Defiant crowd battles propaganda war
Published: 2013-02-11 16:48:28.0 BdST Updated: 2013-02-11 21:16:09.0 BdST
Shahbagh has turned out to be a place where human desire for physical comfort failed to deter "call for justice".
Organisers say it is also a place where human emotions have braved the propaganda war launched by those against the "spirit of Liberation war in Bangladesh".
Since the start of the agitation on Feb 5, youths have been tirelessly filling the air of Shahbag with slogans seeking the rights of victims of 1971 war, when 30 million people were killed and 2,00,000 women were raped.
For the last few days one of the busiest areas of the capital has never fallen silent as the demand for justice and death penalty for the war criminals reverberates all across the country.
The protesters took to the streets in an act of spontaneity on the day Jamaat-e-Islam leader Abdul Quader Molla was handed a life term for crimes against humanity, outraging a nation that was expecting capital punishment.
Parliament, Prime Minister, students and people from all walks of life have rallied behind the Shahbagh movement.
Several lawmakers of the ruling Awami League expressed solidarity with the movement, but were denied any chance to address the crowd by the protesters, apparently for their lack of faith in them.
BNP did not make any comment about the movement or its ally Jamaat-e-Islami, which the International Crimes Tribunal has ruled to have helped the Pakistan military to suppress the Independence War.
People from all walks of life joined the protests right from the day it took off and organisers believe the uprising would wash all confusion and propaganda to divide the nation.
One of the organisers, Mahmudul Hoque Munsi, a blogger, was one of the first few who had called for a protest at Shahbagh through the social networking site Facebook on Feb 5.
He shared his thoughts with bdnews24.com as the protests entered the eighth day on Monday, drawing huge public response and the movement is now being as an ‘uprising.’
Member of Blogger and Online Activist Network, Hoque said they were expecting a death sentence for Jamaat leader Abdul Quader Molla, also known as ‘Butcher’ for his wartime brutality, and was all prepared to celebrate the occasion.
He instantly decided to initiate an event on Facebook after learning that Molla was jailed for life. The invitation went viral on the social networking site informing all that a human chain protest was going to be organized at Shahbagh intersection the same day.
The programme was named ‘Human chain protest to press for death sentence against Quader Mollah.’
“Hang him, hang him, hang Razakars (collaborators),” were the slogans that reverberated through the Shahbagh roundabouts round the clock since the verdict was pronounced.
In no time, the protest spread across the country. The Parliament also rallied behind the protesters on Sunday.
bdnews24.com spoke to Mahmudul Hoque Munsi.
bdnews24.com: Is there a committee to run the movement?
Mahmudul Hoque Munsi: No, there has been no committee. Decisions are being taken here after discussing with all parties participating in the agitation.
bdnews24.com: Is there any specific reason that you decided not to have a committee?
Mahmudul Hoque Munsi: Giving the movement a structure has been avoided for ensuring spontaneity. The social, cultural and student organisations present here are assisting each other so that the movement continues with all its spontaneity.
bdnews24.com: What is your assessment of the movement as it completes its first week?
Mahmudul Hoque Munsi: Many feel tired for its non-stop nature. But the tide-like inflow of people round the clock is adding our courage manifold with every passing moment.
Though we may be tired for the moment, our mental strength has not plummeted a bit. Rather, we would say, it is being strengthened as time passes by.
bdnews24.com: How do you plan your daily activities?
Mahmudul Hoque Munsi: We are working in turns and in groups. A group is at work while another one rests. It works this way.
Frankly speaking, none of us is experienced in organizing a movement of this extent. So we are learning from obstacles every moments.
General people and volunteers are assisting us the most. Many of them fell sick for the continuous protest, but came back once they are well.
bdnews24.com: The movement has given rise to some questions, particularly the one raised by the opposition that this movement is ‘nothing but a staged drama.’
Mahmudul Hoque Munsi: We have set up a media cell so that the demonstrators do not contradict each other in their views. They are also briefing media about the movement.
Naturally Jamaat-e-Islami and their associated organisation Islami Chhatra Shibir are spreading propaganda against the movement. It is a very old technique of them.
We are not afraid of it. The people of the country are very conscious and know it well and understand (this politics). We will not deviate from our target even under any circumstances even by an inch.
bdnews24.com: What is your next target?
Mahmudul Hoque Munsi: Our main demand is clear, to hang all war criminals. We will focus on other demands once the first one is met. The other demands include banning operation of institutions financing war criminal organisations like Jamaat, Shibir or nationalisation of those institutions.
However, the first demand is to hang all war criminals.
bdnews24.com: How long will you stay at Shahbagh?
Mahmudul Hoque Munsi: The movement is not bound by any deadline, but by its causes. It will continue until our demands are met.
bdnews24.com: Is there any pressure on you (the organisers)?
Mahmudul Hoque Munsi: We were not pressurized by the government yet. But Jamaat, Shibir have been issuing threats to our lives. However, we are not concerned about it at all. We will not move an inch away from the path of realizing our demands.
bdnews24.com: It is alleged that this movement is linked with the government. What is your opinion about it?
Mahmudul Hoque Munsi: You have seen Awami League leaders Sajeda Chowdury, Mahbubul Alam Hanif came here, but they had to retreat. They were not allowed to talk.
There has been a discussion over Chhatra League’s presence at the centre of the protest.
All pro-liberation student organisations united with us. We think Chhatra League is also a pro-liberation force. We see their presence from that standpoint. All progressive organisations are here. Our movement is not fuelled by anyone. It is a propaganda being spread by anti-liberation forces.
This is the place of the people, anybody may come here.
bdnews24.com: What measures have you taken to counter this propaganda campaign?
Mahmudul Hoque Munsi: Jamaat-Shibir is running the online propaganda leaving the streets. Our activists are all on the streets. So it is not possible for them to counter the campaign all the time. But the people of the country have risen against the propaganda.
bdnews24.com: How do you manage the money needed for the activists to be on the streets?
Mahmudul Hoque Munsi: Different organisations and individuals are ensuring the arrangements on their own. Assistance is coming along the way. Not any special individual, but a coordinated effort by individuals is driving us ahead.
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