Demonstrators at the capital’s Shahbagh intersection were tirelessly protesting all day on Monday with support pouring in from people all across the country and the Parliament expressing solidarity with the undying spirit of the campaigners demanding death penalty for the killers and collaborators of 1971.
The movement which kicked off spontaneously last Tuesday demanding capital punishment for Jamaat-e-Islami’s Assistant Secretary General and war criminal Abdul Quader Molla continued for the seventh consecutive day as intense heat and tiredness failed to deter the indomitable spirit of the demonstrators.
But the crowd’s demand has shifted only from death sentence for Molla to capital punishment for all war criminals and banning of Jamaat, which opposed the War of Independence in 1971, and its student affiliate Islami Chhatra Shibir. The protesters are also calling for the boycott all Jamaat and Shibir affiliated organisations, bodies and business institutions.
The day begun at the ‘Prajonmo Chattar’ with the recital of poems and slogans like the past six days. More and more voices were joining the slogans and expressed solidarity with the demonstrators. Students from various schools and colleges also joined in.
Abdul Majid from Khulna, have been staying at Shahbagh for the last three days. He told bdnews24.com: “I was studying in class two when the Liberation War took place. I don’t remember much of that time. But I do remember the horror generated by the Razakars. That’s why I am here to support the youths of this generation.”
He said he stayed everyday overnight at the protest venue, but went to a relative’s house sometimes in the day to freshen up, eat and to get some rest.
Fruits seller Abdul Jobbar lives at Dhanmondi in the capital. He comes to Shahbagh every morning to join the protest with the young generation. “The youths are demanding justice, I want that too. I remember the days of my youth when I see them. That’s why I come here to encourage them.”
Blogger Baharul Islam is at Shahbagh from Day One. He told bdnews24.com: “This protest is not just ours, but all the people of the country. Our struggle will continue until we see all marked war criminals getting death penalty.”
Another blogger Mizanur Rahman said, “We have two main demands – death of all war criminals by hanging and banning all religion-based political parties including Jamaat.”
Meanwhile, the demonstrators at the key point were still chanting slogans tirelessly in the afternoon. The venue was full with people at around 1pm and the number was still growing as many groups were pouring in at the site of the protest.
Earlier at around 12:30pm, 1952-language movement veteran Abdul Matin expressed solidarity with the demonstrators.
Meanwhile, ‘cyber warriors’ upholding the cause of the Shahbagh protests were continuing their battle on Monday in Net space against those trying to run down the movement in the virtual world.
Dhaka University IT Society (DUITS), Slogan ’71 and Facebook based group ‘Mango People’ (the literal translation of common people – ‘Aam Janata’) were jointly acting as administrator of the Facebook page ‘Shahbag e Cyber Juddho’ (https://www.facebook.com/shahbagecyberjuddho) to carry out the battle on the internet.
Organisers set up shops on the road divider in front of the National Museum with laptops and internet modems. They said the ‘warriors’ were reporting to the Facebook administration about different Facebook pages and individual profiles which were “spreading lies and creating confusion” about the movement through the social networking websites.
DUITS President Abdullah Al Imran told bdnews24.com: “We are continuously portraying the true picture of Shahbagh for the cyber world. We are giving stern response to those who are running propagandas against this movement. Facebook page and profiles and blogs of Jamaat and Shibir activists are being reported as we speak.”
He said until Monday at least 50 Facebook pages and 20 blogs have been shut down following their reports to the networking sites.
Facebook fan page ‘Shahbagh e Cyber Juddho’ was launched on Saturday evening and until Monday evening had 19,059 likes.
On Sunday the Shahbag intersection was illuminated during midnight by thousands of candles and torch processions. Parliament and Bangladesh Cricket Team also expressed solidarity with the protesters on Sunday.
The air in the area was filled with slogans and mass music at the night. Many people were still coming from other districts to join the movement in Dhaka.
At least 500 students of Jahangirnagar University set up gallows for the war criminals in front of the National Museum. They on Monday distributed leaflets describing the similarities between German Nazi Party and Bangladesh’s Jamaat-e-Islami and seeking a ban on Jamaat.
Students of Dhaka University’s Faculty of Fine Arts held cultural programmes in front of their faculty as a mark of protest.
On Sunday noon, captain Mushfiqur Rahima and former captain Mashrafi bin Mortuza led the Bangladesh National Cricket Team and joined the protest at Shahbagh expressing solidarity.
Earlier the Bangladesh Premier League team Duronto Rajhsahi appeared at Shahbagh wearing team jerseys at around 11am. They were welcomed with a round of thunderous applause.
The movement which had begun on Feb 5 by a handful of protesters of the Bloggers and Online Activists Network continued for a week on Monday as the gathering at Shahbagh was joined by hundreds and thousands expressing solidarity with the cause.
The demonstrations had begun that day hours after the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT)-2 awarded Jamaat leader Abdul Quader Molla life imprisonment which the protesters are calling ‘too light’.
However, at the moment, the ICT Act does not allow the prosecution to seek a review of any conviction. It can only appeal if a tribunal acquits a suspect from war crime charges.
The government on Sunday said it will amend the current act soon. The Cabinet on Monday approved a draft amendment of the International Crimes Tribunal Act that, if approved in parliament, will allow both the defence and prosecution “equal rights” for appeal after conviction.
Meanwhile, the protesters at Shahbagh have vowed not to budge from the streets until the war criminals are awarded death sentences.