I knew her name since I was a child. In 1994, I got a series of stamps on the martyred intellectuals. Meherunnissa, the poet, was in that series. At times I thought I knew her personally, a smiling face looking at me through spectacles. Later, I knew about her works and how she and her family were killed on the end of March ???71 by Razakars.
Now, 42 years after that incident, the news of her killer not getting the deserved punishment, stunned me. These war criminals committed crimes which were brutal and heinous in every way; not just the killings, but the ways of killings as well. Lifetime punishment might not be enough in cases like these; where criminals can bail out in favorable conditions.
Since the political and intellectual community did not protest, the students and the young generation had to step up, just like before. And so they really did, in a massive nonviolent, apolitical gathering to show dissent, chanting slogans, reminding the days of 1971.
It started in 5th February, 2013, after Kader Mollah???s verdict, an unduly lenient punishment for someone who beheaded a poet, killed her family. Other than killing hundreds more during the liberation war, earning the nickname ???kashai (butcher) Kader???. Moreover, as to rub salt on the wound, he showed victory sign after the verdict. This was the spark. It started with few scattered groups protesting in Shahbagh. Then people voluntarily started to join from all sections of society and parts of the country, the rest is history.
Now, thousands of people are protesting in the square, night and day, with relentless chaos of patriotic slogans and songs, about revenge, justice, emotion and identity as Bengali. With time, the movement spread all over the world, resulting in one of the biggest non violent, apolitical movements across the world. Reports and pictures from all over the world, from Alaska to Australia started to pour in.
The nature of the protest itself is unprecedented; placards, posters, banners, street paintings, poetry recitals, songs, candle light processions, became weapons of mass protest. Self appointed volunteers maintained order and security. Food and water were brought and distributed by everyone. Even a beggar bought packets of biscuits with his day???s income to distribute. No mass movement of this magnitude was nonpartisan in Bangladesh after liberation. Also, this is the most gender friendly movement Bangladesh has ever seen, women and girls are staying whole night to protest, safe and as equals. This is unprecedented in this subcontinent.
So what made this possible? Was it politics that united everyone? I do not think so, since the movement is nonpolitical. Then again why this movement is perceived as nonpolitical? Literally the term “Politics” (from Greek politikos “of, for, or relating to citizens”) means “the art or science concerned with guiding or influencing governmental policy or people, when more than two people are involved.”
Theoretically Shahbagh movement perfectly fits the “traditional definition” of politics. The answer might lie on the perceived definition of politics in Bangladesh, “Any activity by the ruling party to remain in power or by the opposition party to come to power or by rest of the parties to create impact in power-play”. So though, according to global definition, Shahbagh Movement is political, in context of Bangladesh this movement is apolitical. The organizers have refused t politicians to take the stage rather freedom fighters and social activists were invited to speak.
There were people of every age, from 15 to 65, kids with parents, sons with elder mothers, freedom fighters with grandsons and daughters. People of every generation and age actively participated in the movement, though the younger generation participated en masse.
Was religion the uniting factor? Since most of the convicted persons are from a religion based party, this is a pertinent point. But people with communist ideology and women and girls wearing hijab protested side by side. Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Atheists all are united for one single reason. It is not against the religion rather against the persons misusing it.
The movement is all about justice being served, atrocities being punished, about the morality and conscience of a nation, the entire nation standing up to the task of demanding proper justice, united by the one tie that binds it together, the spirit of 1971.
The movement is not against any political party; rather against the persons who committed almost every crime that one can imagine. Some are saying to ban religion based political parties, history proved again and again, that it is not possible without changing the minds of people. USA banned white supremacist klu klax Klan 3 times and each time it resurfaced with a different name with the same people behind it. One cannot blame religion for some people???s wrong doing. Religion is perfect, we are not.
The issues of pro and anti freedom fighters have been issues for the last 42 years. Let???s do justice for the first time, let???s bury the matter. The self declared killers, Razakars, should be punished. Only then we can look forward rather than looking behind. Can???t deny, have been looking backwards for the last 42 years. Only after this issue is solved the whole nation look forward to other issues.
But ultimately the judicial system has to be upheld, to prove that this trial and the future ones will be neutral. More than that, the justice system should act independently without pressure. But this one time the law has to be amended, since the people is not for the law, rather the law is for the people and should follow the verdict and needs of the people. But then again this can???t be precedence where people pressure can influence justice.
The next few weeks will be crucial.There is fear and hope. Fear that the movement might be politicized and hope that the protest will become a movement for a fair trial and for a final justice for misdeeds done in 1971.