Shahbagh back to 24-hour protest
Published: 2013-02-15 17:34:43.0 BdST Updated: 2013-02-16 02:15:59.0 BdST
Demonstrators demanding death sentences for all ‘war criminals’ announced that they were reverting to nonstop protests occupying Shahbagh crossroads after one of their men was killed in Dhaka on Friday.
The declaration came barely six hours after a decision to scale back their demonstrations to seven hours every day as the 11-day old protest faced a significant test of whether it can continue to rally the street behind it.
Imran H Sarker, one of those who had organised the unprecedented movement that has captured the imagination of the nation, made the announcement at around 11pm at the Ganajagaran Mancha after a blogger active in the protest was hacked to death near his house.
“We’ve been hit. One of our bloggers has been murdered in Mirpur. In this situation, we cannot return from the streets and we won’t,” he said.
Ahmed Rajib Haider, 26, an architect who used to blog with the nickname “Thaba Baba (Claw)”, was found dead in Mirpur’s Pallabi in the evening.
The demonstrators demanded authorities arrest the murderers without any delay and punish them.
Around 12:30am on Saturday, Imran Sarker demanded that authorities ban the ‘Sonar Bangla’ blog which had been issuing death threats over the past four days to bloggers and arrest everyone associated with the blog.
The protesters asked everyone to sport black badges on Saturday protesting the murder and said Haider’s namaz-e-janaza will be held in the afternoon at the birthplace of the movement.
The youths also took a vow to thwart the Jamaat-e-Islami’s countrywide shutdown for Monday.
Earlier the day, the protesters announced seven-hour protest rallies every day from Friday’s ‘Jagaran Samabesh’, or the Uprising Rally.
However, several organisations campaigning for execution of war crimes perpetrators rejected the seven-hour protest plan saying it was a ‘betrayal’ of the spirit of the movement.
They declared to press ahead until the demands were met.
The organisations that took the staunch stand are Shahid Janani Jahanara Imam Squad, Tirandaz, Slogan 71 and Theatre Art Unit, Dhaka University Shikkharthhi Odhikar Mancha, Natyabed, Mubiana Film Society, Chhobir Haat and Shahbagh Cyber Judda.
Even many of the bloggers behind the movement said they will not leave the streets just about now.
One of the factors fuelling that determination is the widespread belief that things have simply gone too far to turn back now.
Around 10pm, a procession by youths circled Shahbagh and the surrounding areas chanting slogans that urged everyone to continue demonstration until Jamaat was banned from politics.
The news of Haider’s murder stirred the demonstrators who pledged to persist with their demonstrations.
Sarker then came on stage and announced round-the-clock demonstration instead of daily seven-hour agitations.
The demonstrators observed a minute’s silence in the memory of the deceased internet activist.
The breathless developments came after 11 days of round-the-clock demonstrations since Feb 5, when the International Crimes Tribunal-2 sentenced Jamaat leader Abdur Quader Molla to life in prison for crimes against humanity during the War of Liberation in 1971.
The ‘lenient’ sentence of Molla has energised the liberal and secular Bengalees after decades of divisions and uncertainty while 1971 collaborators rose to dominate the political landscape.
But the backlash has been further fuelled by broader public anger over the legacy of violence Jamaat committed in the recent past.
Meanwhile, around 100 students studying in Sweden’s Lund University and Malmo University paraded the streets expressing solidarity with the Shahbagh movement.
They took out a nearly two-and a-half-hour long procession around 3pm local time in the Malmö city braving freezing cold. They also held a candlelight vigil on Thursday.
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