The demonstrators, calling for capital punishment for the “war criminals”, vowed at the ‘grand rally’ to continue with their fight until the party, which opposed Bangladesh’s War of Independence in 1971, was declared outlawed.
The verdicts pronounced by the International Crimes Tribunal-2 so far prove that the members of the Islamist party were involved in war crimes during the Liberation War, which culminated in the formation of Bangladesh.
People from different walks of life took to the streets of Dhaka ever since Jamaat’s Assistant secretary General Abdul Quader Molla was awarded life term by the ICT-2 for his involvement in war crimes. They are demanding that Molla be hanged.
Tens of thousands of people now want to spread their agitation to the farthest corners of the country, from Teknaf to Tetulia. They also demanded that the people and financial institutions having links with the Islamist party be boycotted.
The protestors also joined the Convenor of the Blogger and Online Activist Network, Imran H Sarkar, who presided over Friday’s rally, in demanding that the Bangladeshi citizenship of the Jamaat leaders be revoked.
The first verdict delivered by the ICT against Abul Kalam Azad alias ‘Bachchu Razakar’ on Jan 21, underlined Jamaat’s role in carrying out war crimes. The tribunal’s second verdict provided a more vivid account of the Islamist party’s complicity with the Pakistani forces in 1971.
ICT’s first verdict described as to how the party set up “armed forces” to “save Pakistan”, and in the process helped the Pakistani forces against “unarmed Bengalis”.
The tribunal, headed by Justice Obaidul Hassan, observed: “There is no way to overlook the selfless sacrifice of the Bengalis in the face of atrocities in 1971. At the time, no country in the world had to undergo such sacrifice and pain to attain freedom.”
In its second verdict, the tribunal highlighted the involvement of Jamaat and its then students’ organisation – Islami Chhatra Sangha, in carrying out war crimes.
The verdict read: “The people of East Pakistan supported Bangladesh and fought for its independence. But a small number of Bengalis, Biharis, others supporting Pakistan and a few religious parties, especially Jamaat-i-Islami and its students’ wing Islami Chhatra Sangha, Muslim League …. in their barbaric efforts to resist the independence of Bangladesh either joined hands with the occupying Pakistani forces or helped them.”
“Most of them were either involved in barbaric acts or were conduit to them within the confines of Bangladesh, violating all international norms.”
The verdict said that in order to identify and eliminate the religious minorities, especially the Hindus, the Bengali intellectuals, the political groups under the Awami League and the pro-Liberation unarmed people, the Pakistani government and its armed forces formed groups like Razakar, Al-Badr, Al-Shams and Shanti Committee.
The tribunal then linked the Islami party with the pro-Pakistani forces and observed:“Jamaat-i-Islami and other pro-Pakistan political parties played an important role in setting up para-military forces to eliminate unarmed Bengalis in the name of saving Pakistan.”
Thousands of people from various walks of life, in processions with placards and festoons, started pouring into Shahbagh since morning. The intensity of the sloganeering increased with the passage of time.
In order to give the rally an apolitical look, at one stage all partisan banners and festoons were removed, barring those demanding capital punishment for the war criminals.
At around 3pm, blogger Shahidul Islam Raju read out the ‘Chorompotro’, the ultimate call to hang the war criminals, followed by the national anthem.
Moderated by freedom fighter Nasiruddin Yusuf Bachchu, the rally was addressed by Mili Rahman, wife of Shaheed Flight Lieutenant M Matiur Rahman Bir Shrestha (one of the most valiant heroes of the Liberation War), educationist and eminent writer Prof Jafar Iqbal, Dhaka University Vice-chancellor AASM Arefin Siddique, and freedom fighter and cultural personalities Kamal Lohani and Hasan Imam.
They chanted slogans standing at the main platform demanding execution of the Razakars and the war criminals.
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.”
The protests, demanding capital punishment for Molla, was started by the Blogger and Online Activist Network and was later joined by other organisations.