Mass stir turns Shahbagh into Tahrir Square

DHAKA: The city’s Shahbagh intersection evoked memories of the mass agitation in Egypt’s Tahrir Square on Wednesday with thousands of people continuing their sit-in programme to demand capital punishment for Abdul Quader Molla and other war criminals.

Vowing to continue their sit-in, People from all strata of life and organisers have announced to stage a grand rally at the city’s Shahbagh intersection on Friday demanding death penalty of war criminal Abdul Quader Molla.

Over 3,000 people from “Bloggers and Online Activists Network” joined politicians, teachers, doctors and students to swell the ranks of protesters sitting at the site since Tuesday evening, after a tribunal sentenced top Jamaat leader Molla to life imprisonment for crimes against humanity during the Liberation War.

The protesters carried the national flag, drums and guitars, singing and shouting slogans. Without showing any fatigue despite the overnight stay, the sit-in resumed at 8am on Wednesday with a rendition of the national anthem. The protesters then vowed to continue their agitation till their demand for Molla’s hanging was met.

At least 20 Dhaka University teachers also joined the programme at the intersection where several outfits gathered to reject the “lighter sentence” against the war criminal. The organisations gathered at the protest site included Charu Shilpi Sangsad, Udichi Shilpi Goshthi and Sangskritik Union, Workers’ Party of Bangladesh, Communist Party of Bangladesh, Bangladesh Samajtantrik Dal (BSD) and Gono Sanghati Andolon.

Students from the Fine Arts Institute of University of Dhaka vented their frustration by drawing a caricature of Quader Molla on the road, portraying him walking to the gallows with a noose around his neck. They also erected a makeshift scaffold and hanged Molla’s effigy.

Notwithstanding the hot sun of early spring, political leaders, irrespective of party affiliations, joined students on the intersection to sing songs from the Liberation War era and to demand capital punishment for all war criminals.

Environment and forests minister Dr Hasan Mahmud reached Shahbagh around 11:05 am and joined the programme to express solidarity with the demonstrators. He was followed by industries minister Dilip Barua, MP Israfil Alam, CPB leader Mojahidul Islam Selim, veteran politician Pankaj Bhattacharya, senior journalist Abed Khan and woman activist Shirin Akhter. Earlier, information minister Hasanul Huq Inu, shipping minister Shajahan Khan, Workers’ Party president and MP Rashed Khan Menon and Jahangirnagar University vice-chancellor Prof. Anwar Hossain had come to express their support for the sit-in programme.

Rashed Khan Menon said the defeated forces of 1971 have risen again. The MP recalled the movement by the Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Committee, which was spearheaded by Shahid Janani Jahanara Imam, in 1992 when Jamaat supremo Gholam Azam was sentenced to death by hanging in a mass trial at a “gano adalat”. He, however, lamented that Azam could not be hanged yet. “I would request the government not to divert the mass upsurge demanding the hanging of war criminals,” he said.

Mujahidul Islam Selim, president of the Communist Party of Bangladesh, termed the ICT verdict as “frustrating”. “Quader Molla was involved in brutal killings in Mirpur during the country’s Liberation War. But he received a very minor punishment,” he said.

Citing the verdict on Jamaat-e-Islami assistant secretary general Abdul Quader Molla, Prof. Gitiara Nasreen of Dhaka University’s mass communication and journalism department observed that it was not up to the expectations of the people.

“The mass movement, demanding capital punishment for Molla, is enough to convey their message to the government regarding their feelings on the verdict,” Nasreen noted.

This mass movement again proves that those who collaborated with the Pakistanis during the Liberation War have no place in Bangladesh. But after this verdict, the country’s people cannot trust the government any more, she added.

She said the people should appeal against the verdict.

Poet Kazi Rozi described the verdict as a farce. She said the government has disappointed the countrymen with the verdict. She also mentioned that the government, upholding the verdict, paid little respect to the souls of the martyrs who sacrificed their lives during the Liberation War.

“The nation would not forgive those who had betrayed and dishonoured the feelings of millions,” Kazi Rozi further observed.

Rokeya Kabir, executive director of the Nari Progati Sangha, observed that Quader Molla had killed at least 400 people during the Liberation War. Reminiscing the barbaric massacres of people during the Liberation War, she added that Molla’s associates had killed and raped many women.

“Hanging is the only punishment this criminal deserves.” Rokeya Kabir noted.

She also said people from all walks of life would not go back until the government fulfills the expectation of the people.

Prof. Mahfuza Khanam, president of Peshajibi Nari Samaj, said during the Liberation War, the young people stood up to free the country from Rajakars and collaborators of the Pakistani army. She added that the young generation have followed their predecessors in protesting against the light verdict on Molla.

Asked to comment on the verdict, she also said, “It’s simply unacceptable. We’re here not only to protest but also to get the right verdict.”

Siddique Nazmul Alam, general secretary of the BCL, said, “People from all walks of life, forgetting their party affiliations, are staging the protest at Shahbagh, demanding capital punishment for Quader Molla. We’ve joined the programme as well.”

Source: The Independent

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