Bangladesh: Gonojagoron Monch Movement: It remains in the garden of its grace

Participants in the initial Gonojagoron Moncho protests numbered hundreds of thousands.  The movement can be described the movement as initiated by youth, with hundreds of thousands of supporters including men, women, boys, and girls from all walks of life and citizens irrespective of age and faith.

by Anwar A. Khan

( December 7, 2017, Dhaka, Sri Lanka Guardian) The Gonojagoron  Monch Movement (National Awakening Stage) – It is as if the sun breaks bright to the soil of Bangladesh. The spring…..The great awakening…A golden star in our hearts…The victims and their family members too are human beings who deserve and demand rights equal to those of the war criminals of 1971! Alas! It betided differently; the convicted criminals only were given the right to appeal to the apex court as per the ICT law for a further scrutiny of the war criminals. The appeal right of the victims colossally ignored by the concerned Ministry! On 5th February, 2013, the scene exploded into the public eye when Kader Molla, the ‘Butcher of Mirpur’ was awarded life imprisonment by the International Crimes tribunal (ICT) instead of death punishment.

Without Gonojagoron Monch Movement which started on 5th February, 2013, it was almost impossible to let the worst war criminals walk to the gallows. A single event can awaken within us a stranger totally unknown to us. It actually has honoured the victims and their families who fell prey to the deadliest enemies during our glorious Liberation War in 1971, Bangladesh, its national flag and people of all walks of life who fought bravely with utmost patriotism to achieve Bangladesh. It ignited the veridical spark to arouse the people and showed the right-angled pathname. After our liberation war, nothing reminds us of an awakening more than this historic movement.

Silence was a lie that screamed at the light then. Awakening will be sudden. Gonojagoron Monch Movement is the staggeringly gifted one for us. After pro-longed time, we could recognise our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The deluge and the tree, when the hurricane swirled and spread its deluge of dark evil onto the good green land of people in general gloated in Bangladesh. The western skies reverberated with sorrowful accounts: The Tree has fallen!  The great trunk is smashed! The hurricane has left no life in the tree!  Has the tree really fallen?  Never! Not with our red streams flowing forever, not while the vino of our thorn limbs fed the thirsty roots, Bangladesh roots alive tunneling deep, deep, into the land!  When the tree rises up, the branches shall flourish green and fresh in the sun; the laughter of the tree shall leaf beneath the sun and birds shall return.  Undoubtedly, the birds shall return.  The birds shall return!

Humanity, where were you thee? We were being slaughtered under your watchful eyes, we were cold . . . cold . . . cold.  We cringed. We cried.  Humanity, where were you?  Why did you turn your face away?  Why did you keep looking the other way? We were here languishing in Bangladesh’s alleyways during our Independence War in 1971. Humanity, where were you then?  Look at us? See us? Humanity, enough turning the other way! Turning a deaf ear; turning a blind eye while we and our poor people died unmercifully.

Our path is called Justice . . . and now we must walk it, and stoutly avow to follow wherever it leads till the sun sets blaze to the weeds… We announce what comes after us; we announce mightier offspring, orators, days, and then, for the present, depart. We remember we said, before our leaves sprang at all, we would raise our voice jocund and strong, with reference to consummations. We announce natural persons to arise; we announce justice triumphant; we announce uncompromising liberty and equality; we announce the justification of candor, and the justification of pride. We announce a life that shall be copious, vehement, spiritual, and bold; we announce an end that shall lightly and joyfully meet its translation; we announce myriads of youths, beautiful, gigantic, sweet-blooded; and we announce a race of splendid people. An unknown sphere, more real than we dreamt, more direct, darts awakening rays about us – So long 42 years! Remember our words—we may again return, we love you—Bangladesh; we depart from materials; we are as one disembodied, triumphant, dead. An Autumn Sunbright! We leaguered in fire; the wild black promontories of the coast extend; their savage silhouettes; the sun in universal carnage sets, and, halting higher, the motionless storm-clouds mass their sullen threats, like an advancing mob in sword-points penned, that, balked, yet stands at bay. Mid-zenith hangs the fascinated day in wind-lustrated hollows crystalline, a wan Valkyrie whose wide pinions shine across the ensanguined ruins of the fray, and in her hand swings high overhead above the waste of war, the silver torch-light of the evening star wherewith to search the faces of the dead.

Lagooned in gold, seem not those jetty promontories rather; the outposts of some ancient land forlorn, uncomforted of morn, where old oblivions gather; and the melancholy un-consoling fold of all things that go utterly to death. And mix no more, no more with life’s perpetually awakening breath? Shall time not ferry us to such a shore over such sail-less seas to walk with hope’s slain importunities in miserable sufferings? Nay, shall not all things be there forgot save the sea’s golden barrier and the black close-crouching promontories? Dead to all shames, forgotten of all glories, shall we not wander there, a shadow’s shade, a spectre self-destroyed, so purged of all remembrance and sucked back into the primal void? That should we, on that shore phantasmal meet we should not know the coming of our feet? In the night of weariness, let us give ourselves up to sleep without struggle resting our trust upon thee. Let us not force our flagging spirit into a poor preparation for thy worship. It is thou who drawest the veil of night upon the tired eyes of the day to renew its sight in a fresher gladness of awakening of National Awakening Stage of 2013.

Gonojagoron Moncho movement  means  a platform for popular uprising or mass awakening platform. It’s a real song…The movement experienced external threats from extremist forces such as Jamaati men and their buddies, and as a result, the group has become less politically active than the widespread mobilisation seen during February to March-April 2013 and January 2014. The spontaneous movement initially aimed to non-violently build popular support for a harsher sentence for Kader Mollah, a notorious war criminal in accordance with the penal code, and that it has focused on nationalism and patriotism. The demonstrations were called the biggest mass mobilisation in recent memory in Bangladesh by both the local and foreign media outlets. The Gonojagoron Moncho or Shahbag demonstrations in early February 2013 were as peaceful and included candle-light vigils, large-scale gatherings, theatre, poetry recitations, national songs and nationalistic speeches.

In the wake of the Gonojagoron Moncho protests, the governing Awami League amended the respective ICT law in the parliament and incorporated the appeal provision for the victims to that flawed law. On hearing appeal from the victims’ side, the Supreme Court overturned the life sentence awarded by the ICT and ordered that Molla be put to death. Following the 28 February 2013 guilty verdict and death sentence of the Jamaat party vice-president Molla, sub-humans-Jamaat protesters held demonstrations that led to clashes with Gonojagoron Moncho supporters. The unrest resulted in the deaths of protesters, bystanders, and police officers, numbering in the dozens.

Three Gonojagoron Moncho activists were killed in different regions across Bangladesh: Prominent blogger Rajib Ahmed Haider was attacked and killed in February 2013. Gonojagoron Moncho is also known platform for popular rising mass growing platform.

In a speech on 8 February 2013, the spokesman of the Gonojagoron Moncho conducted an oath to the crowds of protesters at the Shahbag inter-section, which stated objectives related to the continuation of the movement for capital punishment for those on trial for crimes against humanity committed in 1971. The objectives of the Gonojagoron Moncho also included: Commitment to a democratic Bangladesh, where religion is considered a private matter; boycotting of businesses, banks, media outlets, social and cultural entities connected to Jamaat; called for an investigation into the sources of funding of Jamaat and associated institutions and businesses; ban on the politics of religious fundamentalists or the politics of Jamaat-Shibir; and achieving their goals without violence.

The group’s demands more broadly promote accountable governance and it has opened up the space for debate in society. Gonojagoron Moncho obtained support from all sectors and classes of society initially, and the movement exposed internal tensions and debates about secularism and religion in politics, the culture of impunity that is part of the political process in Bangladesh, as well as the meaning of communal harmony in society.

The Bloggers and Online Activists Network (BOAN) is the group in Bangladesh that initiated Gonojagoron Mincho protests through online networking and social media.  The spokesman for the Gonojagoron Moncho is Imran H. Sarkar who is the main organiser of BOAN.  It has been referred to as an umbrella platform of apolitical organisations. The group is not an organised political party or grouping in any traditional sense, but rather that at its height, the movement was a coalition of loose networks, associations, and individual actors though there are core networks.

Participants in the initial Gonojagoron Moncho protests numbered hundreds of thousands.  The movement can be described the movement as initiated by youth, with hundreds of thousands of supporters including men, women, boys, and girls from all walks of life and citizens irrespective of age and faith. Youth and people from various professions including university teachers, students, cultural and political activists, journalists and bloggers joined this movement of protests. A noted aspect of the movement has been the participation of large numbers of women. Shahbag Square in Dhaka is described as the centre of the movement. Support for the movement has soon spread across the country. The movement uses social networking to organise support.

The organisers of Gonojagoron Moncho Movement have refused to allow the participation of any political parties in the speeches or activities of the movement.  A prominent Gonojagoron speaker stated publicly at a rally that “’this movement does not belong to any political party.” The movement involves sit-ins and a programme to occupy Shahbag before the verdicts for those on trial for war crimes, including a sit-in related to the verdict of the 90-year old Jamaat leader Ghulam Azam in July 2013.  On 17 July in that year, both Jamaat and Gonojagoron Mancha called simultaneous hartals (day-long strikes) which led to 4 deaths and 100 injuries. In mid-August 2013, Gonojagoron Moncho conducted a procession march and rally to protest a hartal held by Jamaat and to pay tribute to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

Three Gonojagoron Moncho activists were killed in different regions across Bangladesh: Prominent blogger Rajib Ahmed Haider was attacked and killed in February 2013. Gonojagoron Moncho is also known platform for popular rising mass growing platform. It began on 6 February 2013 at Shahbag square. It refers to the Shahbag mass protest and social Movement. It demands for the death consequence for those found guilty of war crimes in the Bangladesh war of independence from Pakistan in 1971.

The movement’s demands included the arrest of Jamaat-Shabbier activists and banning of the Jamaat party.  Some of which were peaceful and some of which caused in violence, including in a few cases the deaths of police officers beaten by Hefazet activists, and in many cases, the use of extreme force by security forces resulting in the killing of many people. Fiery band sloganeer young girl activist Lucky Akhter has emerged as junior “Agni-kannaya’ (the junior daughter of fire) after Agricultural Minister Matia Chowdhury, has always captivated the audience by her skyrocket patriotic slogans. Ganajagoron Mancha has announced its decision to continue the sit-in at Shahbagh until Quader Molla’s death sentence is executed. Activists blocked the Shahbagh intersection from 10:50 pm in demand for the execution, and crowds began gathering since 7pm in anticipation of the verdict, bursting into protests when the news of the death sentence arrived.

Spokesperson of the Ganajagoron Mancha Imran H Sarker said, “The Rajakars do not deserve any mercy.” He urged everyone to join the sit-in until the verdict is executed. This was happening in a country for which many people of all walks of life of our society fought by ignoring families and personal life, for months. They have fought to free Bangladesh from the hostility of far rights and Pakistani military junta and their brutal local henchmen in 1971. As a generation of participating in 1971 war, I ought to think how meaningless the fight of liberation has become under the ignominious regimes of Zia, Ershad and voyeur politician like Begum Zia. It is possible to rebuild a secular state only if the government recognises its responsibility to identify the network of fanatics and prosecute the criminals, including those that hide under the banner of different noms de guerre.

Protesters considered Mollah’s sentence too lenient, given his crimes. Bloggers and online activists called for additional protests at Shahbag. Tens of thousands of people joined the demonstration, which gave rise to protests across the country. A counter-protest, questioning the validity of the tribunal and the protest movement and demanding release of those accused and convicted, was launched by Jamaat-e-Islami as its leaders were the majority of those first identified for trial. The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) expressed its support for Jamaat-e-Islami, a political ally of them.

On 27 February 2013, the tribunal convicted Delwar Hossain Sayeedi of war crimes and sentenced him to death. Jamaat followers protested and there were violent clashes with police. About 60 people were killed in the confrontations; most were Jamaat-Shibir activists, and others were police and civilians. In 1971 Bangladesh was the portion of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan known as East Pakistan. In the 1971 Liberation War of Bangladesh, the-then East Pakistan fought West Pakistan for nine months. During this period the Indian Army which provided guerrilla training to Mukti Bahini (Freedom Fighters), joined the war on 3 December 1971 in support of the liberation of former East Pakistan, now Bangladesh. The deadliest war ended on 16 December 1971 through surrender of the Pakistani Armed Forces to joint forces of Bangladesh and India, resulting in the formation of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh as a secular and independent state.

According to the famous Blood telegram from the United States consulate in Dhaka to the US State Department, many atrocities had been committed by the Pakistan Army and its supporter Al-Badar , Al-Shams…militia. Time Magazine reported a high-ranking US official as saying, “It is the most incredible, calculated killing since the days of the Nazis in Poland.”  Three million people were perished, nearly a quarter of a million women were raped and more than ten million people fled to India to escape persecution.

People of all strata of Bangladesh supported the clarion call of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to create a free and independent Bangladesh during the Liberation War. However, Pakistani supporters and members of Islamic political parties, particularly Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) and its student wing Islami Chatra Sangha (ICS), the Muslim League, the Pakistan Democratic Party (PDP) and Nejam-e-Islami, collaborated with the Pakistani army to resist the formation of an independent Bangladesh. The students belonging to Islami Chatra Sangha were known as the Al-Badr force; people belonging to Jamaat-e-Islami, Muslim League, Nizam-e-Islami and similar groups were called Al-Shams, and the Urdu-speaking people (generally known as Biharis) were known as Al-Mujahid. All these butchers went on rampage with all ferocities to murder the freedom-loving people of Bangladesh.

Since 2000, there has been growing demands in Bangladesh for justice related to war crimes committed during the 1971 struggle; and the issue was central to the 2008 general election. The Awami League-led, 14-party Grand Alliance included this issue in its election manifesto. Its rival, four-party alliance (which included the BNP and Jamaat-e-Islami) had several leaders alleged to have committed war crimes.

The Grand Alliance won the election held on 29 December 2008 with a two-thirds majority, based in part on its promise to prosecute alleged war criminals. On 29 January 2009, the new Parliament unanimously passed a resolution to prosecute the war criminals. The government intended to use the 1973 law: the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act. The government worked to amend the law, updating it and incorporating in it other nations’ experience. The amendments provided the legal basis, though there were some legal flaws to it, for the trial of individuals and political parties that had committed war crimes during Bangladesh liberation war in 1971.

On 25 March 2010, the Awami-led government announced the formation of a three-member tribunal, a seven-member investigation agency, and a twelve-member prosecution team to conduct the trials under the ICT Act 1973. The panel of three judges included Fazle Kabir and Zahir Ahmed, with Mohammed Nizamul Huq as chairman.  Abdul Matin, Abdur Rahim, Kutubur Rahman, Shamsul Arefin, Mir Shahidul Islam, Nurul Islam and M. Abdur Razzak Khan were appointed to assist the state prosecutors. Golam Arif Tipu was named Chief Prosecutor. Others prosecutors were Syed Rezaur Rahman, Golam Hasnayen, Rana Das Gupta, Zahirul Huq, Nurul Islam Sujan, Syed Haider Ali, Khandaker Abdul Mannan, Mosharraf Hossain Kajal, Ziad Al-Malum, Sanjida Khanom and Sultan Mahmud Semon.

A formal charge was filed by the prosecution against the ‘Butcher of Mirpur’ Abdul Quader Mollah on 18 December 2011. He was charged with: The Pallab murder; killing pro-liberation poet Meherunnesa, her mother and two brothers; the Khandoker Abu Taleb killing; the Ghatar Char and Bhawal Khan Bari killings; the Alubdi mass killing (344 people); and the rape and murder of Hazrat Ali and his family. On 5 February 2013, the ICT found Mollah guilty of crimes against humanity. He was sentenced to life imprisonment for the Alubdi and Ali killings and 15 years each for the Pallab, Meherunnesa and Taleb murders. The day before the verdict was announced, look at the temerity of Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami (of which Mollah was a leader), announced a nationwide dawn-to-dusk general strike for 5 February in protest of their leader’s conviction.

Many citizens especially young people were outraged that, given his crimes, Mollah was sentenced to life imprisonment rather than death. The verdict was criticised in social media, and a peaceful demonstration began at Shahbagh Square in Dhaka. Thus Ganajagoron Mancha came into being. Protesters’ demands: Death penalty for Mollah; death sentences for those convicted of war crimes by the International War Crimes Tribunal; a ban of Jamaat from Bangladeshi politics; and a boycott of Jamaat institutions.

Ganajagoron Mancha leaders swore an oath “that the leadership of the mass of people from the Gonojagaran Mancha (National Awakening Stage) will continue the movement from Teknaf to Tetulia until capital punishment is handed down to those Razakar and Al-Badr members who committed crimes against humanity like mass killing and rape in 1971. We take the oath that we will remain vocal, both on the streets and online, until the politics of the war criminals, Jamaat and Shibir, is banned and the citizenship of their members cancelled. We further take the oath that we will continue this demonstration and keep demanding trials, under a special tribunal, of those Razakars and Al-Badr activists who were convicted, and under trial, but freed after 1975. We swear that we will boycott the war criminals’ business entities – Islami Bank, Ibn Sina, Focus, Retina and various other coaching centres. We know through these they collect money to continue with their anti-liberation activities. We will also boycott the academic and cultural organisations through which they are spreading anti-liberation sentiments among the children. In brief, we will work for banning all the business, social and cultural organisations belonging to Razakars and Al-Badr activists. We swear that we will continue with our demand for stringent punishment of Jamaat and Shibir, who have committed crimes of sedition by threatening civil war, after making their immediate arrest by recognising them through video footage of news and newspaper pictures. We swear that we will boycott war criminals’ mass media like Diganta Television, Daily Naya Diganta, Amar Desh, The Daily Sangram, Sonar Bangla Blog. We will not subscribe to the newspapers of the war criminals at any office or house. At the same time, we request the pro-liberation mass media to boycott the war criminals and their accomplices.”

Protest began right after the verdict of Kader Molla, the ‘Butcher of Mirpur’ was announced. Student organisations started the protest immediately after the Judgment in the Shahbag square that was the actual call for people to gather in the Shahbag square within half an hour of the Judgment. It took half an hour to spread out the call for protest through different social media and later the satellite TV channels. Some other social and cultural organisations called for different programmes in the same venue who later worked together. Demonstrators gathered at Shahbag Circle; they painted murals on the road, drew cartoons, hanged effigies of war-crimes criminals and chanted slogans, with a vow to continue demonstrating until their demands were met. Protesters at night were chanting and holding torches in support of their call.

On 7 February 2013, demonstrations began at 8 am at Shahbag Square. Thousands of people gathered with banners, posters, Bangladesh’s flags and placards in Shahbag with their demands. On Friday afternoon, a mass rally was held at Shahbag with an estimated attendance of more than half a million. On 12 February 2013, protesters observed three minutes of silence at 4 pm at Shahbagh and all across Bangladesh. In Dhaka, traffic was stopped as thousands of people took to the streets, formed human chains and stood in silence. A Bangladesh Premier League game at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium halted for three minutes, as players and supporters observed the silence. Parliamentarians and the police also joined the protest. Bengali singer Kabir Suman wrote a song entitled “Tin Minit” (“Three Minutes”) in honour of the silent protest.

Further developments: On 21 February in the same year, International Mother Language Day, the number of protesters reached a new height. Its leadership declared 26 March 2013, the Independence Day of Bangladesh, as the deadline for the government to ban Jamaat-e-Islami from politics. The government did not ban Jamaat-e-Islam from politics after the deadline was over. Seven protesters calling themselves the Shaheed Rumi Squad began a fast until death on 26 March at 10:30 pm in front of the National Museum, protesting inadequate government action to ban Jamaat in response to the Shahbagh protesters’ ultimatum. The fasters said at a press briefing that they would send an open letter to Prime Minister Hasina during the 100th hour of their protests. More than 100 organisations expressed solidarity with the hunger strikers.

Sentencing of Delwar Hossain Sayeedi: On 28 February the International Crimes Tribunal sentenced Delwar Hossain Sayeedi, Nayeb-e-Ameer (vice-president) of Jamaat-e-Islami,  to death for convictions on 8 out of 20 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War. The protesters celebrated the sentence. Jamaat rogue followers were enraged by the decision, faithlessly claiming that the case against Sayeedi was politically motivated. Jamaat quickly called for a nationwide two-day strike, to start on 3 March. By afternoon, violence led by Jamaat-e-Islami supporters had erupted across Bangladesh. By the end of the day thirty-five people were dead, including three police officers; and an additional eight hundred were injured. According to the BBC, it marked “the worst day of political violence in Bangladesh in decades.”

Clashes between police and Jamaat-e-Islami workers continued on 1 March, spreading to the northern districts of Gaibandha and Chapai Nawabganj… Opposition leader Khaleda Zia criticised in a deceiving manner government brutality and Jamaat called for a demonstration in the capital, Dhaka. Security measures were increased to prevent the situation from escalating. The death toll rose to forty-four including six policemen. Former prime minister and BNP Chief Khaleda Zia declared a nationwide dawn-to-dusk hartal for 5 March, and called for countrywide rallies on 2 March to protest what she called government misrule, oppression, and mass killings to save the world’s most deadly war criminals.

On 3 March 2013, violence continued as the Jamaat-organised strike began. Jamaat supporters singled out Hindu citizens, attacked their homes in many parts of the country, and torched Hindu temples. More than 40 temples and many statues were destroyed and scores of houses set ablaze, leaving hundreds of people homeless throughout the country.

The Islamist pressure group Hefazat-e-Islam Bangladesh largely dominated by Jamaat-e-Islami murderers, has accused falsely several protesters of the Shahbagh of lampponing Muhammad, and making pornographic depictions of him. Large crowd with banners appeared in street  and assembled for protest in front of Chittagong Press Club against their heinous acts. The Shahbag protest has attracted people from all social strata to its just cause. The Shahbag intersection at the center of the protests has been referred to as “Generation Circle” (Bengali: Projônmo Chôttor) or “Shahbag Square.”  The protest spread from Shahbag to other parts of the country, with sit-ins and demonstrations throughout the country.

The-then State Minister for Law, Quamrul Islam, said that the verdict against Abdul Quader Mollah could have been different if people had not taken to the streets sooner. The government is planning to file appeals with the Supreme Court contesting the sentence for Mollah. On 11 February the Cabinet approved proposed amendments to the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act 1973, introducing a provision for plaintiffs to appeal verdicts handed down by the tribunal. This amendment enabled the state to appeal Mollah’s life sentence to turn it into death sentence.

Jamaat-e-Islami, which was already staging protests against the impending trial of its leaders, called for a general strike. It continues to demand that the international war crimes tribunal be stopped and its party leaders freed. Jamaat supporters had staged nationwide demonstrations with increasing frequency from November 2012 to February 2013, demanding the release of its leaders. Actions included firing gunshots, smashing and setting fire to vehicles and detonating homemade bombs. Violence was targeted at police stationed in the capital, Dhaka, and major cities. Several Jamaat-Shibir activists were arrested during the strikes and confrontations with police.

Semicircle of demonstrators held candlelight vigil in many overseas countries against the JeI goons and their accomplices. Bangladesh’s people abroad have expressed solidarity with the protests through social media websites Facebook and Twitter. Demonstrations of solidarity have also taken place in Australia, Malaysia, Germany, and the United States in support of the just cause of Ganajagoron Mancha movement. At a rally at the Angel Statue in Melbourne, demonstrators signed a petition to Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina demanding death for war criminals. Bangladesh’s people in Taiwan also expressed their solidarity with the Shahbag protests on 10 February 2013. Facebook  also had played an important role in spreading news worldwide about events at Shahbag.  A Facebook event was created calling for a protest at Shahbag; and the human chain which went viral on 5 February 2013. Facebook was one of the main sources of information about Shahbag protest among its activists. Bangladeshis used the Twitter hashtag “#shahbag” to provide live updates of the movement.

On 10 February, Bangladesh’s students gathered at Rutgers University in New Jersey to express solidarity with the Shahbag protests. Bangladesh’s students at the University of Delaware and nearby residents demonstrated their solidarity with the Shahbag movement on 15 February at a busy intersection in Newark, Delaware. A candlelight vigil was held that evening for Rajib, a blogger and activist who was killed several hours before the demonstration.

We swear that we will boycott the war criminals’ business entities – Islami Bank, Ibn Sina, Focus, Retina and various other coaching centres. We know through these they collect money to continue with their anti-liberation activities. We will also boycott the academic and cultural organisations through which they are spreading anti-liberation sentiments among the children. In brief, we will work for banning all the business, social and cultural organisations belonging to Razakars and Al-Badr activists.

International response: On 18 February 2013 British Foreign Office minister Sayeeda Warsi hailed the Shahbag Square protests, describing them as peaceful, productive and non-violent.

Media coverage: In Sreemangal, Moulvibazar cable operators in solidarity with the protests have stopped broadcasting the Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami television channel Diganta Television. Protesters in a crowd were holding up English-language poster. Protester showed placards to foreign media. The BBC, CNN, Yahoo! News, Reuters, Al Jazeera, The New York Times, The Independent and others have published stories on the protests; BBC Bangla has been closely following the events. Reuters photographer Andrew Biraj published “live” photos of mass demonstrations at Shahbag.

Outcome: On 11 December 2013 demand for quick execution of ‘Butcher’ Molla.’ The demonstration put pressure on the government to amend the International Crimes Tribunal Act so war criminals “can be swiftly executed if convicted”.  The cabinet also set a 60-day limit for the Supreme Court’s Appellate Division to rule on appeals, to keep the cases moving. This means that those who have been convicted and sentenced to death could be executed that year if their verdicts survived appeal. In response to popular protests, former Jute and Textiles Minister Abdul Latif Siddiqui said on 12 February that a bill was being drafted to ban Jamaat-e-Islami from Bangladeshi politics.  On 17 September 2013, Bangladesh Supreme Court found Abdul Quader Molla guilty of murders and other war crimes and ordered his execution and executed him on 12 December 2013.

Timeline 2013:

February 5 – Abdul Quader Molla is sentenced to life imprisonment. Initial gathering of protesters in Shahbag Square (also known as Shahbag Circle) took place.

February 6–7 – Protests intensify, crowds grew bigger, other cities and towns picked up protest. Bangladeshi diaspora and student communities abroad also begin to express solidarity with the protest.

February 8 Friday – Hundreds of thousands attended afternoon rallies in Shahbag and nationwide. The prominent figures of the country addressed the crowds.

February 9–10 – Protest continued countrywide.

February 12 – 3-minute silence was observed in Shahbag and all across the country. JeI students’ wing, Shibir attempted to disrupt with a mid-day rally which quickly turned violent as they used guns and bombs against police.

February 15 – Protester and blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider was killed. Haider had actively participated in the protest from the beginning and had written several blogs against Jamaat-e-Islami activities.

February 16 – Thousands of people from all professions gathered at Shahbag wearing black badges to show their respect on the death of Ahmed Rajib Haider. By touching the coffin, protesters swear not to return home leaving their demands unfulfilled.

February 17 – Various schools in Dhaka hoisted the national flag and sang the national anthem to express solidarity with Shahbag protesters. The Shahbag activists announced a grand rally to be held on February 21 and reiterated their demand of death penalty for war criminals.

February 18 – The Shahbag protest continued for the 14th day. Khelafat Andolon and Islami Oikya Jote demanded the death penalty for top bloggers (Omi Rahman Pial, Ibrahim Khalil, Arif Jebtik and Asif Mohiuddin) of the ongoing Shahbag movement for their strong stance against the baneful war criminals.

February 19 – British foreign office minister Baroness Sayeeda Warsi praised the Shahbag Square protest, describing it as peaceful and productive. Shahbag protesters vowed to spread their movement to the grassroots level by making ‘Gonojagoron Mancha’ (mass-upsurge stage) like Shahbagh square at every corner of the country.

February 20 – A smear campaign against Shahbag activists, branding them as atheist, anti-Islamic and anti-social elements by appealing to the religious sentiments of the people and at the same time trying to brand Haider as an atheist to justify his murder.

February 21 – After the movement ran for two weeks, with huge participation from masses of people, in the grand rally at Shahbagh held on February 21, 2013 in the afternoon, Dr. Imran H Sarker presented six demands before the people. An intelligence agency released a message to the news media and law enforcement agencies which stated that some anti-state elements would try to carry out destructive activities including suicide bomb attacks on places like Shahbag, Shaheed Minar and Baitul Mukarram. Law enforcement agencies arrested several Jamaat-e-Islami leaders and Shibir activists carrying explosives and planning to attack Shaheed Minar.

February 22 – Shahbagh Ganajagaran Mancha called for nationwide protest just 1 day after calling off their demonstration at Shahbagh. This happened after Jamaat activists went on a rampage in Dhaka city, clashing with police and attacking them with bombs and stones. Jamaat activists destroyed the Sylhet Central Shaheed Minar setting on fire the national flag of Bangladesh and flowers. Thousands of students and people angered by this vandalism attacked and set fire to some institutions owned by and linked to Jamaat-e-Islami in Sylhet city.

March 6 – The Shahbag protest has completed one month. What started from the bloggers and online activists has turned into a mass uprising, spread across the country to people from all walks of life, and among the expatriate Bangladesh’s people.

The Gonojagoron Monch Movement or the National Awakening Stage Movement is the biggest turning point in Bangladesh’s history. This very attempt to blot out forever the stigma of non-bringing the war criminals of 1971 to justice for decades and it may be one necessary link in the chain of events preparatory to the complete overthrow of the whole non-trialing system of the mass murderers. This movement served as a defining moment for those culprits to book and inflict due punishment to them, and the movement soon emerged as the most prominent one in the annuls of Bangladesh’s history.

Celebrated Educationist Prof Dr. Khan Sarwar Murshid once reminded us, “Forgetting or forgetfulness is equivalent to perfidiousness.” We should celebrate this great movement every year with due honour and admiration toward its organisers and people who actively participated and supported this crusading battle tending in the direction of a particular glorious goal-directed purposive. Because of the Gonojagoron Monch Movement, we could lawfully try six beastly animals and successfully executed them. We salute the Gonojagoron Monch Movement.

-The End –

Author: Sri Lanka Guardian

Sri Lanka Guardian has been providing breaking news & views for the progressive community since 2007. We are independent and non-profit.

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