Friday, February 22, 2013

Shahbag shows its spots

It initially started as a precursor to revolution. The smell of revolution was in the air, leading many to hope that change was around the corner. Many participated in it, even many more supported it. But in the end, the ugly face of it all was revealed.

Today, the 21st of February saw a "Mohashomabesh" (huge rally) at Shahbag, where the real demand was spelled out via the lips of the convener of the Bloggers and Online Activists Network, Dr. Imran H Sarker, with a watchful Siddique Nazmul Alam(Secretary of Bangladesh Chatro League, student body of the ruling party Awami League) breathing down his neck. That demand was the banning of Jamaat-e-Islami, largest Islamic party of Bangladesh. It always had been. Demanding the death penalty for Abdul Kader Mollah had just been the tip of the iceberg.

The Daily Star reported that, youths from Projonmo Chattar on Thursday demanded that the government press war crimes charges against Jamaat-e-Islami by March 26. The demonstrators also issued a seven-day ultimatum to the government for arresting the killers of Ahmed Rajib Haider, a blogger and active Shahbagh protester. They demanded the formation of an independent commission to take legal action against all organisations that patronise Jamaat and its student wing Islami Chhatra Shibir.

A number of left leaning student organizations also spoke at the grand rally. Chhatra Union President SM Shubho alleged the Jamaat-e-Islami had been using religion as its capital and created a business conglomerate. “It is running a terrorist network,” he said. Samajtantrik Chhatra Front General Secretary Mehedi Hasan Tomal, Biplobi Chhatra Moitri President Abdur Rauf and other speakers alleged the Jamaat was trying to confuse the people in the name of religion like they did during the War of Liberation. 

Fanning the fire in terming the demand for banning Jamaat-e-Islami's politics as logical, Foreign Minister Dipu Moni said on Thursday that the government was examining everything related with the issue. “The Shahbagh movement has spread all over the country. Besides demanding capital punishment for the war criminals, people across the country have demanded banning religion-based politics, especially the politics of Jamaat-Shibir,” the minister told reporters after paying tribute to the Language Movement heroes at Chandpur Shaheed Minar.

In a move that many see as a clear way to gain sympathy of the public on religious grounds, the youths called for arranging special Dua after Friday's Jumma prayers at every mosque across the country seeking salvation of the martyrs killed by Jamaat activists during and after the 1971 Liberation War. A bdnews24 report said that, on Feb 22, special prayers will be offered after Juma prayers in mosques and also other places of worships like churches, pagodas and temples seeking divine blessings for those killed in the hands of Jamaat and Shibir activists during and after the Liberation War.

A clear tendency of aggressively denouncing any alternative opinion was evident at the grand rally. Pro-government Bangladesh Chhatra League General Secretary Nazmul Alam came down hard on several news organizations for running propaganda against the Shahbagh movement. In this regard the name of Mahmudur Rahman, editor of the Daily Amardesh came up more than once as a Razakar (wartime collaborator). Rahman is known to be a critic of the present government and through his writings had played a leading role in exposing corrupt practices of the present government. Recently, he had also questioned the motives of the government regarding supporting the Shahbag movement and had criticized some of the leaders of the Shahbag movement for their role in spreading anti-Islamic propaganda through social media via writings, which for example, defamed of prophet Mohammad (S.A.W). Chhatra Union General Secretary Hasan Tarek termed Bangladesh Krishak-Sramik Janata League chief Bangabir Abdul Kader Siddiqui, 1971 wartime hero of Bangladesh with one of the most prestigious wartime titles, that of the Bir Uttom, as the  “new Razakar” and demanded that he be stripped of this title..

The leaders on the podium were vocal in their assertions that they were not against religion based politics, but sought to ban Jamaat due to its politics which they said used the concept of religion. Opposition activists closely watching the developments at Shahbag said that the demands of the protesters was a thinly veiled attempt at simply banning religion based politics from the political scenario of the country. The demand of banning of Jamaat was just a pretext in that direction. Opposition activists also said that the branding of the atheist slain blogger Raji Haider Shuvo, as a 'Shaheed', the sacred Islamic term for 'martyr', despite the objection by many organizations, personalities and people was a clear indication that religion was a weapon that Shahbag activists were using themselves.   

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