Family members of the army officers killed in the 2009 BDR carnage mourn after placing wreaths at their graves in Banani military graveyard yesterday on five years of the tragedy. Photo: Rashed Shumon
On February 25 in 2009, Maj Mostafa Asaduzzaman had promised to take his three-year-old daughter to the Ekushey book fair upon returning home from the Darbar at Pilkhana. He never returned to redeem his promise.
Since that dreadful day in 2009, she has come every year visiting her father, who lies in his grave at the Banani Military Graveyard alongside many of the 56 other army officers killed in the February 25-26 BDR mutiny at the force's Pilkhana headquarters.
Soha, now eight, is just too young to master the social norms of mourning. She demanded that her mother buy her a red dress to put on when she "comes to see her father" this year.
So she came, and placed wreaths on her father's grave along with other family members and offered prayers seeking eternal peace for her father's soul.
Children, wives, parents, brothers and sisters of other slain army officers also came to the burial ground where the air was heavy with the grief of parting and longing for the loved ones.
Maj ASM Mamunur Rahman's mother kept her composure throughout the prayers, but when it came to going back home, her eyes grew moist and her heart heavier with every step she took.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina talks with family members of the army officers, killed in the 2009 BDR massacre, after handing them over cheques as financial assistance from Bangladesh Association of Banks at her office yesterday. The assistance is given annually in cooperation with the Prime Minister's Office. Photo: BSS
His father Mujibur Rahman said, “With the loss of our son, we have lost everything. But the government has never cared to know how we parents are going about our lives."
He also demanded the quick execution of his son's killers. “We cannot rest in peace until we get justice.”
The families of the other slain army officers and civilians made the same demand. In addition to the 57 top and mid-ranking army officers, 27 more people, mostly civilians, were killed in the two-day mayhem.
Representatives of the president and the prime minister, state minister for home, chiefs of three services and director general of BGB also placed wreaths at the graveyard.
Besides, special prayers were offered at all central mosques in cantonments and at the regional, sector and battalion headquarters and other establishments of the border force.
Leaders of different political parties, including the Awami League and the BNP, also placed wreaths on the graves.
In a separate development, family members and well-wishers of the deceased army officers formed a human chain before the Jatiya Press Club, demanding justice. Such protests by army members' families are rare, and it means that their patience is wearing thin.
Under the banner of "Shocheton Nagorik Samaj," the demonstrators demanded that February 25 be declared "Military Mourning Day".
Five years ago on that day, Captain Tanvir Haider Noor's wife, Tasnuva Haider Noor, had broken down in tears in front of the Pilkhana gate, clutching a family photo showing her infant son and her young husband, who was killed in the carnage.
Her two sons, now eight and six and a half years old, along with other family members, came to the protest programme to demand justice for the killings.
Talking to this correspondent, Tasnuva asked, "Will we get the justice we want? Will the killers be executed?"
Colonel Gulzaruddin's nephew said, "We do not want justice to be politicised. Please execute the killers and give us peace."
A Dhaka court on November 5 last year slapped the death penalty on 150 members of the erstwhile Bangladesh Rifles, now Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB), and two civilians for their role in the massacre. It also sentenced 161 others, including ex-BNP lawmaker Nasiruddin Ahmed Pintu and ward-level Awami League leader Torab Ali, to life imprisonment in the carnage case.
Some 277 of the 846 accused were acquitted while the rest were given different terms in prison.
For the mutiny, 11 BGB special courts convicted 5,926 jawans and gave them jail sentences ranging from one month to seven years. These courts acquitted 115 jawans of the charges. The mutiny trials, held under BGB law, were completed in October 2012.