Blogger Rajiv Haider’s death brought a new twist to the Shahbagh protesters. On Saturday, an even larger crowd thronged the square to attend funeral prayers for Haider, many vowing to avenge his death or breaking down in tears as his coffin passed. Haider’s family told reporters they believed he was stabbed to death for standing up to the Islamist Jamaat-e-Islami party and drawing people to the protests. Police said they had detained five suspects.
“Haider’s death has rekindled our spirits,” said Nasiruddin Yusuf, a film-maker. “It will not go in vain.” Large protests gripped other cities. Security forces patrolled streets in much greater numbers than in previous days.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina visited Haider’s home and told his grieving parents justice would be done. “Rajib Haider’s killers have no right to do politics,” she said in comments broadcast live on television. She said Jamaat and its affiliates “do not believe in democracy. They believe in terrorism. That is what they are proving again.” The protests were triggered by the life sentence imposed on Abdul Quader Mollah, assistant secretary-general of Jamaat, Bangladesh’s largest Islamist party. Most Bangladeshis had expected a death sentence on charges of murder, rape and torture.
A report in “Amar Desh” daily gave a detailed story about the blogger’s death in which a different story emerged. No matter how much the ruling party and the Shahbagh protesters would like to associate this killing to the opposition parties, all indications are that his death is the result of a personal vendetta against him by his lovers. Similarly the hacking death of the Bishawjit a month ago was blamed on the opposition. Luckily reporters had the whole incident on a video. Indeed the killers were Awami league student body cadres. The country seems to be running on misinformation and dramas produced by some creative people.
In the inception of the Shahbagh protests, it all appeared like a spontaneous event started by handful protesters against ICT’s decision to hand over a life sentence to Kader Mollah. They chanted for death to Kader Mollah and death to all Rajakars. Additionally they demanded banning of a major Islamist party like Jamaat along with their student wing Shibir. They demanded shutting down of a handful media televisions and newspapers (including Amar Desh) who are running the true stories. These media received threats from numerous parties. Most news media is only covering sanitized news now a days; afraid they will get the raw end if they don’t go along with the ruling party’s version of stories.
One should look carefully to the demands that emerged out of the Shahbagh protesters. Basically it was directed against the opposition parties. If all their demands are met, the opposition will be neutered. It would be same like 1975 when the AL leadership blunted the opposition totally and formed a one party system. One could sense these well planned protests at the Shahbagh Chottor bear similarities to 1975. It does not bode well for the survival of democracy in Bangladesh. One gets the feeling, without a free and impartial election commission, Bangladesh will have a doctored national election next and the country will submerge into a larger chaos.