It was around 9am on the morning of the 25th of February when the sounds woke me up. Initially, I thought they were tyres bursting, but after a while, identified them as gun shots. Disinterested, I rubbed my eyes and sat up on my bed. Living close to the Bangladesh Rifles (a.k.a. BDR or Border Guards) headquarters in Pilkhana have brought me close to numerous occasions where I’ve been jilted from the realms of a dream-world to a less impressive reality by the sound of gunshots. They have practice squads and fancy showdowns, and noise happens to be a common part of the procedures.
However, it was not until half past nine that I realized this wasn’t another practice session with guns and drums. This, in fact, was the entire BDR battalion from the HQ in a riot of some sorts. Quickly, I switched on the TV for some news, but flipping through the innumerable private channels had nothing on the occurrings. The gun shots were getting louder and more frequent, and there was no way I could understand what was really happening.
Sometime around this chaos, my cellphone screeched.
It was my mother calling. She was with my younger brother at Azimpur, where they were giving their SSC examinations. Apparently, BDR grounds men have united and were protesting against discrimination between the army and themselves. They had taken over Rifles Square and surrounding areas, and were shooting haywire at anyone and everyone who opposed their motion.
I was instructed to stay home.
The sounds were getting louder. My friends were calling up and we heard classes have been cancelled at our university. The situation was getting worse, the gunshots more frequent. Channel 1 was the first with some updates. On the preceding day, the BDR Week was officially inaugurated by Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina. The unit grounds men had some demands in written form, which they gave to their Director General (DG), but unfortunately, wasn’t forwarded to the PM. They were told to meet on the morning of the 25th to discuss matters in presence of 100 or so high-ranked BDR and Army officials. At one point, there was an argument between the grounds men and the DG, where the latter was accused of using profanity. Enraged, BDR grounds men pulled out their rifles, took the officials hostage inside a room and brought out ammunition from the barracks. They had closed all entrances to the BDR Quarters and were currently standing guard with guns all over the interiors.
The streets were clearing out. Camera crew and TV reporters were pulling their vehicles into the scenes of action. Curious locals were coming closer to the main entrance (which is a two-minute walk from my house) to find out what was really happening. At a distance, one could see two Army trucks moving closer.
The gun fires have started again.
February 26, 2009
[3:20pm] : Instructions/miking from Army/BDR HQ to evacuate all residences within two miles radii