Raksi Bahini

Raksi Bahini a para-military force raised in Bangladesh soon after the liberation to serve as a law enforcing agency. Jatiya Raksi Bahini Order of 8 March 1972 was intended to restore law and order in the face of an alarmingly deteriorating situation in the country. Immediately after liberation, the law and order suffered a breakdown and the country ran fast into a desperate situation. The government resolved to raise a new para-military force, Raksi Bahini, under the direct control of the government. The Jatiya Raksi Bahini Order 1972 (President's Order No. 21 of 1972) was promulgated giving it retrospective effect from 1 February 1972. The Order, however, lacked the basic framework of law within which a peacekeeping force could develop into an institution. The law provided that the Bahini would be employed to assist the civil authority in the maintenance of internal security and would also assist the armed forces when called upon by the government to do so, that its superintendence would vest in the government and that it would be administered, commanded and controlled by its Director (later designated as Director General) in accordance with the rules to be made as required by Article 17 of the Order and instructions to be issued by the government from time to time. Any officer of the Raksi Bahini while performing any function could, without a warrant, arrest any person whom he reasonably suspected of having committed a cognizable offence under any law, search any person, place, vehicle or vessel and seize anything found in the possession thereof in respect of which or by means of which he had reason to believe an offence punishable under any law had been committed.

Initially the Bahini showed some positive results, especially in recovering a large quantity of arms and smuggled goods and restraining the hoarders and black marketeers; but it soon started losing people's confidence as it became apparent that it was being used for political purposes. Acting like storm troopers the members of the Bahini would often surround a whole village combing for arms and 'miscreants'. In the process, they tended to commit serious excesses with no regulation to control their conduct or to make them accountable to authorities. They were also accused of torturing people for obtaining their confessions apart from themselves resorting to looting and extortion.

When public criticism of the role and activities of the Raksi Bahini reached its height and the newspapers started reporting their excesses, the government promulgated on 18 October 1973 Jatiya Raksi Bahini (Amendment) Ordinance 1973 to confer retrospective legality on the activities of the Bahini and providing that no suit, prosecution or other legal proceedings would lie against any member of the Bahini for anything done in good faith or intended to have been done so. Because of the organisational weakness in the Bahini's hierarchical authority and its fast deteriorating public image, an increasing number of desertions from the force were taking place. In order to restore discipline in the force the government further amended the original Order (Jatiya Raksi Bahini (Amendment) Ordinance 1975). The articles defined a large number of major and minor offences for which the officers and the Raksis could be tried in special courts or summary courts.

As the law and order and economic crisis deepened and a famine was claiming lives in thousands, President Bangabandhu sheikh mujibur rahman tried to back away from his reliance on the Raksi Bahini by publicly criticising their violent excesses and calling upon the army to contain and control criminal elements in and outside the government. After the assassination of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on 15 August 1975 the Raksi Bahini was disbanded and integrated into the army. The formal dissolution of the Bahini came with the promulgation of Jatiya Raksi Bahini (Absorption in the Army) Ordinance, 1975 (Ordinance No. LII of 1975) on 4 October 1975 which also repealed the original Presidential Order of 8 March 1972 that had created the Bahini. [Enamul Haq]