Horrors of carnage relived at Darbar Hall
Darbar hall of BDR Pilkhana headquarters, where a 33-hour carnage set in just shy of a year ago, turned into a courtroom yesterday with Bangladesh Rifles beginning its first mutiny trial in the capital.
On the opening day, the three-member Special Court-5 headed by BDR Director General Major Gen Md Mainul Islam accepted mutiny charges against 86 border troops from Dhaka Sector Rifle headquarters.
It also ordered the prosecution to produce the alleged mutineers before the court at 10:00am today.
Earlier, Major Matiur Rahman, prosecutor in the case and officer-in-charge of Dhaka Sector Rifle, gave a brief account of the bloodbath that left 74 persons including 57 army officers killed on February 25-26.
As he read out the statement in a courtroom sunk in gloom, tears streamed down his face.
In 20 minutes, the prosecutor detailed how the mutiny broke out in the darbar hall and spread through Pilkhana.
"The mutineers did not only kill the unarmed officers, they dumped their bodies into mass graves and sewers. They ransacked and looted officers' houses and set fire to vehicles.
“Before killing, they abused and bayoneted the army men. After shooting down Col Mujibul Haque and Lt Col Enayet on the third floor of 16 Battalion building, they dropped the bodies on the ground floor.
“They also threw away the body of Major Moqbul from the first floor of the same building.
“Even the family members of the officers were gruesomely tortured.”
Major Matiur said the mutineers fanned out and committed atrocities across the headquarters.
Despite repeated pleading from DG Major Gen Shakil Ahmed, they broke up the Darbar and left the hall in a clear violation of the orders from the legal authorities.
Some rogue BDR troops have brought disgrace on the 200 years old force by committing these heinous crimes, observed the prosecutor.
An exemplary punishment to them would help the nation recover from the trauma of the massacre, he added.
Supporting the complaint lodged by Nayek Subedar Shah Alam Bhuiyan against the 86, the prosecutor appealed to the court to take the charges into cognisance.
In his complaint, Bhuiyan mentioned names of all 86 accused.
The complainant was one of the 2,500 BDR men who were in the darbar hall to attend Darbar (grand conference) of the force chief during BDR week last year.
He described the roles the alleged mutineers played during the mayhem from 9:00am February 25 to 6:00pm February 26.
What they did, he said, was clearly an offence of mutiny as per the BDR Act.
Sepoy Moin of 13 Rifle Battalion entered the Darbar with arms to kill DG Shakil Ahmed at 9:25am.
Deputy DG Brig Gen Bari and some other officers could disarm him. But before they could do so, a voice rising from the troops screamed “Jago” (wake up).
As the hall dissolved into a pandemonium, DG Shakil pleaded with the troops: "Sit down, I'll listen to whatever you have to say, and none of you must leave the darbar hall."
He even asked the unit chiefs to control their subordinates.
Disobliging the DG's orders, the 86 accused on the dock had joined the other jawans and successfully dragged the meet into a chaos.
Later, they left the darbar hall and carried through the mutiny.
Both the complainant and the prosecutor alleged that even after knowing of the plot beforehand, the accused did not alert the high-ups and they did that deliberately.
Some of them directly participated in the mutiny, some helped mutineers execute their plans while some just looked on as mutineers rampaged through the headquarters, killing, burning and looting.
The prosecutor said 30 to 35 mutineers met at the soldier's mess of Sadar Rifle Battalion at 8:15am on February 25.
They split in two. While one group went to the Kote (armoury) for arms, the other approached the magazine.
At the Kote, some 20 jawans tied up Major Reazul, who was on duty there, and broke inside. They came out with more than one firearm each and left a soldier to guard the armoury.
The other group broke open the magazine and took a huge volume of ammunition in their possession.
The two groups met on 44 Rifle Battalion road and went to Gate-5 to bring the arms and ammunition already stored in the guardroom there.
Later, they went to the darbar hall and distributed arms among the soldiers.
Describing the scenes at the darbar hall, the prosecutor said, "None shot any soldiers and none asked them to leave the Darbar, yet they left. They did it that to render the officers easy targets.
"Had 2,500 soldiers not left the Darbar, it would have been much harder for the mutineers to kill the officers. On the other hand, it would have been easier for others to quell the mutiny."
Some mutineers had fired from spots adjacent to the darbar hall. At that time, the officers tried to hide behind the curtains of the stage and pillars, and in bathroom and kitchen.
Recounting how jawans misbehaved with the officers, the prosecutor said, "Some JCOs and NCOs told Col Mujib and a few other officers, 'you used to give charge sheets against us, now we'll prepare one against you'.”
The mutineers behaved badly also with the wives, children and even elderly mothers of the officers, held them hostage at gunpoint and used them as a human shield.
Following the prayer from the complainant and prosecution, the court ordered that the 86 accused be produced at 10:00am today.
It issued arrest warrants against two still on the run.
Nineteen of the 86 have already been arrested in the carnage case filed with the New Market Police Station. Now in Kashimpur jail, they were yesterday shown arrested in the mutiny case as well.
The rest 65 are still in service at Pilkhana. The court ordered the authorities to arrest and send them to jail except one who is undergoing treatment at the BDR hospital.
The court sat on the darbar hall's stage. Its other two members are Lt Col AKM Golam Rabbani and Major Saieed Hasan Taposh.
Deputy Attorney General Mohammad Ullah Kislu, representative of the Attorney General's Office, sat beside Major Gen Mainul, the court president and BDR DG.
Three to four public prosecutors were present to help the prosecution.
Journalists were allowed to watch the proceedings, and there were seating arrangements for visitors as well.