Tens of thousands of people forgetting their caste, professional and political identities descended on Shahbagh intersection on Friday afternoon with the chant of ‘Death penalty to all war criminals’, including Abdul Quader Molla, and a ban on the politics of Jamaat-e-Islami.
The ‘grand rally’ at the intersection, called ‘Prajanma
Chattar’, ended with a vow to spread the ongoing movement from Teknaf to
People from across the broad spectrum of society who gathered
from far and wide of Bangladesh also took an oath to carry on their movement
demanding death penalty for all war criminals and pledged to boycott all
business and social organisations, including media outlets, of the Islamist
The rally organisers repeatedly reaffirmed their resolve to take
their movement forward until all war criminals were handed down the capital
The protesters took oath: “The platform of the masses will
spread the movement across the country from Teknaf to Tetulia untl the death
penalty of the despicable Razakars, al-Badrs, genocide plotters and rapists of
the 1971 [Liberation War]. The movement will continue until the politics of
Jamaat-Shibir is banned. We’ve to do work so that the anti-liberation elements
that had been released after the 1975 period are put before the special
Demanding a ban on the business, social and cultural
organisations run by the war criminals, the rally was told that the Jamaat and
its student wing Islami Chhatra Shibir were infiltrating into organisations by
collecting funds through these institutions.
The campaigners took the
oath: “We’ll demand arrest and maximum punishment to the Jamaat-Shibir leaders
and activists who have threatened to push the country into a civil
People including women took the oath to occupy the streets until
the government outlawed the Jamaat-run business establishments -- Islami Bank,
Ibn Sina, several coaching centres including Focus and Retina, media outlets
including Diganta Television and the daily Naya Diganta – and revoked
citizenship of their activists.
They took oath: “We’ll boycott all the
educational and cultural organisations that spread anti-liberation thoughts
among the children. In a word, we’ll boycott all the political, social and
They further promised: “Through video clips and
newspaper reports, we’ll help in bringing to trial those who threatened of civil
war. We’ll not subscribe to the newspapers of the war criminals in our homes and
The rally began at Shahbagh with the announcement of a
‘Chorompotro’ or the ultimate call to hang the war criminals from the main
platform for the rally erected atop a pick-up truck at 3pm.
In order to
give the rally an apolitical look, at one stage all partisan banners and
festoons were removed from the rally, barring those demanding capital punishment
for the war criminals. Blogger Shahidul Islam Raju read out the ‘Chorompotro’
and the national anthem was sung after that.
The spirit at the venue was
infectious as people broke into the chants of “Tui Razakar” (you are a war
criminal) and the protesters stood and sang the national anthem in chorus at the
rally organised by Blogger and Online Activists Network.
People in droves
came to the rally venue from across the capital in a procession of vehicles and
in small groups carrying the national flag, musical instruments, banners and
The gathering had run as far back as to the streets up to Doel
intersection, Banglamotor, Kataban and Matsya Bhaban areas from the rally
Anjan Roy hosted the presentation at the main rally stage while
freedom fighter Nasiruddin Yusuf Bachchu assisted him.
The rally was
addressed by Mili Rahman, widow of Shaheed Flight Lieutenant M Matiur Rahman Bir
Shrestha – one of the most valiant heroes of the Liberation War – educationist
and eminent writer Prof Muhammad Zafar Iqbal, Dhaka University Vice-chancellor
AASM Arefin Siddique, and freedom fighter and cultural personalities Kamal
Lohani and Hasan Imam.
They shouted slogans standing at the main platform
demanding execution of the Razakars and the ‘war criminals’.
by their Liberation War spirit, Mili Rahman said, “Our new generation is awake.
No-one can stop us. It’s that Ekattor when we librated the country. Today you,
the youngsters, will build a country free of Razakars and Shibir.”
Lohani also vowed to ensure trial of the war criminals. “Today the people have
Later, Imran H Sarker, a lead organiser of the demonstration
that began shortly after Jamaat leader Molla was sentenced to life in prison for
war crimes on Tuesday, administered the oath to thousands of people, mostly
Earlier, he announced a four-point charter of demands. The
demands are: all the war criminals have to be given capital punishment, the
Jamaat-Shibir politics has to be banned, those who threatened civil war have to
be identified and put on trial, and all the forces which rehabilitated the war
criminals have to be brought to trial.
To the dismay of many, the ICT-2
on Tuesday awarded Molla life in prison for his crimes against humanity during
the Liberation War in 1971. People of all strata and various organisations,
including the socio-political and cultural ones, said they expected death
penalty for him.
Outraged by the ‘too little’ punishment, cultural and
political activists and youngsters, mostly university students and bloggers,
whipped up protests on the social media and blogs. People started converging at
Shahbagh in the heart of the capital since Tuesday afternoon soon after the
delivery of the verdict.
They then grew in numbers and have been keeping
candle-lit vigil for the last four nights.
The protest spirit also spread
to other parts of Bangladesh and voices called for hanging the Jamaat-e-Islami
Different professional bodies, pro-liberation forces, students
and commoners staging the sit-in demanding Molla’s execution on Wednesday called
the mass gathering for Friday.
Responding to the call for institution of
a people’s court at the heart of the capital, people started gathering at the
intersection and its surrounding areas to join the rally in small protest
procession from Friday morning.
The gathering covered Kataban, Shishu
Park, BSMMU and Fine Arts Faculty of Dhaka University by 1pm and the attendance
swelled ever since.
The organisers said that the rally was called to give
the campaign an ‘apolitical’ shape.
The streets turned into a huge human
sea by 3pm. An official of the Detective Branch (DB) of police said that some
250,000 people joined the mass rally.
The pro-liberation activists shared
the ABC of asserting the right to get justice shouting creative
“Q for Quader Molla/Tui Razakar” (you are a war criminal), S for
Sayedee/ Tui Razakar, M for Mujaheed/ Tui Razakar, N for Nizami/ Tui Razakar, G
for Ghulam Azam/ Tui Razakar,” they shouted at the rally.
The Jamaat had
opposed Bangladesh's independence from Pakistan in 1971. The party had sided
with Pakistani troops during the war when officially three million people were
killed, and the fundamentalist party allegedly masterminded the murders of the
country's leading intelligentsia including professors, doctors and