Many felt the demonstration plans were ‘flexible’ and demanded tougher ones.
Tuesday’s rally was held as the demonstrators’ deadline to the government to start the process of outlawing the Jamaat as a political party ended.
The Ganajagaran Mancha spokesperson, Imran H Sarker, announced fresh demonstration plans in presence of thousands of people. The demonstrators will take out a protest procession and submit a memorandum to the Prime Minister on Apr 4 for outlawing the Jamaat as a political party for its war crimes.
As Sarker was making the announcement, a section of the gathering were chanting slogans demanding a ‘siege’. It was quite a task for the organisers to rein in the situation. The dissenting section also took out a procession after the rally ended demanding a ‘siege’ programme.
The demonstrators will also take out a procession in the capital on the same day and supporters of the movement in districts will sumbit memorandum to the Prime Minister through Deputy Commissioners.
Addressing Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the Mancha spokesman said, “You too will concur with this demand. Please do not avoid the demand to ensure maximum penalty for the [convicted] war criminals and banning the Jamaat and [its student affiliate Islami Chhatra] Shibir.”
In an address delivered in Parliament last month, Hasina had supported the Mancha’s six-point charter of demand.
Sarker, apparently disappointed at the delay of the government in acceding to their demand, said “Although we had received positive responses in favour of our main demands (highest punishment for war criminals and banning the Jamaat), there’s no sign of initiating process to implement them.”
He announced three more days of programmes. The platform’s spokesperson on Tuesday announced a rally at Shahbagh on Apr 6.
Other protest plans include marching towards Parliament on Mar 31 at 11am to present the Speaker with the signatures collected through the countrywide mass signature campaign in support of the Mancha’s six-point demands.
A cultural programme will be held at the Prajanma Chattar at 4pm on Apr 5. The following day, an agitation rally will be held there.
“Our non-violent programme will continue until our ends are achieved,” Sarker said and vowed to spread the six-point demand.
The Mancha spokesperson also criticised the anti-Shahbagh propaganda and urged the government to take necessary measures.
A group of Biranganas, who were tortured at the hands of the invading Pakistani army and their local collaborators, expressed solidarity with the movement and demanded recognition as freedom fighters.
Before he started addressing the rally, Sarker, handed over ‘Mangal Pradip’ to the freedom fighters gathered there on behalf of the Mancha. Earlier, the freedom fighters had handed over national flags to 42 young demonstrators on the occasion of the 42nd independence anniversary.
Tuesday’s programme was divided into three segments.
From the beginning of the day, people in droves descended on the Shahbagh intersection to attend a ‘Muktijoddha-Janata’ (freedom fighters-people) rally there after a month’s break to warm up the air with slogans.
In the first phase, the student leaders delivered speeches. Sammilita Sangskritik Jote President Nasiruddin Yousuf Bachchu introduced 10 ‘Biranganas’ from Sirajganj to the people.
Freedom fighters and Sector Commanders addressed the rally in the second phase and the handing over of the ‘Mangal Pradip’ and national flags followed.
Survivors of the Mar 25, 1971 genocide shared their experiences with the people in the last phase.
Sarker rolled out fresh agitation programmes at the end of the third phase. After that, official programmes ended for the day, but cultural programmes went on.
A simultaneous paper lantern floating programme from Suhrawardy Udyan and Hatirjheel (scheduled for 8pm) was abandoned. Mancha said this was dropped due to security reasons as Shahbagh was cramming with electricity wiring.
This was the first Ganajagaran Mancha rally after Feb 21. The previous rally set a Mar 26 deadline to begin actions to ban Jamaat. Attendance was thin at the rally stretching from Shahbagh intersection to Charukola or the Institute of Fine Arts.
Several organisations were seen marching in since afternoon carrying placards demanding Jamaat ban. A procession was seen with banner calling for a committee to investigate Jamaat’s financial institutions and nationalising them.
Nineteen social and cultural organisations gathered in front of the Central Public Library building at 1pm before the rally started. They joined the rally in the middle of the musical performance carrying banners and placards.
They include Jatiya Swarthey Blogger and Online Activists, Gonoray, Dhaka University Shikkharthi Adhikar Mancha, Shaheed Janani Jahanara Imam Squad, Amra, Shaheed Rumi Squad, Jege Achhi, Bikkhudda Nari Samaj, Fanshir Mancha, Muviana, Raasta, Orbak, Magic Movement, Ghasher Kella, Ahmed Sofa Raastrasobha-Sarbajan, Adibanshi Forum, Sangskritik Mancha, and Tirandaaj.
From a Feb 21 rally in Dhaka, the Ganajagaran Mancha announced a six-point charter of demand and gave the government until Mar 26 to initiate the process to ban the fundamentalist party and had threatened to announce further agitation programmes if their demands were not met. However, the government is yet to initiate such a process.
On Tuesday, the movement rolled into its 50th day.
On Feb 5, several bloggers took to the streets in Dhaka protesting the ‘lenient’ life sentence of Jamaat’s Assistant Secretary General Molla, known as the ‘Butcher of Mirpur’ during the War. Hundreds of thousands later joined their movement. The demonstrators eventually demanded maximum penalty for all convicted war criminals and banning the Jamaat.
Replicas of the Ganajagaran Mancha were thrown up at various places across Bangladesh.
The demonstrators said they would continue with their protests until their demands were met.