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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2187

Bangladesh- Protester Youths rekindle spirit of '71

From our Dhaka Diplomatic correspondent
Dhaka, 09 Feb 2013 : ( :

Shahbagh intersection made history yesterday where the nation witnessed its recent memory's biggest crowd that gathered to demand capital punishment to all the war criminals, including Quader Mollah reports the 'Daily Star.'

There were men and women, boys and girls, young and old -- tens of thousands of them -- from all walks of life who turned the few square kilometres area into a human sea.

Since early morning, people started flocking the intersection first in their hundreds then in thousands, carrying national flags, banners and placards for the 3:00pm mass rally. By then, the crowd stretched as far as the eye can see.

Tens of thousands of people raise voice against religion-based politics, demand capital punishment to war criminals, and vow to boycott Jamaat-Shibir

From Matsya Bhaban in the south to Kataban intersection in the north and from Hotel Ruposhi Bangla intersection in the east to TSC in the west, the crowd spilled everywhere. The participation of young generation was overwhelming.

Through various slogans, they made their demand for death sentence to all the war criminals loud and clear registered their determination to resist Jamaat-e-Islami and Islami Chhatra Shibir.

It was the fourth day of the non-stop protest, which began just hours after a war crimes tribunal on Tuesday sentenced Jamaat leader Quader Mollah to life term in prison for his crimes against humanity during the country's 1971 Liberation War.

The movement was launched by Bloggers and Online Activist Network, but it soon transformed into a mass movement.

Demonstrators have been saying a life term for Mollah was too lenient; they demand death sentence for him.
Protestors have kept the interaction under their occupation since Tuesday afternoon, with several hundreds of them staying overnights without sleep.

From yesterday's rally, people took an oath to continue the movement until their demand is met. In addition to capital punishment to all the war criminals, the demonstrators called for banning Jamaat and its student wing Shibir.

They also pledged to boycott all businesses, banks, media outlets and social and cultural organisations owned by Jamaat leaders.

“We pledge to keep on demanding trial under a special tribunal of those Razakars and Al-Badrs who were convicted and were under trial but freed after 1975," said Imran H Sarkar, administering the oath from a makeshift stage erected atop a truck at the intersection.

Imran, convenor of Bloggers and Online Activist Network, is one of the initiators of the movement.

"We pledge that we will continue our movement from Teknaf to Tetulia under the leadership of general people until highest punishment is given to Razakars-Al-Badrs who committed crimes against humanity like genocide and rape in 1971," protestors read after Imran.

The mass rally began with the recitation of a poem and rendering of the National Anthem.

"This is another 1971," said Mili Rahman, widow of Birshrestha Matiur Rahman.

"Today we are united in our single demand. We freed the country in 1971 and today you will free it once again from Razakars and Jamaat-Shibir…. None can hold us back," she said.

BBC , Vedio report says : About 100,000 people rallied in Bangladesh's capital on Friday (February 8) to vent their anger at the country's feuding politicians, the fourth day of protests after an Islamist leader convicted of war crimes was spared execution.

The sentencing of Abdul Quader Mollah to life in prison by a war crimes tribunal on Tuesday for charges including murder, rape and torture was the second verdict in trials that have reopened the wounds of Bangladesh's 1971 independence conflict.

Most Bangladeshis had expected a death sentence to be handed to Mollah, 64, assistant secretary-general of Jamaat-e-Islami - the country's biggest Islamist party.

Public outrage was fueled by bloggers and activists using Facebook and other social media websites who called for mass protests.

Activists converged on Dhaka from several outlying areas on Friday, answering the call of protest leaders who appealed for a mass rally.

The 100,000-strong crowd that gathered in the capital's Shahbag Avenue, mainly young people, dwarfed the crowds of about 10,000 that had turned out in previous days.

Protesters enraged by Mollah's verdict have increasingly turned their anger towards the country's main political parties, because they waited four decades to bring war criminals to trial and are feuding over the validity of the war crimes tribunal.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's ruling Awami party and the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) of her arch enemy, former premier Begum Khaleda Zia, have rotated power since 1991.

Hasina set up the tribunal in 2010 to investigate abuses during the 1971 war. But the BNP and its ally Jamaat-e-Islami, the country's other main opposition party, say she is using it as a political weapon against them, a charge Hasina denies.

Khaleda has branded the tribunal a "farce". The activists in Dhaka said they would continue their protest until the authorities put all war criminals to death. As night fell, the whole area was lit up by thousands of candle.

In a sign of the growing resentment towards politicians, the protesters refused to allow political leaders to speak at the rally. Instead, they gave the floor to students and teachers, cultural activists and war veterans - who all pledged to support the young protesters.

Protesters demand death for Bangladesh war crimes

The protesters in Dhaka urged Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to review a verdict sentencing a senior leader of Jamaat-e-Islami to life in prison for killings and other crimes. The government will appeal the sentence. A defence lawyer said they will also appeal seeking an acquittal for Mollah, whose verdict is the second after Hasina came to power through a 2008 election and formed a tribunal to try those suspected of war crimes during the war. Both sides have 30 days to appeal to the Supreme Court. The life sentence comes after a former party member was sentenced to death last month.

The exact number of the protesters was difficult to know but streets near Dhaka University were filled with 1971 fighters, students, political activists, teachers and people from various walks of life.

- Asian Tribune -

People in their thousands gather at Shahbagh yesterday with a call to ensure death penalty to all war criminals of the Liberation War. Photo: Rashed ShumonWasim Bin Habib
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