Shahbagh is alive again

People in droves descended on the iconic Shahbagh intersection on the nation’s Independence Day after a month’s break to warm up the air with slogans demanding death to war criminals of 1971.

Published : 26 March 2013, 07:56 AM
Updated : 26 March 2013, 07:56 AM

The ‘Ganajagaran Mancha’ held a ‘Muktijoddha-Janata’ (freedom fighters-people) rally at the mass movement venue in what is now the Prajanma Chattar.

Leaders of student organisations addressed the rally that began at 4pm.

The mass protest in Shahbagh was triggered 50 days ago on Feb 5 by the ‘lenient’ life term in jail sentence for Jamaat-e-Islami leader Abdul Qader Molla for his war crimes against humanity.

Shahbagh was reverberating with the slogan ‘The ultimatum is over, what did the government do?’

Earlier, artists from Tangail took the stage to perform folk songs for the people under the burning sun.

Various organisations were bringing in processions from noon to join the rally.

The protesters placards read like, ‘Put up a bill in Parliament, ban Jamaat-e-Islami.’

The rally’s platform was erected at Shahbagh intersection facing south. Protesters gathered there to cover the area from Fine Arts Institute to Dhaka University’s TSC area.

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 its Feb 21 rally, the Ganajagaran Mancha announced a six-point charter of demand and gave the government until Mar 26 to initiate the process to ban the Jamaat.

The government is yet to initiate such a process although the deadline expired on Tuesday.

Shahbagh protesters had threatened to announce tougher agitation programmes from their rally if their demands were not met.

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.

In the face of the movement, the government amended the 1973 International Crimes Tribunal Act under which the war crimes trials were being conducted. The amended Act provides equal opportunities for the prosecution and the defence to appeal against a verdict.

Another provision also allows trials of parties or organisations on war crimes charges.

The protesters at Shahbagh greeted the move as a ‘victory’ to their non-stop movement.

After trials of the suspected war criminals began in 2010, so far three persons have been convicted. Apart from Molla, Jamaat’s number two Delwar Hossain Sayedee and former partyman Abul Kalam Azad alias Bachchu Razakar were sentenced to death.

Azad is absconding and is widely believed to be hiding in Pakistan.