33-hour bloody mutiny.

Meanwhile, around noon on the first day of the mutiny, the body of a BDR official was found in a manhole near Kamrangir Char Beribadh. It was the first sign of killings inside Peelkhana.

A mass grave was later found inside the Peelkhana, with bodies of the then BDR chief Shakil Ahmed, his wife and many other army officers.

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