Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 5, Issue 57, Tuesday March 3, 2009




Flashback of fear

On 25 March 1971, I was just three. I have no recollection of that ghastly night. I have no visual memory of mass graves, brutal torture, of rampant senseless killing, of losing dignity and security in one simple act of insanity. Luckily I never had to see a gunfight, or hear gunshots, mortars or cannons; I never saw fear in the eyes of a Bangladeshi, like they showed so long ago in history until 25 February 2009.

I never thought it was possible to re-live those dark moments in history again at the age of forty.

This psychosis that gripped our border guards boil down to one simple equation, which they couldn't solve. In their narrow mindset they gathered that they were deprived of their share of money from the 'so-called corruption' that their officers were enjoying; they did not have enough job benefits or the opportunity to participate in UN Mission (again for money) and they did not want the army to command them.

Can anyone believe that you kill, murder, mutilate, burn down houses, rape women, loot valuables, bring shame to an entire wing of our disciplined forces just because corruption and ill acclaimed money didn't trickle down the grapevine and reach your pockets or just because you did not get enough financial benefits?

If this act is to be justified then all Bangladeshis should kill each other, because for many of us, the fat bank balances, the lavish cars, modern apartments are all far-fetched dreams. The booty of corruption in our mundane civilians' world didn't reach many of our pockets too. We too have grievances or lack job satisfaction.

What was going through their minds while planning this suicidal sabotage? Did they truly believe that we would say 'all hail corruption', and give them their 'fair' share? Did they believe that killing their commanding officers and looting them would make them heroes overnight; that the nation will pardon their killing their own brothers and literally keeping the entire country hostage?

It cannot get any meaner than this; this is the height of despicability. Yet at times like this, a few tried to justify the border guards' audacity; either they were ignorant of the magnitude of the crime already committed or they too were serving paltry interests. Preaching hatred from their cushioned lives only threatens our fledgling democracy; I wonder how their intellectual minds work.

During our liberation war we were violated by outsiders but here a Bangladeshi against another, a jawaan against an officer. You rape your own sisters, you orphan your own child. How is this justified?

Not only have these border guards senselessly killed our officers and left our borders unprotected; they forgot their pledges to their nation and magnified their own petty interests. Even if their grievances were justified and were overlooked for years, there were thousand other ways of making it reach the proper ears or demonstrating protest.

In the depths of despair such acts only make them stand along the war criminals and rajakars of 1971. This felt like a re-enactment for those of us who have no memories of 1971, to remind us that our beloved Bangladesh is still bleeding and today, 38 years later, more profusely so; the old scars, the new ones are all bayoneted and opened anew.

Yet fools like us fantasize of a free, democratic country; for a few rotten apples, present in every tier, let's not choke our motherland to death.

By Raffat Binte Rashid
Photo: Anisur Rahman

defies all reasons

In this cause I am prepared to die. But there is no cause for which I am prepared to kill -- M K Gandhi

Only three days after the nation was renewing its 57 year-old Ekushey pride, another date in February etched its blood-stained mark in Bangladeshfs history. A date that promises to be remembered with equal intensity of emotion; but one that will never allow us to have the pay-off vector of holding our heads high every 365 days, one that will never call for respect-driven pride and most despairingly, one that we may never fully come to terms with.

For how do you define the horror that was February 25? To what deceit-intending justification do we assign it to and from which secret inventory of strength do we sum up the courage to absorb the massacre that caught us so unaware? How, most importantly, does one, or one nation, accept such butchery from the offspring of its own soil?

Indeed, acceptance feeds on comprehension and 7, 27 or even 57 years later we may still be searching for it.

For a people that have yet to recover from the blood loss of 71, Wednesday past was an all too painful parallel to a closely four-decade old genocide. If not because we have on our hands another mounting death toll and another physically sickening discovery of mass graves, then because of the annihilation of another sectorfs crème de la crème. Where Shaheed Buddhijibi Dibosh saw the obliteration of our nationfs think tank, the BDR mutiny has paralysed our armed forces and snatched from us our most capable defenders.

In a society that breathes exploitation, discrimination and class struggle, should the mutineers provide any of the above as instigating factors, then are we to hold that it is only the want of a headquarters at which to amalgamate and the (un)availability of weaponry that keeps garments workers, domestic helps, unemployed graduates (from an endless list of the deprived) from abstaining from such devastating displays of pent-up anger and frustration?

To thus allocate any number of words to the claimed reasons of the eimpromptuf mutiny is to directly or indirectly attempt to provide the building blocks of justification. And because no amount of grievance-none whatsoever-can be excuse enough for mass murder, all that can be said is that the issues brought forward are perhaps undeniable, but the unacceptably disproportionate cost of this acknowledgement is one that defies all reasons for sympathy.

Now with the benefit of a traumatised weekfs hindsight, we can but ask if desperation was such that it demanded the blood of our most brilliant strategists and if indeed there was absolutely no other way to voice their concerns. A laying down of arms as opposed to taking them up for mindless killings perhaps?

But hindsight provides fodder for null analysis.
In looking forward, we can only reason that by staging such bloodshed in the heart of our capital with an entire nation bearing witness, shows only the absolute audacity of the perpetrators. They call in to taunt the very foundations of our nationfs judiciary and legislation- and indeed the security of every citizen. In looking forward, we can only hope that the BDR carnage will not suffer the same fate as the war criminals of 1971, the Bangabandhu murder of 1975 or the comparatively more recent August 21 attacks of 2004. In looking forward we can only demand that the February 25 2009 bloodbath not be shelved after initial hype, with every turn of decade or change of government, because to another batch of war orphans and to another group of widows, we are now liable.

By Subhi Shama
Photo: Zahedul I Khan


Reporting responsibilities

The atrocities perpetrated by the BDR jawaans will stay with us for a long time to come. The general public are indebted to the media for bringing the news straight to their homes through television and print. Having said that, in times of such desperation and sorrow, it is imperative that journalists and reporters display an understanding of the ordeal and trauma that victims and hostages are going through.

Shoving microphones in the faces of bawling children who have just been released from captivity, and crowding around their families is a tasteless invasion of privacy that displays a blatant disregard for the unimaginable hardships and pain they are suffering. Obtaining sensational video footage and sound bytes are not everything; setting an example of empathy and responsibility for the general population to follow is much more important.

This insensitive treatment of an issue that resonates with people all across the nation is not limited to TV reporters. Newspapers printing graphic images of corpses pay no heed to the emotions they might evoke, not only among the victims' families, but also among the younger and aged population. That is not to say that the media should stop reporting the news, which is a service that can be provided efficiently without sensationalizing.

Reporting of news is supposed to be based on facts, and reporters should not give in to the temptation of sensationalizing events. The central function of journalists is to report the truth, without any sort of embellishments. One of the first things that one learns in a journalism course is the importance of being mindful of readers' sensitivities. It is time for journalists to show some restraint and report only the pertinent information.




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