12:00 AM, February 21, 2013 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, February 21, 2013

Promise to the martyrs

Shahbagh youths release balloons with letters pledging to protect hard-earned independence

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Staff Correspondent

Attaching letters to martyred freedom fighters promising to build a better nation and rid the country of war criminals, the demonstrators at Shahbagh in Dhaka release balloons yesterday. Photo: Rashed Shumon

Imbued with the spirit of the Liberation War, thousands of protesters yesterday vowed to safeguard the nation's hard-earned independence and build a prosperous Bangladesh at any cost, even by sacrificing their lives.
They made the pledge in their letters to the martyred freedom fighters from Shahbagh. In a symbolic gesture, the protesters tied the letters to balloons, which were then released in the air.
As part of the ongoing movement demanding capital punishment to all the war criminals of 1971, letters were also released in different districts across the country.
To press home their demands, protesters will hold a grand rally at the Shahbagh intersection at 3:00pm today.
"You [freedom fighters] sacrificed your blood to liberate the country. It is now my turn to give my blood to eliminate the anti-liberation force from the country. I have come to the battlefield having bade farewell to my mother as you had done in 1971," reads a letter written by Bappy, a protester at the Shahbagh movement.
Thousands of other letters made similar pledges with similar vigour and spirit.
As the clock struck 4:13pm, the hour the Pakistani forces surrendered on 16 December 1971, demonstrators released the balloons that made a colourful canopy in the sky over the Shahbagh intersection, now known as Projonmo Chattar.
Noted writer Muhammad Zafar Iqbal was among those present at the protest venue at the time.
The nonstop movement began in the afternoon of February 5, hours after Jamaat assistant secretary general Abdul Quader Mollah was sentenced to life in prison for war crimes in 1971. Protesters say a life term is too lenient a punishment for Quader Mollah, who is known as the "Butcher of Mirpur" for his notorious role in the killing of hundreds during the war.
Imran H Sarkar, an organiser of the movement, in his letter addressed "to the greatest sons and daughters of the nation," wrote: "Sleep amidst the clouds. The Projonmo Chattar is awake, Bangladesh is awake. All the evil forces are bound to fail before the unbreakable shield that we have put up."
Two students of Saint Francis Xavier's Girls High School in Dhaka wrote: "Rest in peace, all martyrs. We keep vigil and we will."
Mili Rahman, widow of Birshrestha Motiur Rahman, wrote, "You [Motiur] must be feeling good. The youths have learned to protest, you see. With all my children [the protesters], I will fight till the last day of my life to rid the country of Razakars."
Throughout the day people from all walks of life thronged the protest venue, chanting slogans demanding death penalty to all the war criminals.
Dhaka University Officers Association, among other organisations, expressed solidarity with the protesters yesterday, the 16th day of the movement.
A group of renowned singers, including Subir Nandi, Andrew Kishore, Kanak Chanpa and Piaru Khan joined the movement around 1:30pm and expressed their solidarity. They also rendered patriotic songs to cheer up the protesters.
People of India's Tripura state have also expressed solidarity with the protesters. They gathered at the Zero line of Akhaura border where a "Gono Jagaron Mancha" was set up in the morning.
Chief Minister of Tripura Manik Sarkar expressed solidarity on behalf of the people, reports our correspondent.
Also yesterday, a 19-member team of Indian Football Lovers Association joined the protest to express solidarity with the people of Bangladesh. They cycled all the way from India.
Ikramul Hasan Shakil, a Bangladeshi youth, yesterday joined the Shahbagh movement, having walked 350 kilometres from Kolkata.
Driven by a unique idea, Shakil, a student of Uttara Engineering College, went to Kolkata on February 8. There he addressed a press conference at the Kolkata Press Club on February 10.
Around 11:30pm the same day, he started his journey to Shahbagh on foot.
"I have done this to draw the attention of the youths and to uphold the spirit of patriotism and the Liberation War in their minds," said Shakil, also a theatre activist.

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