Protesters at Shahbagh on Wednesday released balloons and tied with them letters they wrote to the martyrs of the War of Independence about the civil uprisings in Bangladesh 42 years on.
The ethereal communication is to connect generations for reliving the spirit of the Liberation War.
Millions of people have responded to the novel gesture like they did by observing three minutes of silence and lit candles to express solidarity with the movement.
The balloons flew high at 4:13pm in a gesture to announce that a new generation of freedom fighters has taken to the streets to purge the country of 1971 war criminals. Balloons were left fly in the districts at the same time.
That was the exact time when the Pakistan army had surrendered on Dec 16, 1971, within a few kilometres of the place where the Shahbagh protest is taking place.
The programme came as the protest rolled to 16th straight day on Wednesday demanding capital punishment to all convicted war criminals and a ban on politics of Jamaat-e-Islami involved in ‘crimes against humanity’ in 1971.
“Ek dabi, fanshi chai,” “Tomar Amar Thikana, Padma Meghna Jamuna,” “Joy Bangla,” were the slogans the protesters, mainly youth, chanted as they sent their letters to three million people who died for the nation’s freedom.
Freedom fighter Mohammad Sekandar Ali was holding an orange-colour balloon and a letter as the Shahbagh crowd began the countdown.
“The young generation has come down on the streets for war crimes trial. The trial has to be completed on the soil of Bengal,” said Ali, a freedom fighter.
He remembered his comrades ‘Khorshed’ and Ayub Ali who were martyred in the war.
“Some Bengalis encouraged Pakistanis to kill and rape women in 1971. They launched an assault on the honour of our mothers and sisters. The honour cannot be protected until all the war criminals are tried,” said another freedom fighter, Khairul Islam.
His demand for trying war criminals resonated more clearly with Rashedul Hoque, a student of business administration at Dhaka University.
“We want those who opposed independence struggle hanged. That’s why we have come here.”
A ‘grand rally’ is slated for 3pm on Thursday, Feb 21, the day youths laid down their lives in 1952 for the right to speak in their mother tongue Bengali in erstwhile Pakistan, to press for the demand.
Shahbagh activists have asked for singing national anthem at schools and colleges in support of the protest at the time.
Prior to the rally, floral wreaths will be placed at Shaheed Minar by the protesters in early hours of Feb 21 in memory of the Language Movement martyrs.
The movement took off after International Crimes Tribunal passed on life sentence to Jamaat leader Abdul Quader Molla, infamous for his war crimes and known as ‘Butcher of Mirpur’.
The ‘lenient’ verdict angered the people who waited for 42 long years to see the war crimes being tried.
The movement forced the government to amend the ICT law, giving victims the right to appeal and incorporating the provision of trying organisations alongside individuals for war crimes.
The amendment paves way for bringing Jamaat-e-Islami to justice for its anti-independence stance and killing of hundreds of thousands of people including intellectuals to thwart the freedom struggle.
The amendment also enables the prosecution to appeal his life term given after five of the six war crimes charges were proved beyond doubt against him.
Like the last 15 days, Wednesday began with protesters singing the national anthem in chorus as the day broke. More people joined the protest as the day wore on.
“Jamaat-Shibir Razakar, Ei muhurte Bangla Chhar,” chanted the protesters repeatedly throughout the day.
They sat to write the letter at 11am and it was announced from the Ganajagaran Mancha that the best letter would be preserved.
Students of Viqarunnisa Noon School & College arrive in a procession around 11:30am to a raucous applause.
Several youths were seen posing as freedom fighters in front of BIRDEM hospital holding guns carved out of bamboo.
“The youths will complete the unfinished task of the Liberation War. Then, the martyrs will rest in peace, and the nation will clean up,” said Md Shafiqul Alam Chunnu, a freedom fighter.