But it ain't like that
WHEN the story initially broke on the morning of February 25 of the siege at BDR headquarters there was instant reaction among a considerable segment of the commentariat (and among significant sections of the general public as well) of qualified support for the mutineers and of solidarity with their ostensible cause.
The story was immediately and unquestioningly positioned within the framework of class struggle, and the initial responses to the incident for the most part uncritically adopted this framework as the prism through which to understand the incident and as the basis for analysis.
It is true that this framing of the incident was helped along by remarkably sympathetic coverage by the television stations, though I do think that some of the accusations that have been leveled against the stations have been a little unfair (it is incorrect to suggest, for instance, that no reporter thought to ask about the safety of the hostages).
But there can be no question that the images on television of the mutineers with red bandanas covering the lower half of their faces, brandishing weapons and shouting slogans, immediately seemed to give credence to the initial framing of the story as class revolt.
I recall listening to an older mutineer responding to the question as to what the mutineers wanted by explaining quietly (most of those seen on TV were clearly worked up and agitated) and with dignity: BDR sena bahinir niyontrone ar cholte raji na (BDR is no longer willing to run under the control of the army).
Commentators both on-line and on TV sagely pointed out the working class cadences and regional accents of the mutineers that we are unaccustomed to hearing on national television and expounded at length on the genuine grievances of the BDR jawans and how their concerns had long been neglected by the officer corps.
Stories were spread about the corruption of the army officers commanding BDR, the BDR daal-bhaat program was reviled as a titanic den of corruption that had led to the plundering of the public coffers at the expense of the starving masses, and vicious and utterly unfounded accusations were traded about the honesty of the head of the force.
Now that the dust has settled, the siege is over, the investigation is underway, and we are left to count the dead and mourn, we know that the mutiny was no class struggle, that it was no blow for the rights of the marginalised and dispossessed, that it was not the first shot in a revolution that would bring justice and equality to this hapless land of ours.
I do not discount the possibility that significant numbers of the mutineers were duped into believing that they were taking part in just such an uprising, nor that there are genuine grievances that exist with respect to conditions of service and lack of opportunity for jawans to rise through the ranks to a senior command post.
But let's get one thing straight. The mutiny and massacre was no people's revolution. Not every uprising of the subaltern against his or her ostensible oppressor is a noble tale of resistance and insurrection.
Sometimes those rising up in arms are not romantic revolutionaries striking a blow for the oppressed everywhere, but murderous thugs, and sometimes those against whom they have risen are not heartless oppressors who glory in grinding down their charges under the heels of their jackboots, but decent and conscientious men and women who have committed no crime or wrong.
We still seem to have a predilection towards looking at everything through the prism of class. But, at least in this instance, that isn't a relevant or helpful narrative for framing the issue.
My beef with the framing is two-fold.
In the first place, focusing on the class struggle element of the massacre is a red herring that can only, in the final analysis, distract us from the true cause of the massacre and the more serious tensions and fissures in our society that it was a part of.
But, even worse, what we had here was the cynical co-option of the language and tropes of dispossession in the service of creating a cover narrative meant to misdirect attention.
Not only was the mutiny not an uprising, it cloaked itself in such garb only in order to dupe the gullible into taking part and to obscure the true motives of the perpetrators.
This being the case, even raising the class issue in one's post-facto analysis of the incident is not merely misdiagnosis of the root cause of the crisis, but in fact furthers the cynical co-option of the class struggle trope advanced by those who were behind the massacre.