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Is Bangladesh’s Shahbag the Next Tahrir Square?

By Nayma Qayum

During the past week, thousands of Bangladeshis have gathered at Shahbag, a neighborhood in Dhaka, demanding justice for the war crimes of 1971. The protests emerged after an international tribunal sentenced Abdul Qader Mollah, assistant secretary general of the political party Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), to life in prison. 

Shahbag initially demanded the death sentence for Mollah. Its slogans, posters, and banners said “rajakarder fashi  chai” (we demand the hanging of war criminals). Bangladeshis’ demands for the death penalty can only be understood in the context surrounding the trials. These trials followed a long, 42-year struggle for justice. The crowd burnt effigies of Mollah, and wore T-shirts with pictures of a noose around his head. But they also held candlelight vigils for the estimated three million lives lost during the war. More importantly, the protests sought the death penalty given the ineffectiveness of the justice system.  In Bangladesh, politically affiliated criminals often serve a mere fraction of their sentences, and re-enter politics upon their release from jail. While serving their sentences, they typically received all the perks of a high-end hotel.  

Over the course of the protest, however, Shahbag’s chants also reflected the desire to altogether ban Islamic fundamentalism from politics. The protest’s frontline leaders made their formal demands on February 21, the anniversary of Bangladesh’s Language Movement of 1952, which paved the road to the country’s liberation. In addition to capital punishment for the perpetrators, the protestors demand an official ban on Jamaat (JI), and all Islamic extremist groups, and its affiliated organizations. JI had publicly opposed Bangladesh’s freedom in 1971, and many of its members allegedly collaborated with the Pakistani Army in the conduct of genocide and other war crimes. Presently, they are Bangladesh’s leading conservative Islamic party. It possesses a strong, radical grassroots base, predominantly controlled by their student wing, the Bangladesh Islamic Chatra Shibir (Shibir).

Bangladesh’s bloggers and online activists’ network instigated this call for resistance. With the help of online media, news of the protest spread like wildfire. At its peak, the event drew an estimated 100,000 people — students, professionals, musicians, writers—united, for the very first time in years, under the banner of Shadharon Jonogon (ordinary people). In less than a week, Bangladeshis held smaller protests in cities as far away as London and New York. Protestors published thousands of pictures online, in blogs, on Facebook, Twitter, and online magazines. A week and a half into the protest, Shahbag’s organizers planned to reduce the movement from a 24-hour effort into what they called ‘3-10’, a protest seven hours a day. However, the brutal murder of Rajib Haider, blogger, and one of Shahbag’s frontline leaders, gave the protests renewed momentum. Some of the international media coverage compared Shahbag with Tahrir Square. Its fresh, young, and energetic participants have called this event “Shahbag Revolution Square, the Bangladeshi Spring.” In Bangla, they called it “Projonmo Chottor,” the “Square of the Generation.”

Shahbag showed that Bangladesh, submerged in a crisis of weak and exclusive political institutions, held no dearth of solidarity. In a city paralyzed by stagnant traffic, people set up food stalls in the area for protestors’ convenience, and some even handed out free food and snacks. The event reflected the intellectual undercurrents of Bangladesh’s many earlier uprisings—rows upon rows of people drawing pictures and painting banners, musicians and dancers performing, and creative slogans. Even the location was meaningful—Shahbag, close to Bangladesh’s museum and Dhaka University, was a key hub for Bangladesh’s intellectual activity.

Why Shahbag is Puzzling.

Shahbag surprised Bangladesh for two reasons. What compelled thousands of ordinary citizens to gather in support of an issue as controversial as capital punishment? Why would citizens gather to demand justice for war crimes committed 42 years ago, when they have remained silent on the many ills that currently plague Bangladesh? Bangladesh has experienced rapid, but extremely inequitable growth. At 6.7 percent GDP growth (2011), Bangladesh’s development matched many of its peers. And yet, over 30 percent of its population lives below national poverty lines. Booming urban industries—ready-made garments, transportation, and housing—have created an additional urban crisis of poverty and housing.  Corruption is rampant, and governing institutions are weak. The country has a history of topping Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index. Basic freedoms declined—Freedom House scores dipped since the country became democratic in 1991. As a result, politics has been highly unstable—ruling parties, once assuming power, have a history of not finishing their terms in office, often forcibly removed on allegations of repression and mismanagement.

Ordinary Bangladeshis, the non-partisan citizens, have remained surprisingly silent on Bangladesh’s governance issues. Why, then, have they stood up for this issue with such vigor? What compels them to demand the death penalty for crimes committed 42 years ago? What is Shahbag for Bangladeshis?

Shahbag is…

…an expression of citizenship. In a country where repressive and ineffective governments block most avenues for participation, Shahbag provides a platform for citizens to be heard. It is a space that citizens have carved out for themselves, to engage in political activity for the sheer act of expression. Slogans in Shahbag extend beyond calls for justice, to reflect Bangladesh’s liberation and history. The posters, banners and artwork brought to life Bangladesh’s flags, maps, and national symbols.

…the ordinary people. The many uprisings in Bengal’s history show that Bangladeshis are deeply political. And yet, Bangladeshis despise politics because they find it dirty and exclusive. In a country where partisanship has infiltrated every walk of life, Shahbag started off as non-partisan. The protestors took pride in calling themselves Shadharon Jonogon (the ordinary people). Initially, they threw out political leaders who attempted to infiltrate the gathering., an online news channel reported that when Mahbub-ul-Alam Hanif, Awami League (AL) joint general secretary and special aide to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina arrived at Shahbag, protestors threw bottles at him. AL Presidum Member Sajeda Chowdhury was forced to leave without speaking a word. Shahbag is a call to the government that we, the ordinary people, exist.

…an opposition to the ruling party’s backdoor politics. For decades, Bangladeshis have been demanding a fair trial for the 1971 war crimes. And yet, the recent trials clearly showed the Awami League’s tendency to retain power through backdoor politics, and particularly, JI support. Many Bangladeshis felt that the tribunal fell far below the required international standards. The jury lacked qualifications, and most reputed Bengali lawyers did not participate during the trials. Second, the tribunal added the 5th Amendment to the International War Crimes (Tribunals) Act 1973s to avoid retrial. The Act originally permitted citizens to appeal the outcome of any war crimes trials. However, the 5th Amendment initially permitted retrial, only in cases of acquittal.

The AL-Jamaat alliance has frequently emerged in Bangladesh’s history. In 1986, the AL refused to participate in elections under Martial Law during General Ershad’s regime. Standing in Dhaka’s Lal Dighir Moydan, AL leader Sheikh Hasina had claimed, that whoever participated in the upcoming elections would be a national traitor. In an effort to secure the position of opposition leader over Bangladesh Nationalist Party’s (BNP) Khaleda Zia, the AL joined hands with the JI, another leading opposition party, and contested at the last minute. In 1991, when Jamaat elected known war criminal Ghulam Azam as its leader, secular political figures created the Ghatok Dalal Nirmul Committee (Committee to Exterminate the Killers and Collaborators) under the leadership of Jahanara Imam. The Committee set up mock trials across Dhaka in March 1992. Upon Jahanara Imam’s death in 1994, the AL once again allied with Jamaat for elections, and upon taking office, labeled the committees’ activities as unlawful. Such backdoor politics is not uncommon behavior for either of the ruling parties. However, Shahbag prompted the government to take a stand against Jamaat. On February 17 the Awami League government passed an amendment to the ICT act, incorporating a provision for trying political parties and organizations alongside individuals, and providing the government with the right to appeal verdicts, alongside defendants.

…an opposition to Jamaat. Jamaat has a formidable political presence in Bangladesh. Since the 1990s, Islamic politics has grown in a region that has a predominantly secular history. Shahbag is an oh-so-important reminder of Bangladesh’s parallel identity—of secularism, of its intellectual history, of the young people who are standing up in opposition to mainstream Jamaat’s repressive agenda.

…the spirit of the liberation war. Shahbag shows the deep emotional bonds that tie Bangladesh’s younger generation to their country’s national struggle. Ordinary citizens fought the liberation war under the leadership of defected armed forces commanders. The protesters are the children of these civil combatants. Some have lost family members in the war. The pain and frustration of their families, disillusioned by Bangladesh’s weak and unresponsive governments, have jarred them. Shahbag shows that Bangladesh’s youth consider themselves children of this ongoing war, and feel it is their duty to see the nation’s battle through to the end.

Shahbag is not…

…in favor of the death penalty, for the sake of the death penalty itself.  The flurry of online responses to Shahbag clearly showed that many Bangladeshis did not support capital punishment. Other, however, felt a 15-year sentence is too lenient for a man who allegedly committed 344 murders. Underlying the demands of the death penalty is an uprising against Bangladesh’s weak and ineffective justice system. Shahbag sought justice for the many lives lost in silent killings, for the brutal murders of journalists Shagor and Runi in their own homes, for Biswajit, beaten to death in broad daylight in Dhaka streets. Shahbag shows how frustrated Bangladeshis are with a justice system that attaches such little value to the life of the ordinary man.

…Tahrir Square. Yet Shahbag is not a movement, for it does not yet involve a series of events. It is not yet a revolution, for it has not yet toppled a government. But do not be fooled by the simplicity of its demands. Shahbag has tangible goals, which is far more than we could have said for Occupy Wall Street. It has a massive support base, and grew so rapidly that it took its own organizers by surprise. Shahbag demands something tangible, which stands upon the larger causes of justice, good governance, and respectable leadership. Bengalis have often resisted authority with concrete, perhaps even limited demands.  However, deeper, more powerful causes drove many of these movements.  The tebhaga movement demanded a fair share of harvest for Bengal’s farmers, but in many areas, received its momentum from the anti-colonial movement. The Language Movement of 1952 simply demanded recognition of Bengali as an official state language, but scholars now recognize the event as the first of a series of uprisings leading to Bangladesh’s independence. Bangladesh has yet to see what Shahbag will bring. But it would be foolish to undermine its significance, by virtue of its simplicity.

…likely to topple the system. The Awami League, like other ruling parties, has often managed to spin politics in its favor. They can hardly unleash party goons and police at the peaceful and joyous protest that Shahbag has become. The party cannot afford to have the blood of Bangladesh’s youth, musicians, artists, writers, and general public on its hands. Initially, the parties had taken the softer route to containing Shahbag. Soon after its beginning, the student wings of ruling parties AL and BNP, the Chhatro League and Chatro Dol, came together to assume leadership of the protests. Some Shahbag protestors have wrongfully embraced this move, assuming that the two parties have united for the greater cause of justice. Both the AL and BNP have publicly declared their support for the protests, which makes one question whether Shahbag can continue to remain apolitical.

Shahbag’s continued spirit shows that ordinary Bangladeshis are not ready to give up so easily. However, no movement can emerge without certain institutional resources—leadership, finances, and organization. Whether Shahbag can grow into something more, depends on the ability of its members to harness the event’s momentum, and give it organizational strength. 

It is too soon to answer many of the questions that these events raise. Will Jamaat retaliate? Will the movement now turn violent? Can the uprising stay non-partisan? Will Jamaat be banned from Bangladeshi politics?

Two weeks into the uprising, the Bangladesh Government has attempted to appease Shahbag protestors by considering the ban of Jamaat, thus distracting the world from the uprising’s original demand—the war crimes trial. Like any other political party in Bangladesh, Jamaat, and its student wing, Shibir have engaged in their share of violence. Those in favor of banning Jamaat argued that that the party should not be allowed to exist given its anti-liberation stance in 1971. However, not all rajakars were Jamaatis, and not all Jamaatis are rajakars. Banning the party without vetting war criminals runs the risk of their re-entry into politics, perhaps under the auspices of a new political party, or the banner of an already existing party. If banned, Jamaat may take its activities underground, and without repatriation its cadres could resort to crime. Shahbag’s leaders, however, were not distracted. Their demands included a ban on Jamaat, but death penalty for the war criminals remains their first objective.

So, now that Shahbag’s leaders have made their demands, what concrete steps can the government take? The movement may phase out until March 26, the government’s deadline to meet these demands. But before retrial, the people of Bangladesh deserve an investigation of the trial’s proceedings. The investigation can be followed by the creation of an inclusive War Criminals Committee who can draw up a comprehensive list of untried war criminals, and select a tribunal of international standards. For this, Bangladesh could draw on the experience of the Iraqi National Conference, and Afghanistan’s Loya Jirga, among others. The newly launched website can be a depository of available information on war criminals and war crimes.



Nayma Qayum is a PhD Candidate at the Graduate Center, City University of New York, and a research fellow at BRAC. 

[Photo courtesy of Rajiv Ashrafi]


Anonymous's picture
My understanding

The murderers ande tortures must not escape accountability for their crime. But the consequence of the calculated hysteria of "ghatok dalal nirmul koro", the instrumentalization of our liberation war havent been just to immunize the present rulers from legitimate criticism. Its overarching purpose is to deflect criticism of an unprecedented assault on our democracy. The youth on the Sahabag square sooner or later have to address the cardinal issue: Do not all the malnourished, ill housed millions of our country who live in filth and dire poverty, without electricity, or medical care, or clean water have the right to enjoy the fruits of our liberation.? The recent events in Bangladesh are tragedies of historic dimensions. The Shahbag spectacle ,run by the ruling party foot soldiers and lackeys, is in fact a depressing barometer of the status in the social and cultural conciousness of our country. How else to explain the perverted euphoria, the distributing of sweets at the news of death sentence of another humun being ? Barely having recovered from the fakery and propaganda we are now confronted with atavistic forms of religious zealotry unleashed by the reactionery Jamatis.

Anonymous's picture
I believe this is the most

I believe this is the most neutral account of the recent situation in Bangladesh: An Unbiased Account Of The Shahbag Protest In Bangladesh, 2013 The Shahbag Protest of 2013 in Bangladesh is a gathering of thousands of protesters in the Shahbag area of the capital city of Dhaka, Bangladesh, that began on Tuesday, February 5th, 2013, with the demand of capital punishment for Abdul Quader Mollah and other accused war criminals of the 1971 Liberation War of Bangladesh. There is a confusion regarding actual leadership of the protest. The Awami League government claims that the protest is a demonstration of public support for their party and also that they are not leading it in any way. Many in Bangladesh would disagree with both of these claims but it cannot be denied that many who have joined the protest don’t support Awami League. Many are ordinary citizens who are unaware of the complicated legal or constitutional implications that their demands might involve. Even though the protest was supposed to be a reaction against Awami League government failure to prosecute effectively, it actually took shape more in the form of anger and hatred towards the defendants, and since the trial of war time collaborators is specifically a government initiative, many don’t have the option of not going along with the government and many even don’t have the interest or capacity to do so . All protesters are being supplied with food and drinks regularly and although a full list of the sources of funding have not yet been published, some pro government companies and some that are in the government blacklist for tax evasions or other legal irregularities, such as the Bashundhara Group, have voluntarily revealed the amount of their contribution towards the protest and made it clear that it is actually them, and not the government, who are funding the protest. The amount revealed has been found by many observers to be justifying only a small proportion of the actual funding that must have been required by the protest. The protest has been described as peaceful in general but there are scattered reports of extortion of companies by allegedly Awami League supporting mobs, who, it is claimed, had blackmailed some of those companies with statements such as “if you don’t pay for the welfare of Shahbag, you will be reported as agent company to war criminals”. Recent news also reported of threats to politically neutral critics, professors and journalists and an attempt to label a popular freedom fighter of the 1971 Liberation War of Bangladesh, Kader Siqqiqui, also known as Bongo Bir (the Hero of Bengal), as a Rajakar (war time traitor) by the protesters at Shahbag for denying to go along with the present government. There are also rumors that girls have been abducted (allegedly for fun?) from Shahbag by government supporting youth, although its authenticity is yet to be established. Opponents of the protest claim that majority of the local media are covering the situation in Bangladesh from a biased standpoint, so there might be more about the protest than what we actually know. The government has taken action against some media (local and online) that were spreading critical views on the government or the protest. Demands And Legal Implications The specific demands of the protesters and how to achieve them are not yet clear and is a popular topic in the media, the talk shows and the academia. It is not a protest about bringing the accused to trial but a demand for some specific punishment. It still remains to be clarified as to how it is that the protesters want the government to influence the verdict of a court, how it is that a court can be bound by some pre-decided non-judicial verdict or whether being accused itself is a sufficient criterion for guilt. A second trial would conflict with the basic principle of law that a person cannot be tried twice for the same offense. For some, a viable option that is left is for the prosecution to appeal to superior courts and wait for the judges there to take the sentiment of the protesters into account. The government has promised to amend the law with provisions for the prosecution to appeal against sentencing, but this gave rise to further concerns among the intellectual circles of Bangladesh as to why the initial trial was not conducted under such provisions. Nevertheless, even that would be a matter of time and many are finding it difficult to ascertain as to what could immediately be offered to the ongoing protests. As the protest progresses, it is is slowly turning its demands of hanging the culprits of 1971 to the banning of the whole of Jamaat-e-Islami and all organizations, banks, schools, hospitals and companies affiliated to it, and some have even cried out for the banning of all forms of religious politics, outraging a devout Muslim majority across the country. Meanwhile, armed supporters of the government have attacked many institutions around the country without warning, causing casualties, including death. Historical Context And Development Of The Protest Abdul Quader Mollah was charged with abetting the Pakistani army and actively participating in the 1971 atrocities in Bangladesh. In 1973, he, along with others, was pardoned as part of a general amnesty issued by the Awami League government at that time, under Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, due to legal difficulties surrounding the issue. After forty years, the present Awami League government, under Sheikh Hasina, resumed the trial of some of the accused by setting up a special tribunal and naming it the International Crimes Tribunal to win back the support of the public amidst massive dissatisfaction regarding Awami League rule since 2009. On February 5, 2013, the International Crimes Tribunal of Bangladesh sentenced Mollah to life in prison after he was proven guilty in five out of the six charges against him. Within hours of the verdict, an online community, the Blogger and Online Activists Network (BOAN), successfully managed to publicize its event to protest the verdict, to be held at Shahbag, primarily with the help of the social networking site Facebook. Initially members of the Chhatra League, the student wing of Awami League, initiated the protest, but soon were joined by many neutral people who wanted revenge for the 1971 war time activities of Jamaat-e-Islami and also by passive, curious observers and those who just wanted to be a part of an important event whatever its agenda might be, after the mainstream media covered the protest at Shahbag nationwide through TV channels with statements such as “the nation is getting united in the manner of Tahrir Sqaure”. The protest has continued ever since. The Murder of Rajib Haider After a tiring ten day period it was decided by the protesters that the protest would be continued only symbolically from Friday, 15th February, 2013, onwards. But on that same day, Rajib Haider, who was among the bloggers who initially called for the Shahbag protest, was brutally murdered by unidentified individuals after he returned from the protest that day. The government blamed it on Jamaat-e-Islami while Jamaat-e-Islami officially denied the allegation. Government activists requested the protesters that the protest be rekindled and carried on in the previous manner until revenge is extracted on Jamaat-e-Islami. Nationwide Reactions Opinions vary regarding the motives, the method and the outcome of the protest. In Bangladesh there are many who are supporting the protest strongly. Many among them are ordinary citizens but there is also a significant number of Awami League activists merged within the crowd. Those who do not want the government to hijack the protest for their own purposes have tried to prevent government officials to speak in the protest. But government supporters are also active and have physically injured a female protester who was trying to prevent a government official speak. The second group of people are the supporters of Jamaat-e-Islami, who are openly denouncing the protest as a plot instigated by the ruling Awami League to neutralize political opponents and to divert anti-government sentiments before the coming of the next general election. They are arguing for their democratic right to participate in politics, which, many protesters believe, they do not have. They claim that the initial tribunal set up by Awami League was not fair enough, proven by reports from several international entities complaining of procedural restrictions on the defense and the admissibility of hearsay evidence in favor of the prosecution, the abduction of defense witnesses by law enforcers and the sensitive information regarding the trial process that were leaked when a Skype conference of the chairman of the tribunal went public revealing government pressure on the tribunal. They claim that their few central leaders have been accused retrospectively for crimes committed by many localized individuals during the 1971 wars. They also claim that the passing of the life sentence in the initial trial was intentional and influenced by the government, as a protest supporting government cause was what the government wanted most to achieve from it, which would eventually enable them to achieve not only the elimination of political opposition but also show public support for it and at the same time neutralize massive anti-government sentiments that arose during their rule since 2009. They claim that the breadth and scope of the Shahbag protest are being highly exaggerated and publicized by elements of the government while Jamaat-e-Islami supporters are being killed nationwide during strikes and demonstrations without being covered significantly by the media. There is a rumor that they have already threatened the government with civil war. Many religious minded people and groups are sympathizing with Jamaat-e-Islami. A third group of people (probably a majority of the people) have appreciated the spirit of the protest but believe that singling out only the capital punishment of the criminals of 1971 among hundreds of other issues bothering the country today would be an immature policy to adopt and would only benefit the cause of an increasingly fascism embracing Awami League, when, in reality, the major cause of crisis in Bangladesh today are in fact the activities of the ruling political parties, Awami League and BNP. They believe that all issues haunting the country today should now be put together and the energy channeled towards a real change in national politics in the spirit of the Language Movement of 1952 or the Liberation War of 1971, and that the Shahbag protest is achieving just only the opposite: creating support for a corrupt government by promoting selective issues. They believe that misusing the sentiments of 1971 Liberation War of Bangladesh in politics is just as appalling as misusing religion in politics and that its time to usher in an era where politics would be about people’s welfare. They believe that the government is taking advantage of a nation’s nature of “going with the crowd” to realize their ambitions of staying in power and exploit the country for another five years. This third group of people would not like to see the mainstream political parties such as Awami League, BNP or Jamaat-e-Islami in power, at least not without major internal reforms, any longer. International Reactions Since 2009, under Awami League, Bangladesh has suffered some downturns in international relations (with the exception of India, whom Awami League traditionally considers to be a source of political and diplomatic strength) and it is yet to be seen how the international community reacts to the protest at Shahbag. Till date, international media has tried to cover the situation in Bangladesh as objectively as possible but some coverages, particularly those by journalists who are themselves Bangladeshi expatriates, echo the same pro-government/anti-government bias that, to this day, has prevented, and will continue to prevent, the thoughtful progress of their own country into anything desirable. The text of this page is available for modification and reuse under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 3.0 Unported License and the GNU Free Documentation License (unversioned, with no invariant sections, front-cover texts, or back-cover texts).

Anonymous's picture
Shahbagh appolopsi

Shahbagh is a pre-planned event set forth by left parties merely exists in Bangladesh. Union, Chattra Front, Chattra Moitri....are some of useless entities who recently captured their biggest achievement through mass media collaboration to gather and unite people in the name of bringing nation's criminals into justice. They have cunningly confused the mass people that they are the pro independence force and fighting against Razakars. Seeing this non-sense makes me feel sick. We all know why after all these years since our independence, the Razakars are still not under justice. Two major parties who are Changing their buttons in the race of country's leadership have compromised this most important issue for the sake of their own parties interest. If Razakars are to be brought in justice, we need to bring all others who acted as 'neo natsi' to make our country a living hell after four decades passed our independence. It is easy to bring issues that is over 40 years old, but why aren't we bringing issues that are happening every day in Bangladesh. My suggestions to the people of Bangladesh, STOP politics in educational institution for once and for will start to see success in National politics. We really need students to spend time to study and educate themselves and take the country to a progress and prosperous direction.

Anonymous's picture
Clever ways to demean the Shahbag movement

What a twisted way to represent the young people movement for war crimes trial. Your twisted thinking let down the young minds as it clearly shows that you were trying to malign the government while did not utter anything with the BNP- the shelter of the 1971 independence war criminals Your university should inquire abut your motive for writing this piece

Anonymous's picture

The writer on "clever way to demean...." is one among the hot headed supporters of Awami league (AL) or member of leftist parties who either fought against AL in 72-75 era or formed alliance to make Bakshal- a fascist initiative in the world historical process. Shahbag is a planed platform created by duffer intellectuals of AL, CPB and rest members of 14 party alliances. Who are the young people of Shahbagh? They are all from the above named parties plus religious minorities who are afraid that Bangladesh's Islamic identity may come back if nationalist like BNP comes back to the power. Who have seen that a mass uprising is protected by 3 tire security by the government? Why they are chanting the same slogan that AL loves the most? Why they are being given food, water, money, and amusement by AL business people? Why pro-government/AL TV & print journalists are acting like activists rather than commentators? Yes, Shabagh implies that AL has exhausted all its efforts/strengths on the eve of its sky-high failure for Padma Bridge, Destiny, Unus scandal, Bismillah & Hallmark money looting, Share market collapse, Surunjit's read hand caught with black cat, Shagor Runi killing, Bishwajit killing, Illus and other political leaders disappearance, President's mercy for release of series of criminals, 1000 killing by BSF, giving land to India, giving transit without water,............... But it is Shahbagh game has finally antagonized the religious leaders, Jamat has started all out war, Ulemas have declared to stage huge show-down, BNP is observing and perhaps planning to do something in their favor. Shahbag has ensured death sentences but how will it encounter all the charges against AL and BNP's attack when its combined strength is only 1 lack people. How long police will be giving support when so many peoples are being killed? Perhaps the price will be paid only by AL as it happens always; the others have nothing to loose as they never had anything. As a good supporter of AL, I would suggest AL to stop this drama and start meaningful dialogues with Ulema & BNP- that can rescue AL not Shahbagh. -Monish

Anonymous's picture

The activity of the online movement around Shahbag especially on Twitter is impressive: And the immediate reactions to events on the ground can clearly be seen reflected online:

Anonymous's picture
Thank you for this

Thank you for this well-written and balanced piece. As you say, Shahbag is puzzling in so many ways: I would say the most surprising was the reaction of people after the murder of Rajib. Jammat hoped that they could use Islam to nullify Shahbag movement by spewing out massive propaganda about his alleged writings on Islam and branding the Shahbag movement as against Islam (and they continue to circulate hateful comments/articles against the movement through blogs and newspapers like Amar Desh, Naya Diganta, Sangram etc), and a lot of people (including me) who are for the movement were afraid that they would succeed. But I am so very happy to be proven wrong :)
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