The sentence for the brutal and barbaric mutiny in the Bangladesh Rifles in 2009 has been as severe as it could be. The fact that this paramilitary force was in the immediate aftermath renamed as Bangladesh Border Guards may not be wholly unrelated to the horrendous revolt against the induction of military personnel into a force that was raised primarily to guard the border… in the manner of India’s BSF.

Working conditions turned out to be yet another factor that ignited the spark. Monday’s verdict of the Bangladesh High Court comes eight years after the massacre of 74 uniformed personnel, including 57 senior army officers, and ahead of the general elections. The timing, therefore, is significant.

Thus has the Awami League regime of Begum Hasina kept itself in the clear over a gut-churning confrontation in course of which the brass was at the receving end as disgruntled troops bared their angst; quite the most incredible incident was the storming of the BDR chief’s residence and the slaughter that followed. The most senior officer, on deputation from the army, was done to death along with his wife, his guests and staff before the building was razed.

It beggars belief that the cover of a roadside manhole was lifted and the bodies dumped inside. Just as it strains credulity to imagine that the military’s Intelligence network had little or no inkling of the disaffection that was brewing within a strategically stationed force over the domination of the army, not to forget the welter of other issues, notably an increase in pay and humane treatment.

It thus comes about that 139 soldiers-turned mutineers will have to walk to the gallows; another 146 will have to be in jail for the rest of their lives for the massacre in which the victims were shot, hacked to death and burned alive by disgruntled troops. It is difficult to find a parallel in the subcontinent to the mutiny that roiled Bangladesh eight years ago.

“Nowhere in the world did anything happen like the way those 57 top army officers were killed,” was the high-minded lament of Bangladesh’s Attorney-General, Mahbubey Alam. Justice Md Abu Zafor Siddique hit the bull’s eye when he pronounced the judgment on Monday ~ “This is an unprecedented atrocity in Bangladesh’s relatively short history.

It was the most heinous, brutal and barbaric carnage of our history.” In point of fact, it has been the country’s biggest-ever criminal case, the astonishing paradox being that the 285 sentenced ~ death/life imprisonment ~ were actually gun-toting watchdogs in uniform. In retrospect, it is pretty obvious that the killings were perpetrated systematically, chiefly to ensure that no military officer could serve in BDR. It is obvious too that the canker of injustice had permeated the system, and as grievance piled on grievance it needed only a spark to ignite the pent-up rage… and in some cases literally so.