Makeover for mutiny force - Bangladesh Rifles to be reorganised and renamed

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  • Published 2.03.09

New Delhi, March 2: Dhaka is considering a proposal to reorganise the Bangladesh Rifles with another name and structure following the mutiny, according to sources.

A hint of the shape of things to come could be gauged from the Indian border with police and the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), not the Bangladesh Army, taking charge as commanders in various sectors.

One report from Sylhet, bordering the Northeast, said the district superintendent of police had taken over as the sector commander, leading about three to four battalions.

“We have received inputs that this may be the beginning of the dismantling of the BDR as we know it now and restructuring it as a border guarding force with another name,” one of the sources said.

The inputs were more or less confirmed in the evening. “The government in principle decided to rename and reorganise BDR as soon as possible,” the chief of general staff of army, Sinha Ibne Jamali, said in Dhaka.

However, the Sheikh Hasina government is proceeding with caution by taking the army into confidence, the sources said.

Sources in Delhi said the border force would be rechristened and restructured with help of the civil police, the RAB as well as the army in order to calm frayed nerves.

The new BDR chief, brigadier-general Moinul Islam, is a rank lower than his predecessor, Major General Shakil Ahmed, implying that the government is trying to strike a delicate balance between the interests of the army and the BDR, both of which are influential in their own ways. The BDR has traditionally been considered close to the Awami League, Hasina’s party.

Eventually, depending on how the crisis plays itself out, the involvement of the army in the BDR – the stated reason behind the mutiny – could be diluted with the police or paramilitary forces playing a larger role in the border force.

Besides the police, the Ansars -- similar to the home guard in India -- have also taken position on the border to step in if BDR and army personnel clash. The Ansars have an estimated strength of 50,000 with a director-general at the helm.

Although the group is untrained in guarding the border, some Ansars, along with village defence parties, may be inducted into the new border force.