I just watched several footages of the Bhola incident. Protesters’ attack on a room where police officers were hiding and then the police’s total war-like counter-attack on the protesters both appeared out of control.
There is no doubt at one point the police officers, including a DIG of police, were stuck in that room, while the protesters were kicking and using sticks to break through its locked doors.
There is also no doubt that the incident was taking place over a fairly long enough time giving the police the opportunity to ask for outside help.
Few trucks of BGB or RAB or extra police could have come from outside to bring the situation under control with minimum or no casualties.
The police probably knew all along that the students were unarmed or carrying no fire-arms. The way the cops staged their counter-attack, it was clear they felt confident that if they start shooting, the students will flee and the cops will prevail.
And that is exactly what the police chose to do in the end.
The sheer lack of operational training or professionalism from the police was terrifying.
One cop was throwing bricks at the students, while the other cop was shooting from his behind using live ammunition. Friendly fire by the police was a real possibility, and that is possibly what happened for one officer.
At one point a police officer was injured, and mostly madrassa students and a journalist was carrying/dragging him like a sacrificial lamb — four-men pulling his four limbs, while the journalist was still doing live telecast with his mic in hand and the police on his shoulder!! That was a sad but no less comical site to see.
What was glaring from that whole footage was the lack of preparation for police for carrying back their own wounded, forget about injured protesters.
Even a person like myself whose only military-grade training comes from watching survival videos on YouTube and movies know that an injured soldier is best carried on the shoulder of a fellow soldier on the battlefield. That was not the case here, a journalist with a camera and mic was carrying the injured body like a sack of war bounty.
Net-net, the total chaos created and mishandled by the police and then their final heavy-handed response show that the Bangladeshi police are not yet ready to face any truly serious rioting or mob situation, if / when that will arise.
Muslim protesters went sentimental and somewhat crazy back in 2012 in Libya’s Benghazi over a movie released on YouTube. The rest is history — a group of fanatical elements took that opportunity and attacked a US government building in Libya, killing the US Ambassador. It was an international crisis.
Serious observers now watch such incidences with utter caution, and the Bhola incidence will not be any different.
Author: Shafquat Rabbee Anik is a prolific political analyst.