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Solidarity Vigil for the Shahbagh Movement in Bangladesh
2 pm, 9th April, 2013; Outside Bangladesh Embassy, New Delhi
New Socialist Initiative (NSI), Jamia Teachers' Solidarity Association (JTSA), Nishant, Anhad, Krantikari Lok Adhikar Sangathan, Stree Mukti Sangathan
The neighbouring country of Bangladesh is going through a new churning. Hundreds and thousands of people have hit the streets of Dhaka, demanding strict punitive action against 'war criminals' and their organisations, who forty-two years ago—at the time of the liberation struggle/war of the then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh)—colluded with the Pakistan army and committed untold acts of atrocities on the general public.
Basically, there are two main demands of the protesters: war criminals should be strictly punished and organisations like the Jamat-e-Islami, Bangladesh, should be banned and all commercial and other kinds of establishments run by it should be proscribed. Just to recall: members and activists of Jamat-e-Islami, Bangladesh, did not merely oppose the liberation movement/war of Bangladesh because of their insistence on a 'unified' Pakistan, but also as part of Razakars—the Islamist East Pakistani paramilitary force contrived by the Pakistan army—aided and sided with the Pakistan Army during to inflict indescribable acts of violence on the people fighting for liberation.
The uniqueness and hallmark of the Shahdbag movement is that though it was principally initiated, spread and extended by those youth who run online blogs, it quickly witnessed the participation of other classes. It is to be noted that the Movement which began on 5th Feb 2013, went into its second phase this 26th March, the anniversary of Bangladesh's liberation day. According to latest reports, about twenty (20) people have started a fast unto death under the joint banner of of 'Gana Jagran Manch'. The protestors have been demanding that the Awami League government should immediately bring an ordinance/bill banning the Jamat. The Supreme Court of Bangladesh is expected to pronounce its views on the demands of the protesters on 6th April 2103.
There is no doubt that in spite of the extensiveness of the Movement, it is still facies strong opposition from the advocates and supporters of Jamat-e-Islami, who are systemtically induging in a vicious negative campaign. Besides, an attampt is being made to communalise the situation through attacks on religious minorities of Bangladesh—Hindus, Buddhists—orchestrated by those associated with the Jamat.
Clearly, at a time when the rest of South Asia is witnessing the rise of communal mobilizations, Bangladesh's Shahbagh Movement stands apart as a unique and ground-breaking venture, for it has demanded that secular principles and ethos alone should guide and govern all politics. Thus, this movement is qualitatively and politically far more mature than, say, movements which arose from the womb of Tahrir square of Cairo.
Probably, unnerved by the movement's secular push, Islamist forces, including those outside Bangladesh can be seen to be colluding actively trying to suppress it. In the last few days, the heads of state of both Egypt and Turkey wrote separate letters to the Prime Minister of Bangladesh pressurising her in this regard. In India too, Jamat-e-Islami, Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, Minority Youth Federation and several like-minded organisations have demonstrated and expressed solidarity with the war criminals presently being held in jails of Bangladesh. These organisations have gone on to declare that if the Awami League govt. continues to pursue the conviction of war criminals, they would appeal to the Govt. of India to break all diplomatic relations with Bangladesh. In a way through their emotive stirrings, these Islamist organisations have demonstrated that they have no sympathy or concern with the atrocities committed on the general populace of Bangladesh; majority of whom are Muslims. To the contrary they have clearly bared their intentions, i.e. they are only concerned for the leaders of the Jamat, who are certain to face the legal consequences of the crimes committed by them.
Majoritarian and fascist forces feed and thrive on each other and that there has been a coinciding of the rise of Hindutva in India and fundamentalist forces in our neighborhood.
Ironically, the secular-democratic and left forces of India have till now maintained a studied silence on the historical movement being driven and sustained by the general public of Bangladesh. We believe that there is an urgent need to break this silence, as well to express our solidarity to the people of Bangladesh in their historic struggle.