Bangladesh awakens in silence
Published: 2013-02-12 10:31:36.0 BdST Updated: 2013-02-12 13:22:09.0 BdST
Millions of people across the country held a three-minute silence at 4pm on Tuesday in an unprecedented show of unity with the Shahbagh movement pressing for execution of all war criminals, including Jamaat-e-Islami leader Abdul Quader Molla.
On Monday, the protesters from the centre stage at Shahbagh, now christened Ganajagaran Mancha, called upon the people to stand three minutes in silence to express their solidarity with the movement that demands death penalty for all war criminals.
The Shahbagh protesters continued their demonstration for the eighth straight day on Tuesday.
Tens of thousands of people imbued with the spirit of the Liberation War started to converge at the protest venue, which is known as ‘Projonmo Chottor’, from noon.
There was then a 60-second countdown in the Ganajagaran Mancha. The huge human gathering at Shahbagh came to calm after it was at 4pm.
Lucky Akter, a frontline activist who with her fiery voice has been leading the slogans for the thousands of youths at Shahbagh, broke open the silence at 4:03pm.
Education Minister Nurul Islam Nahid, Foreign Minister Dipu Moni, Information Minister Hasanul Haq Inu, CPB leader Muhajidul Islam Selim, Former Vice-President of Dhaka University Central Students’ Union (DUCSU) Mahfuza Khanam, top cultural personalities like Nasiruddin Yusuf Bachchu and Ramendru Majumder stood in silence for three minutes at Prajanma Chattar to express their solidarity.
The Members of Parliament expressed their solidarity by standing up in front of the south plaza of the Parliament Complex.
Tofail Ahmed, Shirin Sharmin Chowdhury, ASM Firoj, Segufta Yasmin Emili, Mainuddin Khan Badal, Mujibul Haque, Khan Tipu Sultan, Mamataz Begum, Tarana Halim, Fazilatunessa Bappi, Shahriar Alam, RAM Obaidul Muktadir Chowdhury, Ataur Rahman Atik, Abdur Rahman, Murad Hasan and Tanvir Shakil Joy were present there.
Cabinet members, Secretaries and all other officials and employees of the Secretariat also observed the silence programme in front of the Secretariat.
Communications Minister Obaidul Quader, Shipping Minister Shajahan Khan, State Minister for Home Shamsul Haque Tuku, State Minister for Information and Communication Technology Yafesh Osman and Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) Affairs Minister Dipankar Talukdar were, among others, present.
The leaders of the ruling Awami League-led Grand Alliance also observed the silence on the premises of Central Shaheed Minar.
The left-leaning political parties like Communist Party of Bangladesh (CPB) and Bangladesh Samajtantrik Dal (BaSaD) observed the silence in the city’s Paltan.
Bangladesh Bank officials, led by Bangladesh Bank Governor Atiur Rahman, observed the silence in front of the central bank in the city’s Motijheel.
Students and teachers of different colleges and universities, including Dhaka University, also observed the programme.
Before 4pm, traffic movement on the streets in the city came to a halt as the people irrespective of age, sex and class started pouring out on the streets to join the solidarity gesture.
bdnews24.com district correspondents reported that the similar silence was also observed across the country.
The weeklong protest has also prompted solidarity protests by non-resident Bangladeshis at their respective cities abroad.
Blogger and Online Activist Network initiated the nonstop protest at Shahbagh intersection hours after the International Crimes Tribunal-2 on Feb 5 sentenced Jamaat-e-Islami leader Molla to life in prison for crimes against humanity during the Liberation War in 1971.
Hundreds of thousands of people from all walks of life expressed their solidarity with the young men and women by joining a massive rally last Friday. They also took an oath to continue their movement until Molla is awarded death sentence and vowed to fight anti-liberation forces like Jamaat-e-Islami and its student wing Islami Chhatra Shibir.
They also pledged to boycott all business and social organisations, including media outlets, of the party.
The movement has already spread across the country and even to the Bangladesh diaspora abroad.
The Jamaat had opposed Bangladesh's independence and sided with Pakistani troops during the 1971 Liberation War, in which three million died and more than quarter of a million women were dishonoured. The Jamaat activists staffed the auxiliary support forces of the Pakistani army like the Razakars, Al Badr and Al Shams who masterminded the mass murders. Exterminating the Bengali intelligentsia was their main target.
Jamaat is a key constituent of the BNP-led 18-Party Alliance.
The BNP has been claiming that the government is trying to use the war crimes trials for its own political purpose, describing the Shahbagh protests as a 'stage-managed drama.'
But Parliament, where the Awami League-led coalition enjoys a huge majority, expressed solidarity with the Shahbagh movement on Sunday.
Speaking at Parliament and Prime Minister Hasina thanked the youths for raising voice against the 1971 war criminals, and said her government would execute the oath thousands of protesters took at the Shahbagh grand rally last Friday.
She said the tribunals would deliver judgments according to the law, but they should consider the people's expectations while delivering verdicts on war crimes cases.
On Monday, the Cabinet approved the draft of International Crimes Tribunal (Amendment) Act-2013 to allow appeal against ‘inadequate sentence’ in war crimes cases.
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