Shahbag: the mass awakening
Since the past few weeks, the youth in Bangladesh have been protesting against war criminals and demanding justice for the victims of 1971. Bangladeshi blogger Paula Aziz says, the movement is an awakening of the masses.
It was 5 in the morning when my husband and I were coming back from Shahbag. Leaflets, posters, crushed papers, sticks, ice creams sachets, water bottles and food cans were scattered on the streets. A few protestors who had been here since the protests began 22 days ago were still on the roads. A few were lying on the road, trying to get some rest; some were walking, getting ready for another exciting day. This is how Shahbag looks like, even during the early hours of the day.
Just when the senior citizens were complaining that the Bangladeshi youth was a selfish, “Facebook” generation, the youth of Bangladesh stood up against injustice. Everyday hundreds and thousands of youth gather at Shahbag to protest against the criminals who perpetrated atrocities against innocent people in the war of independence against Pakistan in 1971. They are determined not to leave the streets until their demands are met.
This has been named “Gonojagoron,”, the mass awakening. It started when the infamous “butcher of Mirpur,” the Jamaat-e-Islami Assistant General Secretary Abdul Kader Molla was sentenced to life imprisonment instead of death even after he was proven guilty of slaughtering more than 340 people in 1971. Bloggers and online activists called for a quick protest at the Dhaka University area. After a half-hour human chain, the protestors quickly took over the main square of Shahbag.
The movement began with only one demand – “death sentence for war criminals”. The protestors are also demanding that the Jamaat-E-Islami, the anti-liberation party of Bangladesh, be banned and that all its accomplices be boycotted. The war criminals mostly belong to this radical Islamist party, who are also the opposition party of the ruling government. This has put the Jamaat into hot waters and they have started striking back violently. They have slaughtered a blogger named Rajib Haider, directly associated with the Shahbag Movement.
After killing the young architect blogger, Jamaat-E-Islami circulated misleading, fake blogs in his name, which included negative comments on Islam and Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him). Since then the movement took a different course, which is changing and getting more complex every day. Presently, the Jamaat is calling the protest a war against Islam. Unfortunately, the movement has nothing to do with any religion. It is a fight for justice, against the anti-liberation force only.
Jamaat-E-Islami and its student wing Jamaat Shibir started staging violent protests against the movement activists and bloggers, calling them anti-Islam. In the past few days, they have killed innocent people, bombed regional movement stages, exploited the national flag and destroyed Shahid Minar (Monument for Language Movement martyrs) around the country. They have also set fire inside the main mosque in Dhaka. The Jamaat is manipulating the general sentiment and trying to build negative awareness against the movement. However, the Shahbag protestors are still carrying on with their non-violent campaigns. It is extremely tough to fight against an organized armed group, who is involved in criminal activities since the last 42 years, only with slogans and patriotic songs. They are manipulating the religious sentiments for their own benefit.
It is a political yet non partisan movement. All the students’ organizations, business bodies and social organizations are taking part in the movement. To win the battle against Jamaat, the Gonojagoron Moncho should focus on spreading the awareness of the movement to the grassroot level. Until now, it has been an urban middle class movement. It should also form local security forces with volunteers in every locality to guard and help the law enforcers. When the mass will get the ownership of the movement, they will resist Jamaat propagandas. This rise of the secular progressive masses has been a blessing for the future of Bangladesh.
The country is practically standing still at the moment. Everyone is anticipating eagerly for the verdict of Delwar Hossain Sayeedi, another infamous war criminal, whose verdict is due tomorrow (February 28). An intelligence report says the country is on red alert as the Jamaat has formed its suicide squads to create further anarchy. This verdict will again direct the future course of the movement. We, the movement activists, strongly believe that Sayeedi too deserves the death penalty.
Author: Paula Aziz
Editor: Manasi Gopalakrishnan
Date27.02.2013 | 13:02