Bangladesh: On The Shahbagh Movement Against War Criminals Of 1971

To see The Hindu slide show on the Shahbagh Movement, click on this link:

Shahbag: Bangladesh’s war against fundamentalism – The Hindu.

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Badruddin Umar

Bangladesh22 March, 2013
Courtesy: Countercurrents.org

Some young people gathered on the cross-roads of Shahbagh in Dhaka on February 5, 2013 , to protest against the judgment of t he International Crimes Tribunal ( ICT ) which sentenced Kader Mollah, a 1971 war criminal, to life imprisonment. They demanded capital punishment for Mollah and eight others who are now under trial in the ICT.

In many ways it was an extraordinary situation. First, this demand was being made to a war crimes tribunal which has been constituted for the first time after forty-two years since the end of the war of independence and the emergence of Bangladesh in 1971. Second, the trial is being conducted only of some local collaborators of the then Pakistan government and the Pakistan army. The 195 Pakistani army officers who were initially identified as the principal war criminals and on whose bidding the collaborators committed their crimes, have been left out of this trial.

DSU poster for a Delhi University program on the Shahbagh Movement

DSU poster for a Delhi University program on the Shahbagh Movement

Today it seems amazing that in spite of the Bangladesh government’s occasionally demanding apology from Pakistan government for war crimes of 1971, a demand for the return of the 195 army criminals for trial in Bangladesh was never made. But the Awami League (AL) government under Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had forgiven all the arrested Pakistani army personnel, including the 195 identified criminal army officers, and returned them to their country as a gesture of goodwill towards Pakistan ! In this case, in their own interest, India played the role of a decisive mediator. Referring to this gesture of goodwill Sheikh Mujibur Rahman ‘magnanimously’ declared that the people of Bangladesh knew how to forgive and forget.

Yet in spite of this, in fact false, declaration of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on behalf of the people of Bangladesh , the latter never forgot the atrocities committed against them, and they have always sought justice against the military and civilian war criminals who perpetrated every imaginable crime against them. Nothing could be a more conclusive proof of this than the movement for the proper trial and punishment of the 1971 war criminals which began on February 5.

A small number of young men and women started the movement, but almost immediately it began to spread like wildfire all over the country. The way it spread cannot be properly explained only in terms of peoples’ desire to try and punish the war criminals of 1971. In this connection it should be noted that the movement has started by a new generation of people who had no direct experience of Pakistani atrocities committed in 1971. They were not even born at that time. Thus the stirring which happened was caused by reasons other than the mere desire of the people to punish the war criminals, though at the surface nothing else was visible. It actually happened because the ground was prepared by what happened to the people of this country since the independence of Bangladesh.

During the independence movement and the war, the aspirations of the people were very high. But after independence the government led by Sheikh Mujib threw overboard what the people actually stood for and what they understood by the spirit of liberation war. Continue reading