People's protests fuelled from Shahbagh
The Bengali spring has arrived, the gloom of winter has finally been removed. On February 5, a new generation of activists started a movement from the Shahbagh intersection in Dhaka, criticising the weak verdict pronounced by the International Crimes Tribunal in the case against Abdul Quader Mollah.
Like an avalanche, this movement has spread to the nooks and corners of the country and has outstripped and outsmarted the street terror exercised by cadres of the Jamaat-e-Islami. There cannot be the slightest doubt about the verdict pronounced by the people of Bangladesh: the highest punishment must be meted out to those leaders of the Jamaat-e-Islami and to other reactionary politicians who helped the Pakistani army implement its policy of genocide in 1971.
The vibrant and spontaneous people's movement started by the youth has appropriately erupted in the month of February, just before the start of Falgun, and this has more than symbolic significance. It clearly fits in a long and powerful tradition of active political engagement by Bangladesh's students and youngsters. Indeed the movement is a very worthy successor to the world famous language movement for recognition of Bengali language staged in February 1952, a movement in which students of Dhaka University played a leading role.
Sure, the present movement must also be understood against the background of the Arab uprising for democracy. Sure, this is a different era, and the initiative of the Blogger and Online Activist Network (BOAN) has been crucial towards the successes scored so far. Still, the present upsurge is primarily a tribute to the courage and farsightedness of Bangladesh's younger generations.
Unfortunately, based as we are in Europe, we are far away from the field of struggle. Yet, along with other members of the Bangladeshi Diaspora, we wish to express our heartfelt support to the 6 point demand programme that BOAN has submitted to Bangladesh's Parliament.
We entirely agree with the protestors that this movement's target cannot be limited to the issue of adjudication of war criminals alone. For the scope for democracy and human emancipation can only be broadened durably if the party of war criminals, the Jamaat-e-Islami, and other fundamentalist parties are banned, and if the party's direct and indirect financial resources are confiscated. Let those resources be deposited in a state fund towards promotion of secularism and religious tolerance in Bangladesh and the world at large.
We are acutely aware of the fact that Bangladesh anno 2013 is still compelled to deal with the legacy of 15 years of military dictatorship. Still, some lessons have been learnt. For instance, the Brussels-based European Parliament has repeatedly expressed its agreement with the demand for the adjudication of war criminals. In 2007 it demanded the release of teachers and students who were unjustly detained and tortured by the semi-military government. And it has more than once expressed its respect for Bangladesh's tradition of secularism and tolerance.
We are confident that the voice of the youth and the verdict expressed through countrywide protests will be heard. And we pledge to promote their agenda internationally until the six demands have been met.
The writer is International Correspondent of The Daily Star.
On behalf of the International Committee for Democracy in Bangladesh (ICDB).
Dr. Peter Custers, President, M.M.R. Monowar, General Secretary, Bikash Chowdhury Barua, Board Member (ICDB), Khorshed Ahmed, Board Member.