Rallying in Shahbagh Square, Young Bangladesh Finds Its Voice

The protests continue to swell, in the capital and other major cities, despite the threat of violence and intimidation.

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A.M. Ahad / AP

Bangladeshis protest to demand the death penalty for Jamaat-e-Islami leader Abdul Kader Mullah in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, on Feb. 11, 2013

A young girl’s call pierces through the din of the packed square. Like the macabre billboards that loom above featuring bearded old men in nooses, and the blood red headbands worn by scores of participants, her demands are direct and full-throated: “Hang the war criminals and long live Bangladesh!” The fact that she and most of her fellow protesters were not yet born when the crimes at issue were committed, more than four decades ago during the country’s bitter war for independence, is beside the point. “This is a shame on our nation,” says Nidhi Hossain, the 13-year-old girl holding the megaphone. “We must get rid of these criminals once and for all so we can move forward.”

Protests — even very, very large ones — are nothing new in the world’s most densely populated city. Tens of thousands are known to take to the streets to chant down rivals or the latest spike in petrol prices. The difference with the now two-week-old Shahbagh movement, say those old enough to know, is that it has managed to transcend Bangladesh’s stale party politics, religion and the age divide unlike any mass agitation in recent memory. While the ruling Awami League party has tried to co-opt some of the momentum and the opposition is crying foul, all have taken a backseat to a frustrated young generation that is finding its voice.

(VIDEO: A Strike in Bangladesh’s Capital in 2011)

“The No. 1 thing about Shahbagh is that it’s political, yet nonpartisan,” says Toufique Imrose Khalidi, editor in chief of bdnews24.com, a leading online news outlet. In country where a maidservant is sure to get death for killing one person, he explains, young people are simply trying to figure out why convicted war criminals are not punished accordingly. “This is really about the rule of law and democracy, about justice in general. Nothing is fair in this country, and never has been.”

The protests began Feb. 5 after Abdul Kader Mullah, the leader of the country’s largest Islamic party, Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), was sentenced to life in prison for murder and abetting Pakistani forces during the 1971 liberation war. JI members were among those who collaborated with Pakistan in a brutal campaign to quell a nationalist uprising that included widespread rape, systemic killings and a targeted push against Bangladeshi intellectuals. All these years later, JI remains a fixture in national politics with vast, lucrative business interests. As such, analysts say, many Bangladeshis took the belated verdict against Mullah to be emblematic of a broken legal system — and a possible way out for the convicted, should the party’s political allies gain the upper hand in the future.

(PHOTOS: Bangladesh and Pakistan: The Forgotten War)

In response, online activists organized a gathering at the capital’s Shahbagh Square. What they initially hoped would draw between 400 and 500 people has since swelled to over 100,000, with some estimates placing the number far higher. The protests continue to swell, in the capital and other major cities, despite the threat of violence and intimidation. And, grim effigies notwithstanding, they have taken on a carnival-like atmosphere: floats and drum circles, ice cream vendors and free food are on hand for the mix of students, teachers, café owners and rickshaw pullers who say they have come together to right a historic wrong.

“We fought and died for liberation, but the people have not seen the benefits,” says Shiraz ul-Islam, 76, a war veteran who bore shrapnel scars on his shins and wrist and a bullet graze across his forehead. He first heard about the protests while in the hospital recovering from surgery and says he was restless to “help support the youth who want to finish the revolution that we started.” On his seventh day out, ul-Islam was accompanied by three of his daughters and his 12-year-old granddaughter as fresh crowds poured into the square waving banners and flags calling for Mullah’s execution.

The movement appears to have doubled down since the killing of one of its own. Late last Friday, Ahmed Rajib Haider, an outspoken blogger and co-organizer, was stabbed to death by unknown assailants. Activists blame members of JI’s youth wing, which has been involved in sporadic street attacks since the protests began. (JI officials reject the charge.) In the aftermath, Prime Minister Sheik Hasina vowed she would not rest until the party is banned and moved quickly to do so. Over the weekend, the government passed an amendment allowing a tribunal to punish any organization whose members committed crimes during the country’s fight for independence. Another gave prosecutors the right to appeal any of the panels’ verdicts, effectively laying the groundwork for a ban.

(MORE: Forty Years After Its Bloody Independence, Bangladesh Looks to Its Past to Redeem Its Future)

In a statement published on the JI’s website, acting general secretary Rafiqul Islam Khan asserted that the moves were part of a “plot to push the country into severe anarchy” by an Awami League–led government bent on “political revenge.” It could take weeks until Mullah goes back to court, but his lawyer Abdur Razzaq contends that under this kind of pressurized climate, any chance of a fair hearing is precluded. What’s more, he warns, the lack of “political space” for JI and its faithful is likely to cause more trouble in the weeks ahead.

Having already defied JI calls for a nationwide strike and the death of a comrade, the Shahbagh protesters insist they are undeterred. “Since killing, we have taken an oath not to leave until we have true justice,” says Mamudul Haque Munshi, 28, a protest organizer with the Blogger and Online Activist Network. “We can change the political equation here.” For his part, Khalidi, the editor, hedges that it’s too early to make facile conclusions of a paradigm shift in the national politics, given the deep-seated corruption and powerful players. But, like many of his generation, he does not want to underestimate the youths now filling the streets either. “They are capable,” says the former activist. “Let’s wait and see.”

MORE: Behind Bangladesh’s Failed Coup Plot: A History of Violence

52 comments
ahsan-ali-syed
ahsan-ali-syed

BLOODSHED IN POLITICS is always a contradiction to the political philosophy. If killing is allowed in political struggle, it will be a wild and uncivilized action. All of us in the political field need to be broad minded. Ruling parties should allow opponents to breath as otherwise, they will be subjected to same fate very soon. 

If there is an organisation active in politics and represented in Parliament, then the only course is to wipe them out politically by spreading a message with due clarity to the voters. Any effort to hang the opposition or kill them through tribunals is a recipe to disaster. 

People in developing countries need to be tolerant and accept opposition as a reality.  Despite a lot of blood shed in the past, followers have not  understood correct teachings of Islam as a faith for PEACE. 

Political parties need to groom their supporters and try to raise their level of tolerance towards opposition. All over the world, LIVE & LET LIVE, has been approved as the only solution for nations to march on road to progress.

Bipinbasu
Bipinbasu

The decision to kill all leaders of the opposition Jamaate Islami and BNP is a great step by the Bangladesh govt.

The Bangladeshis are illegally infiltrating into India and Myanmar.The population explosion in Bangladesh is a problem.Killing leaders of opposition parties each time will help to reduce population explotion.The next government also should kill the leaders of the opposition parties at that time.The unrest resulting from this will definitely help to curb the increase in population.

ahsan-ali-syed
ahsan-ali-syed

Going through these lines indicate that political parties in power often try to crush the opposition parties by utilizing state machinery. Normally, a political party should deal with other political party in political arena only. Present activity in Bangladesh shows a sort of weakening of Awami League and their inability to implement their manifesto in a country with numerous issues already.

Hangings, killing and putting politicians in jails never help a country in politics. It is very likely to injecting poison in the national scenario that will haunt their history for indefinite length of time.

It is obvious that the senior workers of Jama'at Islami Bangladesh who had acted upon policies of Jama'at Islami Pakistan during turmoil in East Pakistan, are likely to live only a couple of years now. Why to spoil high human values by judicial murdering of senior citizens of a country where political harmony and tolerance is required to evolve congenial atmosphere for addressing public issues?

Atrocities at that time were not one sided. All involved had done their most to wipe out others. Foreign powers also played their role. 

If present government is fair on this point, they should do away all sorts of relations with Pakistan and demand compensation from government of Pakistan prior to these judicial murders in process.

MuhammadKhizirFarooqi
MuhammadKhizirFarooqi

It is not out of place to mention that the HEARTS of people belonging to both countries (Bangladesh & Pakistan) were beating in the past, are beating  today and will be beating in the future together. We both have realized our follies and mistakes and the day is not far off  when our President would visit just to say ” FORGIVE & FORGET”.  

I would like to quote below some facts and figures of the past for those  whose bend of mind is one sided or bias. The History never remains the same and static.

American airmen dropped Little Boyon the city of Hiroshimaon 6 August 1945, followed by Fat Man over Nagasaki  on 9 August.

Within the first two to four months of the bombings, the acute effects killed 90,000–166,000 people in Hiroshima and 60,000–80,000 in Nagasaki, with roughly half of the deaths in each city occurring on the first day. The Hiroshima prefecture health department estimated that, of the people who died on the day of the explosion, 60% died from flash or flame burns, 30% from falling debris and 10% from other causes.

Was there any any one million march, procession demanding DEATH PENALTY to American Soldiers who are still stationed there. George W Bush visited Japan to wash out the effect of Atomic Bombs dropped during ll Word War just minimize the effect in the mind of Japanese in 2002 creating good will and to form one of the great and enduring alliances of modern times.

The 1919 Amritsar massacre, known alternatively as the Jallianwala Bagh massacre after the Jallianwala Bagh (Garden) in the northern Indian city of Amritsar, was ordered by General R.E.H. Dyer. On Sunday April 13, 1919, which happened to be 'Baisakhi', one of Punjab's largest religious festivals, fifty British Indian Army soldiers, commanded by Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer, began shooting at an unarmed gathering of men, women, and children without warning. Dyer marched his fifty riflemen to a raised bank and ordered them to kneel and fire. Dyer ordered soldiers to reload their rifles several times and they were ordered to shoot to kill. Official British Raj sources estimated the fatalities at 379, and with 1,100 wounded. Civil Surgeon Dr Williams DeeMeddy indicated that there were 1,526 casualties. However, the casualty number quoted by the Indian National Congress was more than 1,500, with roughly 1,000 killed.

On a visit to Amritsar, British Prime Minister David Cameron  described the Jallianwala Bagh massacre of 1919 as "a deeply shameful event in British history."

"We must never forget what happened here," he said of the shooting of nearly 1000 peaceful Indian protestors by British troops on the orders of General Reginald Dyer.

We all should be realistic. It is proved  beyond doubt that war is not the solution.

orkoM1987
orkoM1987

@MuhammadKhizirFarooqi

@MuhammadKhizirFarooqi: Your arguments are about as correct as Christopher Columbus' sense of direction when he was trying to find India but instead ended up in the West Indies... I hope you caught the sarcasm in that sentence...

a. Hiroshima/Nagasaki were strategic bombings performed by the US against imperialist Japan which was helping the fascist regime of Hitler as he killed 6 million Jews... What the US did, effectively ended a 5 year long World War II and ended the aggression of fascism in Europe...
What happened in 1971 was a systematic cleansing of an identify, the Banlgadeshi or Bengali identity, by an oppressive West Pakistani regime that did not provide basic rights and necessities to the then East Pakistan. It involved killing 3 million of our people as a while, targeted execution of our intellects and think tanks, systematic raping of our women as a war tool... all because Bangladesh wanted fair treatment from it's "Muslim/Fellow Pakistani brothers"... We wanted our rights, they didn't give them to us...

IF you think Nagasaki and 1971 were similar... then I am not sure if I trust you in being able to tell the difference between your left arm and your right... or between day and night... or fresh air and a wet fart...

b. The 1919 Amritsar massacre eventually led to the ousting of the the British govt. from India after 200 years of them inducing slavery on us... What this means is that it eventually allowed the likes of YOU to come here and talk random babble from bumbleland.. in a free and fair manner... If the Indians (and this refers to present day Indians, Bangladeshis and Pakistanis) "forgave and forget" Amritsar and sat around twiddling their thumbs, YOU would still be shoeing British horses for a living rather than coming here and pretemding to be sitting on your high horse and pretending to be holding the holy grail of humanity...

At least David Cameron came and admitted that Amritsar was a deeply shameful event in British History.. last time I checked, we haven't received any such apologetic statements from Pakistan... Are you suggesting we need to wait another 50 years for that?

These war criminals and collaborators helped kill 3 million Bangladeshis, liberation fighters and innocent civilians, minorities who were checked and killed if they lacked the traditionally circumsized penis, and helped the rape of an entire nation's women...  And unlike David Cameron they continue to suggest they never did it or, even more audaciously so, that they weren't wrong in doing it!

What they need is a tight slap of justice across their faces and their bare bums... It's also what they deserve...

What YOU and misguided "intellects" like YOU need to do is get the hell out of the way of my country's affairs.. If you stop making such crass arguments to save war criminals then we would proceed as justice requires us to proceed in trying these war criminals.. and then we won't have a bloody civil war..

Simple enough?

Maybe you can ask the Balochistanis to elaborate...

furiousfive.f5
furiousfive.f5 like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

@MuhammadKhizirFarooqi 
What a load of c**p. Comparing Pakistan to USA ad UK , I am laughing out loud. USA and Japan were at war, unlike the unarmed Bangladeshi population that faced the worst genocide till WWII. 

Its almost surreal to realize that after a genocide of 3 million unarmed civilians, the main war criminals, entirely of  Pakistani Military, are not punished *at all*, they are living a good life in Pakistan.  And what about the billions of dollars that Pakistan owes to Bangladesh, not counting even a penny for the war ?  

So, dear sir, if you are in so much love with "beating hearts together", please do the following as a token of your sincerity to your love for your "heart bit partners"
1. Run a Nuremberg-like Trial for the war criminals in your country
2. Repay the money Pakistan Owes to BD (pre-war amount)
3. Let Bangladesh set a proper amount as a fine for a deeply unjust war, and let Pakistan pay it. 

After all sir, your beloved subject, history, tells us that Germany paid war reparation to many countries of WWII, so why not Pakistan?

ShoebAhmed
ShoebAhmed like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

In 1971, Pakistan army and its collaborators were involved in one of the biggest genocides of history. An estimated three million people were killed and  tens of  thousands were raped, tortured and made homeless within a short span of nine months. The local collaborators, commonly known as ‘Rajakars’ were not only engaged in these heinous acts but also helped the Pakistan army to identify and kill the top intellectuals of the country. After 42 years of independence, the Bangladeshi people want nothing but the death sentence of these war criminals and have united  at Shahbag,  to demand capital punishment of war criminal Kader Mollah (who has already been proven guilty of more than 344 murders during 1971) and his fellow Rajakars. This is an apolitical protest and lead by young generation of Bangladesh. We demand for the maximum punishment for the war criminals who were involved in the genocide. These criminala were a part of Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan in 1971 and now they are the leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh which is involved in frequent man-slaughtering and bombing.  We also demand a ban on any political activity of Jamaate Islami in Bangladesh.

uncouthtownie
uncouthtownie

@ShoebAhmed Every independent organization that has looked into the workings of the War Crimes Tribunal have questioned its fairness, including: 1) journalist / lawyer David Bergman who made the award winning documentary that first brought the case of Bangladeshi war criminals to international prominence, 2) Human Rights Watch 3) Amnesty International, 4) United Nations that recently found the War Crimes Tribunal to be engaged in arbitrary arrests and trial of opposition leaders. What is happening in Shahbag is a perfect example of lynch mob in the making: state media brainwashing the population with allegations that are utterly baseless, demonizing the "others" and then creating a climate where everyone chants in unison "Death to collaborators" as these people are dragged to the gallows. Reminds me of the Salem witch-hunts, and as a liberal Bangladeshi I am troubled by the direction our country is heading.

ShoebAhmed
ShoebAhmed like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

@uncouthtownie @ShoebAhmed Don't just blame without any specific allegation. Read through the verdicts of declared two, so far. Let me know whether they were found guilty or not. No one bothered to recognize one of the biggest genocide for 42 years and now they are trying to play the human rights' game. Ask them why they were not raising their voice for Saddam or Laden. These people did not bother during 1971 but still we got our independence. So, instead of just referring them state some specifics or tell your leaders to proceed with some valid arguments. Opposition party is saying why no one from the ruling party had been accused yet. That is a valid point. This is the way I see it. If AL is only trying the criminals from opposition then let them do that and when you come back in power you try the criminals from AL. I am sure people will support you then. So instead of making a mess clean up the mess little at a time. Otherwise we will be in the same mess for several decades again...

ZakariaKhondker
ZakariaKhondker like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

Some international media see vengeance on "alleged" war criminals. Nobody has asked for hanging without trial or a summary execution that UK demanded of Nazis. This is not about vengeance, but fairness in the justice system and paying for mass murders. When someone can be hanged for momentary loss of emotional control, its grossly unfair not doing so for war crimes and mass murders in cold blood. I am all for abolishing death penalty, it has to be done step by step, starting with the smaller ones. Then there is the fear of reversal, when Jamaat's alliance partner BNP comes to power, they will almost certain pardon those barbaric crimes. Mrs Zia, whose husband stopped the war crimes trials after the killing of Shekh Mujibur Rahman and freed the convicted ones from jail, has vowed to scrap the war crimes tribunal. It does not take much imagination what will happen when Sheikh Hasina is voted out of power or Jamaat/BNP can manage a military take over in this nascent democracy. This is the fear of impunity and unfairness to ordinary death row criminals that drives many, including children, to call for capital punishment. This not a barbaric or vengeful crowd, it's a crowd that demands fairness and insurance against impunity.

ZakariaKhondker
ZakariaKhondker

Not to mention its non-violent. To find as vengeful and blood curdling will take a lot of imagination.

Fugstarnagar
Fugstarnagar like.author.displayName 1 Like

These tribunals, and the blood curdling Shahbag spectacle trouble me greatly, I fear for the country and the people because a lynch mob has been set loose with a lot of Tahrir Square-like propaganda.

In Bangladesh we have a generation of politically lost youth, who dont know any better, being exploited by hate mongers. Shahbag is not in my name. Yes, we need to know what really happened in 1971, and nuance simplistic ideas of collaboration and responsibility but to dress up children as executioners holding ropes to the necks of old men is thoroughly unacceptable. To deny fair trials to the accused, as well as threaten the economic and political rights of the opposition is thoroughly anti democratic too

These rigged trials and this trashmob (sorry) are bringing the worst out in our people and pushing our islamists till their backs are against the wall.  I hope that at least some open hearted and fair minded people will dwell long enough on the issues to scratch beneath the surface of the lies we have industrialized.

I wrote a short piece on Shahbagan: Garden of hate and fear, you may want to read it.

http://www.fugstar.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/shahbagan-garden-of-hate-and-fear.html

raleighgirl
raleighgirl like.author.displayName 1 Like

I am not a a supporter of the lynch mob as you so fondly like to call the crowds at Shahbag. Have you ever been in a mob? Let alone a lynch mob? I live in southern USA where that word is seeped in racial undertones and has a very sad history were the KKK or other white fanatics would just hail black youths and literally hang them. Please I implore you not to use this word so lightly. Do you see the youth doing just that? Are they charging into the hospital where another accused War Crimes lays? Are they burning cars in the name of justice?/protests? Saying we want justice by death penalty is not the same as taking up arms and carrying out vigilante justice, which is exactly what the so-called 'Islamist' party preaches.

uncouthtownie
uncouthtownie

@raleighgirl You don't have to personally take part in the lynching to be dubbed a lynch mob. Effigies of jamaat leaders are hanging from lamp posts in Shahbag. There are posters everywhere depicting open noose and the words "Death to Collaborators". People are openly calling for "slaughter of all Jamaat and Shibir activists". Hate to break it to you raleighgirl. Its a lynch mob.

orkoM1987
orkoM1987

@uncouthtownie

Seriously.. you are really going to compare Shahbag to the Salem Witch Trials???

Actually Shahbag protestors have not gone into any Razakar's personal space, caught them and then dragged them out to daylight to be executed.. That's actually what the Razakars helped the Pakistani army do to regular people in 1971.. so in that essence yeah Salem witch trials were performed in 1971 not now..

You know what else is similar to the 1971 Genocide:

Holocaust: Strategic ethnic cleansing of a specific group of people, the Jews, by an oppresive regime, the Nazis

1971 Genocide: Strategic ethnic (and intellectual)
cleansing of a specific people, Bangladeshi, by an oppresive regime, the then Pakistani governement and military

Holocaust: 6 million people killed
1971 Genocide: 3 million people killed

Holocaust: Performed specifically by Nazis
1971: Performed WITH COLLABORATION of a few, BENGALI SPEAKING, RICE EATING razakars who were depended on this country itself for sustenance... It's THE story of ultimate betrayal...

Don't forget the direct atrocities created on minority group... on the ethnic execution of hindus, based on whether or not their penis' were circumsized...

Don't also forget the STRATEGIC use of rape and torture on WOMEN and CHILDREN to cripple a nation...

I highly encourage looking at facts before baselessly comparing Shahbag to Salem Witch Trials... 

orkoM1987
orkoM1987 like.author.displayName 1 Like

@uncouthtownie
 

Simple understanding of the English language dictates: A lynch mob, is a group of people (or mob) which performs lynching (extrajudicial execution)... i.e. without legal consent...

Lynch mob was the bunch of Jamaat/razakars who went and killed the blogger just because his views were different from theirs...

Lynch mob was the razakars who went door to door, in 1971, in little villages in Bangladesh and pointed out people who the Pakistani army then executed... extrajudicially...


THAT my friend, is a lynch mob...

The protesters at Shahbag do not comprise of a lynch mob... they are just looking for justice for the collaborators guilty of assisting the strategic execution of a people... and they are looking for closure for their loved ones...  They are not killing anyone.. they are not breaking the law.. they are demanding equal justice for all...

I support the Shahbag movement because they are not a lynch mob.. I will stop supporting them IF they ever become a lynch mob... because the day they turn into a lynch mob, they will have turned into Jamaat/Shibir...

uncouthtownie
uncouthtownie like.author.displayName 1 Like

A 13 year old girl calling for public execution. A 12 year old grand-daughter rallying for hanging of a demonized "war-criminal". These little kids are brain-washed by their partisan parents and by a corrupt governments propaganda machine. As a bangladeshi and as a liberal activist who believes in political freedom and end to the death penalty, I am saddened and ashamed by this mob of protesters who are united by nothing more than lust for political revenge. Shame on the author for trying to paint the Shahbag protesters as some rosy freedom loving Tahrir Square style crowd, and for not even acknowledging the other side of the story: the dark side of today's oppressive Bangladesh where opposition members are being killed by police brutality every day, where Awami league activists are looting and vandalizing opposition party member owned businesses with impunity, where opposition leaders are violently attacked or abducted by Awami League cadres in broad daylight, where corruption has seeped into every strain of government, where the "democratic" government calls for banning of opposition political parties, where government cracks down on any Bangladeshi journalists, newspapers and tv stations that dare to publish the other side of the story...

MuhammadKhizirFarooqi
MuhammadKhizirFarooqi

I fully agree with HAMJA AHSAN. I am sorry to say that your reporter did not mentioned the activities of MUKTI BAHNI and the role played by India. It is now not a secret that it was INDIA'S conspiracy to chalk out Bangla Desh out  of PAKISTAN just to make it weak and to have a subordinate independent state like Nepal & Bhutan. Is it not known  to whole word including INDIA  that it was  MUKTI BAHNI whose personnel were fully  trained & armed by India  to wage a gorilla war against a legal government to pave the way for Indian forces to penetrate and capture DACCA the capital of then EAST PAKISTAN - the state which was surrounded by India.from all sides.

You should not  forget the massive behavior crimes matted out to PRISONERS OF WAR in Iraq and DRONE attracts in Pakistan killing hundreds of innocent men , women children young and old Just in search of Al-Qaeda people and killing only one of or two of them. Has any country the right to interfere militarily in its neighbouring  but comparatively weak country to get its ill design desire fulfilled. 

auniket
auniket

Wow, some Pakistanis still cannot get over their loss in 1971! That after all the hard work in killing and raping so many people: “Kill three million of them,” said President Yahya Khan at the February conference, “and the rest will eat out of our hands.” (Robert Payne, Massacre [1972], p. 50.).

Man, I feel for you!

HamjaAhsan
HamjaAhsan like.author.displayName 1 Like

This article is one of the few describing the visible presence of very young children asking for hanging and public executions in the Shahbag crowds with blood-red headbands- actively encouraged by their parents. These children are too young to have thorough political and historical knowledge and were only born recently shouting slogans of judicial murder and hate. As a European & British born Londoner who campaigns for humans rights & civii liberties  - where the death penalty is illegal and seen as archaic state murder even by Amnesty International who condemned this demand of Shahbag- I find that totally inexcusable & abhorent. Some are even asking for the death penalty of unconvicted people - which is pure abuse of rule of law and mob justice. These trials are notoriously corrupt and condemned by United Nations & Human Rights Watch & International Bar Association - even defence witnesses have been abducted & the state is murdering opposition rallies in Chittagong. The victim of war crimes deserve more than corrupt kangeroo courts.

masuma
masuma

Bangladeshi people have been strong all along. We fought against British all along being the last state to get defeated by British in 1857. We fought for mother language against Pakistani regime in 1952 and now 21st February is the International Mother Language day of UN. We fought against Pakistan in 1971 and obtained our liberation. Now this is a fight we will continue until the coveted result comes. All through this time, there was a group of people who worked against us and we call them " Mir Jafar or someone who breaks trust". Jamaat/ Shibir is in that position now and has been for last 40+ years. We want to punish them hard this time so they cannot get back again ever.

uncouthtownie
uncouthtownie

@masuma Love the tone in your voice. "...punish them hard this time so they cannot get back again ever" Thats what Shabag is all about: crowds of partisan political activists lusting for revenge. No respect for independent and fair judicial system, no respect for opposing political views... just raw lust for violence against opposition political parties and public execution of their leaders.

auniket
auniket like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

Finally a more or less balanced coverage of the Shahbag movement. I sincerely thank the reporter. However, he does not mention a crucial thing which gives away Jamaat's real intention (aside from their formal statement that they only want a fair trial): it is the massive propaganda in Jamaat backed newspapers (Sangram, Amar Desh, Naya Diganta etc) and blogs stating that the youth in Shahbag are all atheists and their real agenda is only to destroy Islam: a well used tactic of using Islam as a distraction from their crimes. Even before they killed Rajib they started circulating about his religious views and their supporters continue to use it as an excuse to incite more and more hatred. But for once their tactic is not working as effectively as in the past. You got to feel for these poor fundamentalists :)

shadhin071
shadhin071 like.author.displayName 1 Like

The whole movement was choreographed by Al leaned student organizations. Even thought the people joined later it does not have any merit as it is only one sided and looking only from one perspective. Kader mollah is a criminal and Al is trying to muddle the water to get political benefits out of it. It would have been a great achievement if the movement was a real Spring and asked for Corruption, nepotism, Biased free High court, Supreme Court and a crime free country. 

DrHasanatHusain
DrHasanatHusain

Since Bangladesh law allows capital punishment for murder and rape, Bangladeshi courts have the right to dispense capital punishment to criminals (in accordance with law); however, hanging someone on the basis of insufficient evidence will be anything but justice. - www.voiceforjustice.org

milton_bd1
milton_bd1

On the eve of Amar Ekushey on Wednesday, the Shahbagh protesters will release balloons in the air commemorating the martyrs of the Liberation War.

The demonstrators, protesting for last 16 days for the capital punishment to the war criminals, will also write letters in memory of the martyrs and tie those with the balloons before releasing it around 4:13pm, the moment the Pakistani forces surrendered on December 16 in 1971.

Tonmoy
Tonmoy like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

#shagbag is a sectarian movement, it is not representing Bangladesh. 

This is a politically motivate movement which will essentially destroy democratic process in this country 

Atif
Atif

@Tonmoy when you do nothing but criticizing keeping yourself protected and safe, why questioning to those who are protesting peacefully? Is it only because they have guts and you don't? If they can influence the process of hanging the demons of 71, does it hurt you in someway subconsciously? Question yourself....

masuma
masuma

@Tonmoy  what you are saying is politically motivated. Tens of thousands of people don't lie. Your party should be banned in a secular Bangladesh and we will be free at last.

sr189tk
sr189tk

@masuma @Tonmoy  Only Blind, Deaf & Dumb peoples can say it  NON-POLITICAL whereas ALL those leading persons are from RULLIMG PARTY & its ALLIEANCE

milton_bd1
milton_bd1

@Tonmoy Why you thing it is not representing Bangladesh. You are a `CHAGU' (caller name of Jamat and Shibir).

partho222
partho222

 @milton_bd1 bro please dont't show your illiterate & favoritism type character here . give me one good reason why we should support Shahbag movement to remove a political party from country . Where only some war criminals are the main issue & guilty .

sharif
sharif

I would like to ask the reporter, if your father were killed before your birth, won't you raise your voice to have the justice?

kuashar
kuashar like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 4 Like

Protest in shahabag is not against any political parties or Islamic organization of Bangladesh. Islamic clerics and opposition leaders are still well respected. It is against Jamat-e-islami. Jamat-e-Islami is not a political party; it is terrorist organization with political agenda. When they were the part of last government we have seen rise of terrorist organization like horkot il jihad or JMB.

Jamat-e-islami is not a part of the solution they are part of problem. Jamat-e-islami have to go.

GouravChowdhury
GouravChowdhury like.author.displayName 1 Like

Protesters who have thronged the streets of Bangladesh's capital for two weeks welcomed the government's move to seek harsher punishments for war criminals, but vowed to continue agitating until the nation's largest Islamist party is banned.

President Zillur Rahman on Monday signed a law that will allow prosecutors to appeal sentences handed down by a war-crimes tribunal that is investigating atrocities committed during the nation's 1971 war of independence from Pakistan. Prosecutors will be allowed to retroactively seek the death penalty for convicts who were given lesser punishments. Earlier, the state could appeal only an acquittal.

Hundreds of thousands of civilians died in the 1971 conflict, many of them at the hands of Islamist militias that opposed splitting from Pakistan. Eight of the 10 suspects on trial at the tribunal, which was set up in 2010, are from Jamaat-e-Islami, Bangladesh's largest Islamist party.Thousands of protesters who had gathered at Shahbag square, a leafy boulevard in the center of Dhaka, erupted in cheers after the new law came into force. Many were outraged when the tribunal this month sentenced Abdul Quader Molla, a senior Jamaat-e-Islami leader, to life imprisonment. The government is expected to now press for Mr. Molla to get the death penalty, as the protesters have called for.

But protest organizers said they won't be satisfied until the government cracks down more broadly on the Jamaat-e-Islami. "We want to see all of these men who opposed the formation of Bangladesh in 1971 be hanged," said Asif Mohiuddin, an online activist who helped coordinate the massive protests. "We also want to see their party banned and their finances cut off."

The unrest in the streets of Dhaka, the largest demonstrations in Bangladesh in two decades.The protests were beginning to thin out Monday, but thousands of demonstrators remained at the Shahbag site, waving flags and carrying banners with messages such as, "Hang them all or we won't go home!"

"I didn't see the 1971 [war], but I want a taste of it here," said Amzad Hossain, a college student who traveled from a nearby district to join the protest.The government said Sunday it was considering a ban on the Jamaat-e-Islami after it blamed the organization for killing a blogger who helped organize the protests. The blogger, 26-year-old Ahmed Rajib Haider, a self-professed atheist, was found hacked to death late Friday in front of his home, according to police.

Mahbubul Alam Hanif, a leader of the ruling Awami League, said Monday the new law has laid the groundwork for banning the Jamaat-e-Islami. "Parties who practice violence don't deserve to be in politics," he said.

GouravChowdhury
GouravChowdhury

Spring in Bangladesh is a season of colours and the poetry it inspires captures the resplendent beauty of this riverine nation. But the Bangla spring has often been a season of protests, some of them with far-reaching consequences.



February 1952 is remembered for the street protests of the Bengali language movement that, in some ways, led to the break-up of Pakistan. February 1983 marked the beginning of the movement against military rule that finally led to the restoration of democracy. February 2013 has seen the beginning of a movement that aims to restore Bangladesh'ssecular polity and eliminate the politics of religious fundamentalism that has afflicted the country, as indeed the rest of South Asia. 

It is difficult to say how far this latest movement will go and what it will finally achieve. But panicky Islamic zealots are already threatening a "civil war" and the movement has already claimed its first martyr, Ahmed Rajib Haider. If the Arab Spring was about toppling authoritarian regimes, the Bangla Spring is about rejuvenation of the spirit of 1971. 

The movement that has now spread across Bangladesh and even to thediaspora started with the protests at Shahbagh, one of Dhaka's busiest intersections. The trigger was a life sentence for Jamaat-e-Islami leader Abdul Quader Mollah - popularly known as the 'Butcher of Bengalis'for his role in the mass murders during the 1971 civil war that led to Bangladesh's independencefrom Pakistan. Scores of young men and women, who felt Mollah got away with too light a punishment started gathering at Shahbagh, to demand the death penalty for him. 

The two war crimes tribunals set up by Sheikh Hasina's government in the past three years, have been trying the top seven leaders of the Jamaat-e-Islami and two of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) for their involvement in 'crimes against humanity' during the 1971 civil war. The BNP did not oppose the trials but described them as a "pursuit of vendetta". 

The Jamaat, which opposed Bangladesh's independence and sided with Pakistan's army in perpetrating some horrendous atrocities during the 1971 civil war, was not prepared to take chances. It called for abolition of the war crimes trials and unleashed considerable violence to force the government to back off. Then came the first verdict of the war crimes trials - a death penalty for a former Jamaat student activist, Abul Kalam Azad. 

For a nation that suffered millions killed, maimed or raped during the nine-month-long civil war, this was justice delayed but not totally denied. But on February 5, one of the two war crimes tribunals awarded life imprisonment to Mollah because one of the several charges of mass murder against him could not be conclusively proved. 

As prosecution lawyers deliberated on how to appeal against the verdict, thousands of men and women, spurred by furious messaging on social networking sites, started to gather at Shahbagh. By the evening of February 5, the busy square was reverberating with slogans calling for Mollah's death penalty. 

Within two days, more men and women - even schoolchildren - started gathering at Shahbagh, now demanding death for all war criminals and a ban on Jamaat-e-Islami. Many stayed for the night as films were screened; poetry and music flowed, punctured only by the usual slogans against the "war criminals". 

Ten days after the protests had started at Shahbagh, suspected Islamic zealots murdered Ahmed Rajib Haider, one of the leading figures of the largely apolitical movement. An architect by profession, blogger by passion and atheist by conviction, Haider had relentlessly attacked the Jamaat's religion-driven politics in his blogs. Friends and relatives say he had received death threats but ignored them. 

Far from scaring the protesters away, this made their numbers grow until Shahbagh began to resemble a sea of humanity. Keen to play along with the public mood and not willing to lose out on an opportunity to corner the Islamic radicals, the Sheikh Hasina government quickly passed an amendment to the International Crimes Act, 1973. 

The new law will now provide equal opportunity for appeal to both prosecution and defence, which means an appeal against the life sentence of Mollah will now be possible. The amendment also carries a provision for trial of parties and organisations for war crimes, which means the Jamaat-e-Islami can be dragged to the tribunals and hauled up for crimes against humanity during the 1971 war. 


. Bangladesh was the graveyard of Jinnah's two-nation theory in 1971. And now, if the Jamaat is finally banned in that country, it could set a precedent as a possible policy option elsewhere in the region. 

uncouthtownie
uncouthtownie like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

What you have at Shahbag is a mob of angry pro-government Awami league activists hungry for the blood of their political opponents. Hanged effigies hanging from street lights, posters and signs of noose everywhere, caricatures on billboards of bearded men with bloodshot eyes and tongues sticking out as their neck is strangled - these are the true images from Shahbag. Yet the awami league propaganda machine wants to liken the shahbag protest to Tahrir square. what a joke!

shadhin071
shadhin071

@uncouthtownie Have to agree with you. In a country where 70% of the graduates are unemployed and rampant politicization of  university and collegesa are hampering their education, it is common to gather this kind of population in the street.

GouravChowdhury
GouravChowdhury like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

@uncouthtownie you are paid agent of terrorist & war criminal party jamate islami ,SHAME ON YOU . 

Tonmoy
Tonmoy

@GouravChowdhury @uncouthtownie Shame, Mr. Chowdhury, why you think everyone like you?

sr189tk
sr189tk

@masuma @GouravChowdhury   AND TIME IS THE GREATEST JUDGE TO PUNISH ALL LIARS, Have a look into the History and find your forefathers

masuma
masuma

@Tonmoy @GouravChowdhury @uncouthtownie We are blessed that everyone is not like you. What you are is " Shibir/ Jamaat". You guys should come in senses and come to right side of history otherwise you will not go unpunished when time comes.

kuashar
kuashar like.author.displayName 1 Like

We want justice. Jamat e islami is a terrorist organization who use islam for their agenda. They killed our brothers in 1971 , they raped our sisters and mothers. Anyone speak against them is all on a sudden become non-muslim or some sort of atheist. Couple of days ago they killed a blogger just because he wrote against them. They are the enemy of free speech and democracy. They have blood in their hand, they should go.

uncouthtownie
uncouthtownie

@kuashar The allegations that you make are baseless and without evidence. Blogger Rajib Haider may truly have been murdered by zealous Muslim extremists, but before the police find actual evidence it is not okay to jump to conclusions. Report of DB police two days ago actually suggest a love triangle that may have been behind his murder. I personally am against religion-based politics, but in a democracy people have the right to use religion for political agenda (in the US you have evangelical christians as a powerful political force). In the 4 decades of post-independence Bangladesh, jamat islami has been more or less a moderate islamic party. They have participated in the democratic process just like any other party. We can disagree with them, and voice our opposition at the ballots. But banning them, demonizing them, and lynching their leaders is only going to fuel the rise of extremist Islamists such as Harkatul Jihad and the likes, and turn Bangladesh into an extremist den like Pakistan.