- Posted February 17, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Shahbagh Projonmo Chottor Protester – 100s of thousands of protester signed their name demanding the capital punishment for all accused war criminals of the 1971
Tahrir Square of Cairo saw the great upheaval from early 2011 leading to such sweeping revolutionary changes in Egypt, causing ripples in the neighborhood. Shahbagh in Dhaka, Bangladesh, is presently under sharp focus but for different reasons. The War Crimes' Tribunal awarded life imprisonment to war criminal Abdul Quader Mollah for his collaborative role in killing of innocents during the liberation struggle of Bangladesh in the run-up to its independence in 1971.
Kader Molla (more widely known as the "butcher") was responsible for the killing of thousands of Bengalis in Shialbari and Rupnagar areas of Mirpur during the liberation war of Bangladesh. On 5th January, 2013, the International Tribunal-2 for War Crime Judgment sentenced him to lifetime imprisonment - a sentence that simply won't suffice to give justice to thousands of people who were tortured and killed by the brute criminal. Tribunal-2 has passed the verdict of life imprisonment against Kader Molla for accusation of human rights violation crimes. Social workers, cultural activists, university students and people from every walk of life have aggregated at Shahbagh Square to protest against verdict announced by the tribunal against Jamat-e-Islami assistant secretary general Abdul Kader Molla and to demand his death sentence. They have taken position at Shahbagh Square since Tuesday afternoon to demonstrate their demand.
The congregation in Shahbagh, active since February 5, is swelling day by day as was seen in Cairo and the protest here largely comprises students with youthful vigor. Their demand is death sentence for Mollah as life sentence is too little for a perpetrator of such heinous crimes. In the recent past, Dhaka has seldom seen such a chain of events unfolding where the gen next is demanding death penalty for a war criminal.
They are stemming from the youth who love their country and patriotism is inherent in their veins, thanks to the Bangladeshi intellectuals who have been guiding beacons to their youth. Their parliament has passed a resolution supporting the movement. Roadside beggars have also joined the mainstream lending their support.
The congregation in Shahbagh is not to overthrow the government but to mount pressure on the establishment to ensure that war criminals don't escape death penalty. Hence a public opinion is being created uniting all freedom-loving elements. Isn't it a unique development? Intellectuals, academics, progressive individuals are all frequenting Shahbagh to keep the spirit of the movement alive. The agitation is peaceful and apolitical. Poems are recited, songs sung, speeches made and slogans innovated to make sure that fanatics are kept at bay and the spirit of freedom is kept alive.
It may be recalled that on February 21, 1952, Shahbagh and adjacent areas rose up against the then Pakistan government in protest against the imposition of Urdu in place of Bangla. Pakistani authorities resorted to firing, killing many students. 'Ekushey'(twenty first) is observed each year with great reverence in Dhaka and around the world. This time it's expected to be extraordinary as the gathering is growing manifold in quantity and in quality! Addition to the youth, the older generation, who had lived through the freedom movement, is also present, morally backing up the youngsters.
Bangladesh does not require any certificate of being a freedom-loving nation. It lost millions of innocents during its freedom struggle and almost a similar number of women were violated. War crimes against Bangladesh, against humanity, perpetrated by the Pakistani forces are possibly unparalleled in the annals of history. There were no Nuremberg types of trials to fix accountability. It looks a blatant discrimination when compared to excesses against the Jews.
Sadly, western media is inadequate in its coverage of the Shahbagh happenings as if it's only Bangladesh's concern. One doesn't see any interest amongst the West-sponsored TV channels in the ongoing, exciting developments in Dhaka. We see a Middle Eastern TV channel highlighting police dispersing Jamaat protests in Dhaka but ironically nothing on Shahbagh. It is visibly biased but why? Aren't the Bangladeshi youth campaigning for a just cause? Coincidentally or otherwise, one doesn't see any coverage by Indian TV channels except perhaps carried by Kolkata-based Bangla channels. This looks like a disconnect. Indian media stood by Bangladesh in 1971, supporting the liberation cause. The silence or indifference now belies any reasoning. Meanwhile, Shahbagh protests continue to be peaceful and there is also the occasional silence (Maun) observed by the protestors.
Pakistan and many western countries had underestimated East Pakistan during the freedom movement and they were proved utterly wrong as East Pakistan became “Bangladesh”. It seems no lessons learnt. Once again, the West's political calculations are getting wide off the mark. The results are clearly written on the wall. The coming weeks will determine the course of events and most likely the outcome will strengthen the hands of the progressives and the liberals, proving that Bangladesh will have no place for non-secular and religious orthodoxy. Till then, Shahbagh will continue to be the local Tahrir Square and any eruption may see far-reaching consequences.
I strongly urge to create public demand in western countries, Middle East and South Asian Countries to broadcast the movement “Stand by the innocent people of Bangladesh” we have suffered and sacrificed more than any other nation in history. The history of our country is a history that can’t be found on any other country. Bangladesh is the only country in the Earth was born in world map based on Glorious Language Movement of 1952 culminating in the bloody birth of our nation in 1971. Bangladesh is the 3rd largest populated Muslim country in the world. Its language “Bangla” is the 6th most widely spoken language in the world, and Bangla is expected to become one of the official languages of the United Nation. Please do your part NOW for the citizens of Bangladesh for their Civil rights Movement. We stand on the shoulders of those giants who made Bangladesh better from East Pakistan, ONE issue at a time and it is our time.
Proud to be part of the history as a grandson and nephew of freedom fighter, Proud to be part of February 5, 2013 movement that takes us back to bloody war of 1971. Together we are strong; our voice will be loud and proud, and together we can make it better Bangladesh.
Bijoy Setona Sodie Poduk Ridoe Ridoe - Long live Bangladesh………. Radwan Chowdhury