191

Shahbagh Protests

Tanwir Muhammad Taqi

The protests at Shahbagh in Dhaka have drawn wide attention in Bangladesh and elsewhere with the headlines in mass media and Internet-based social media. The protests started on February 5, 2013 demanding death penalty for Jamaat leader Abdul Quader Mollah who was given life term imprisonment by the International Crimes Tribunal. The protesters demanded ban on Jamaat-e-Islam as a political party also. Only a few bloggers and online activists with a banner launched this movement and soon it turned into a human sea at Shabagh as people from all walks of life joined it considering the logical ground of the demand for the death penalty for war criminal Quader Mollah. The similar protests began in different parts of the country in the name of Gonojagoron Mancha. Even, the movement was launched in abroad. Gathering at Shabagh with the demand of capital punishment for Mollah was one of the largest gatherings the country’s people experienced in its history. The years of pent-up frustrations helped to boost the protests.

During the Liberation War in 1971, collaborators like Quader Mollah directly had assisted the Pakistani occupation forces and directly involved in rape, murder, arson attacks and genocide. The International Crimes Tribunal was set up in 2010 to prosecute such war criminals. The tribunal has taken three years to deliver the verdicts and “surprisingly” gave life term imprisonment to Mollah though he was involved in a number of bloody atrocities during the war and the allegations brought against him were proved without any doubt.

So, the youths rejected the verdict, stayed round-the-clock at ‘Projonmo Chatter’ at Shahbagh which actually became the place of protest by the new generations. They demonstrated 24-hour with the help of some volunteers who provided them with food and water to continue the protests. The whole country is seen united under the context of war crimes trial.

They chanted various slogans and lit candles against the verdict and the war criminals without any interval. They had no political affiliation but they thought for the positive change in the country. They all want to see a new secular Bangladesh without using religion (Islam) in politics where propaganda will not get any public support.

They also demanded ban on Jamaat-e-Islam as a political party which directly opposed the Liberation War and death sentence for other war criminals for the crimes against humanity during the war. The general people were frustrated when the people didn’t understand the stance on the Shahbagh movement. Though it was encouraging that the people once more united with the spirit of the Liberation War. People from all strata, including school and collage students, attended sit-in programmes, processions and other forms of demonstrations but these programmes continued definitely in peaceful manner.

Now it is our duty to ensure that this mass movement will continue without any fail and its impacts found among youths will not be lost forever. The people had resisted war criminals in the Liberation War and now we should foil their attempts of creating unrest in the country. Jamaat and Islami Chhatra Shibir have turned into violent organisations again after 42 years of the Liberation War when people saw their defeat. They have attacked law enforces several times since November, 2012. Recently they have involved in vandalism and attacks and creating panic among public on the streets with brandishing arms and blasting bombs openly. As reports say, they are planning “suicide attacks” to create more unrest in the country. So, it is our duty to resist the criminal acts anyhow. Amid backdrop of recent terror struck by Jamaat-Shibir, we should shout again and again: `Jamaat-Shibir Nipat Jak’.