Expressing solidarity with the Shahbagh movement, students render the national anthem after hoisting the flag at Viqarunnisa Noon School and College in Dhaka yesterday morning. Photo:Anisur Rahman
The unyielding Shahbagh protesters have called upon people to resist today's countrywide dawn-to-dusk hartal called by Jamaat-e-Islami by carrying out their routine duties.
They urged students and teachers to attend classes in all educational institutions, businessmen to keep their shops open, transport owners to bring their vehicles out on the streets and workers to go about their daily work in their collective efforts to defy Jamaat.
Already, different bus operators, businesses, educational institutions and political organisations have responded to the call and vowed to brave the shutdown.
"All educational institutions will remain open tomorrow [today]," Education Minister Nurul Islam Nahid told Ekattur television yesterday.
Meanwhile, the Shahbagh movement yesterday celebrated the fulfilment of its first and foremost demand -- amendment to the International Crimes Tribunal law.
The victory could not have come at a more appropriate moment for the protesters, who stood resolute at Shahbagh, defying the menacing clouds, biting cold and a light drizzle.
The crowd broke into exuberant cheers as they heard the news of the amendment empowering the war crimes tribunals to try organisations for complicity in crimes against humanity in 1971.
The amendment will also allow the victims and the government to appeal against any verdict given by the tribunals.
Demonstrators chanted â€œJoy Banglaâ€ with more vigour and conviction yesterday, danced in the rain, distributed sweetmeats in Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University and congratulated each other on their victory.
They also vowed not to lose sight of their ultimate goal and to keep occupying the Shahbagh intersection till their six-point demand was met.
The demands include capital punishment to all war criminals, banning Jamaat-Shibir and revoking the state power to grant clemency to any convict.
Imran H Sarkar, one of the key organisers of the movement, announced the news of the passage of the law to the crowd and hailed it as the first achievement of the movement.
"We'll continue our protests until our six-point demand is met," he later told The Daily Star.
The general public, for the most part, were content at the swift amendment and hoped that the law would be accordingly enforced.
"I'm only partially happy, because having a very tough law is just not enough. Seeing the criminal organisation tried in a court of law will make me happy," said Paban Sarkar, a computer science graduate.
â€œThe amendment has been brought about by the protests at Shahbagh. Now it remains to be seen how quickly the laws are enforced,â€ said Piplu Adhikary, who works at a private company.
At the protest venue, demonstrations in fiery slogans continued for the 13th consecutive day amid the first rain of the year. At 10:00am, protesters hoisted the national flag and sang the national anthem.
Students and teachers in schools, colleges and universities across the country sang the national anthem in unison and hoisted the national flag to express solidarity.
Dhaka University students and teachers, including its Vice-chancellor Prof AAMS Arefin Siddique, also joined the countrywide programme, singing the national anthem at 10:00am at the foot of Aparajeyo Bangla in front of the Arts Faculty.
After hoisting the national flag, Imran H Sarkar, convener of the Bloggers and Online Activists Network, urged all to resist Jamaat's hartal. "We all will continue our regular activities tomorrow [today]."
The protesters also called upon the media houses not to publish or broadcast any advertisements of Jamaat-linked institutions. They also urged people to wear black badges during the hartal hours and hoist black flags in memory of slain blogger and activist Ahmed Rajib Haidar.
"Jamaat er hartal, Shahbagh manena. Sombarer hartal, Shahbagh manena" (Shahbagh rejects Jamaat's hartal. Shahbagh rejects Monday's hartal).
Meanwhile, Bangladesh Shop Owners Association at a meeting yesterday decided to reject the hartal, and urged all the shop owners to keep their businesses open.
Bangladesh Transport Owners Association has also decided to operate passenger vehicles -- both in the city and on the long routes.
Dhaka University authorities, too, rejected the shutdown and decided to hold classes and examinations as usual.
Rashed Khan Menon, president of Workers Party of Bangladesh, at a meeting yesterday called upon all to build a resistance at every locality against hartal and violent activities of Jamaat and its student wing, Islami Chhatra Shibir.
Bangladesh Sarak Paribahan Samity, an association of bus owners, said it would maintain bus service throughout the country.
Besides, the association has decided to cancel membership of two bus companies, as owners of the companies are linked to Jamaat-e-Islami, said Khandaker Enayet Ullah, secretary general of the association.
"Investigation into another bus company is underway. If we can find its link with Jamaat, we will cancel its membership too," he added.
Later in the evening, at least 70 lawmakers, including Whip ASM Feroz, joined the demonstration. They went to the protest venue around 9:20pm and stayed for around 20 minutes, said Bappadittya Bashu, an organiser of the movement that began on February 5, demanding death penalty to all war criminals.
State Minister for Liberation War Affairs Capt (retd) AB Tajul Islam, State Minister for Housing and Public Works Abdul Mannan Khan and lawmaker Junaid Ahmed Polok spoke there and expressed their solidarity with the demonstrators.
Earlier in the day, Communist Party of Bangladesh, Musicians Alliance, Gonoforum, Sramik Karmachari Oikya Parishad, among others, expressed solidarity.