The novelist Philip Hensher, writing in the Independent, frames the history of the birth of Bangladesh against the pain and fury of the hundreds of thousands of protesters of Shahbag Square, now demanding justice for the war criminals of Jamaat-e-Islam. Along the way he remarks on the genocide denial of Pakistan and the efforts a certain “historian” now based in Oxford. This is as comprehensive as it gets.
Since 5 February, Bangladesh has been transfixed by this ongoing, immense protest. Hundreds of thousands have occupied Shahbagh Square in protest at a verdict passed by the International Crimes Tribunal on war crimes committed during the genocide which preceded the founding of the country in 1971. One of those found guilty, Abdul Kalam Azad, was sentenced to death. Another, however, Abdul Quader Mollah, the assistant secretary general of a Muslim party which collaborated with the genocidaires, the Jamaat–e-Islami, was given life imprisonment. The protests which followed, and are still continuing, are led by intelligent and liberal people; they are, however, calling with great urgency for the death penalty to be passed on Mollah and other convicted war criminals.
Nick Cohen with an excellent piece on how the Shahbag demonstrations formed the space for a battle between secular Bangladeshis and Jamaat-e-Islami supporters in a park in Whitechapel. And the ongoing story of how the establishment and Britain’s liberal Left continues to enable fascist streams in political Islam, in particular, Jamaat-e-Islam.
Do I hear you say that Bangladesh is far away and the genocide was long ago?
Not so far away. Not so long ago. And the agonies of Bangladeshi liberals are nothing in comparison to the contradictions of their British counterparts.
The conflict between the Shahbag and Jamaat has already reachedLondon. On 9 February, local supporters of the uprising demonstrated in Altab Ali Park, a rare patch of green space off the Whitechapel Road in London’s East End. They were met by Jamaatis. “They attacked our men with stones,” one of the protest’s organisers told me. “There were old people and women and children there, but they still attacked us.”
Pervez Hoodbhoy is one of the most thoughtful of dissenting voices speaking in Pakistan today. His latest piece is a comment on the reasons behind Pakistan’s wilful disinterest of the events of the Shahbag Uprising.
On February 5, the Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) found Mullah guilty in five out of the six charges against him. Known as Mirpurer Koshai (Butcher of Mirpur) because of his atrocities against citizens in the Mirpur area of Dhaka, he was charged with beheading a poet, raping an 11-year-old girl and murdering 344 people. The ICT sentenced Mullah, presently assistant secretary general of the Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami, to life in prison. For the protesters in Shahbag Square, this isn’t enough — they want Mullah hanged. On the other side, the Jamaat-e-Islami protested violently and also took out demonstrations. But its efforts to influence global opinion foundered in spite of a well-funded effort.
Rajib Haider who blogged under the name of ‘Thaba Baba’ was one of the blogger activists of the Shahbag youth uprising in Bangladesh. Yesterday came news that Rajib was slaughtered in Dhaka close to his home. His throat and wrists were slit, in signature Chaatra Shibir (Jamaat-e-Islam’s student wing) style, and he was left to die.
Ahmed Rajib Haider, 26, was an active participant of the ongoing nonstop demonstrations at Shahbagh demanding death sentences for all ‘war criminals’.
Officer-in-Charge of Pallabi Police Station Abdul Latif Sheikh told bdnews24.com that they recovered Shuvo’s body from Laalmatia’s Palashnagar around 9pm.
He said the face bore signs of slashes. A scarf was wrapped around the blogger’s throat, Sheikh added.
This was not a simple mugging case as police said the deceased’s laptop was found near the body of the architect.
On the BBC Radio 4 show ‘Hecklers’, Gita Sahgal takes on the combined force of the Islamists Tahmina Saleem (Islamic Society Britain), Tariq Ramadan (freelance Islamist), Nazir Ahmed (House of Lords), Moazzam Begg (Cage Prisoners) and Daud Abdullah (Muslim Council of Britain)
This is a cross post by Bina D’Costa first published in BDNews24
Ever since the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) began its work, opponents of the mechanism have emphasised that the first government of the state pardoned the alleged war criminals, that this was a project of political witch-hunt against Jamaat and BNP senior leaders and that there was no demand for justice from the majority of Bangladeshis who were more interested to move forward and have economic security rather than revisit the past. This write-up explores the political history until the ICT started its proceedings to respond to some of these claims.
We know how it began. That the Pakistani forces were perceived by the overwhelming majority of Bangladeshis who supported liberation as occupation forces; and that India’s armed intervention to end the conflict was welcomed. Pakistan also attracted global condemnation due to its brutal military crackdown in 1971, which resulted in mass atrocities and genocide. But what happened after the war was over?
The following is the text of a lecture delivered by Richard Rogers on the 16th anniversary of the Liberation War Museum.
I feel extremely honoured to speak to you today as we celebrate the 16th anniversary of the Liberation War Museum. The Museum is a testament to a people’s desire to know and understand the difficult and painful episodes of its own history. Few communities around the globe can claim to have a history devoid of conflict or tragedy and dealing with the post-war situation has always been a challenge. Embarrassed or afraid of the truths that may rise to the surface, some call to forgive and forget the past, to ‘turn a page’, to leave the skeletons in the closet. Yet, time and again, this philosophy of repression has left too many questions unanswered, too much misunderstood, and has led history to repeat itself. In the former Yugoslavia, grievances hundreds of years old re-surfaced in the 1990s to result in one of the greatest tragedies in modern European history. In Rwanda, the echoes of colonial rule fuelled a divide that ended in a slaughter of almost a million people. Two decades after the First World War left Europe in ruins, Adolf Hitler managed to garner support for a second and even more devastating war. In 1971, Bangladesh was scarred by a terrible conflict that has not been put to rest. The way in which the people of Bangladesh approach this past will undoubtedly shape its future.