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From The Heart Of Shahbag Movement Of Bangladesh

By Faruk Wasif

23 February, 2013

A killing and the deep politics around Shahbag

The first shock came on the twelfth day of the Shahbag movement. The complex issues and risks that surround this cyclonic movement came to light through the sad and tragic loss of life. Thus there is a need to understand this. The questions that the investigating inspector asks are: Who killed blogger Rajib Haider? What was their motive? But from Shahbag the questions are political: Just when the movement was to move into the next phase of action why was he so brutally murdered? What was the purpose? And by whom?  What does the daily Amar Desh achieve by presenting Rajib as the leader of atheists in this movement? What kind of plan do they want to actualize? They want to splinter the unity of the movement by falsely showing that atheist are leading this movement, which is not true at all. People of all walk of life that wants justice for genocide against the liberation war of Bangladesh in 1971. For this purpose they had successfully delivered a Trojan horse into the very heart of the movement launched from Shahbag Square near Dhaka University. They are trying to stigmatize the spirit of the movement by depicting it as anti-islam, which is utterly wrong. We have to be aware of this trap, if not this will lead to the war of the atheists vs. Jamat-e-Islam which will lead to the fight of religion against liberation, then a violent effort to save the war criminals that will bring a third power into play???

This is why they want this movement to become violent. That is why they will not falter when it comes to murdering more people and creating terror. By doing this the Shahbag movement will be put to rest at Shahbag. The rest of the country will then be hearing the chants of anti-liberation forces. This is very important that, these very forces, which opposed the birth of Bangladesh, and till very recently which bear the name of Pakistan in their party name, for the very first time in 42 years were able to rally other Islamists behind them. This is alarming for democracy, for Bangladeshi version of liberal Islam and for socio-political stability too. The victims of this political play will be Jahanara's children of 1971 and the spirit of Shahbag. And off course non-violent and liberal tradition of Islam of Bangladesh too will be victim.

Creating and enforcing terror is a fascist tactic. Jamayat Islam and their friends are master of art of terror. Remember this is not 1971. When a political issue turns into a military issue the public enemy survives. The people will survive through rallying at the mass movement, organizing a transformation and executing plans to socially boycott-resist-desist all people and organizations that are associated with the public enemy. The main factor is the state. We, today, have a state, legislation and law enforcing agencies. The government is bound to keep to its promise when it comes to power with popular vote for trying the war criminal.

Just when the government could not decide which way to go and how to fulfill its promise we have hit the streets to bring them back to track. The people are now the leader to show the government and the state their way back to the straight path. If that path is abandoned and the state falls in the trap laid by the killers to actualize a civil war then mass murderers will hit the streets. On the other hand the emotional youth behind the Shahbag movement will be destroyed much like National Socialist party (JSD) cadres in post '71 years. Due to JSD's failure and whimsical nature it was easy for military rule to come in and take over regain their control. This is how anti-revolutionists are trying to trap the children of revolution and that there will be no one left to protest. The country will suffer a setback in progress by 10 years.

The skilled hunter kills two birds with one stone

Firstly, Shahbag is the center of youthful energy projecting a spirit of the promise for a better tomorrow. Any scandal or shame associated with the movement will bring it to its knees along with the country. It belittles the effort of the masses that have gathered for a better tomorrow. If any set back happened that will frustrate the new generation of revolutionists. So beware of those who are malicious instigators. Look at the past and learn from it. They are masters at killing many birds with one stone. Be vigilant!

Secondly whether Rajib was an atheist or a non-atheist/believer does have an impact on this movement. Relegious fascist are pulling us into their field of religious bigotry, we will win if we stand firm in the realm of secular politics. What is even more important to acknowledge is the method used to kill him? It echoes the methods used by Al-Badr the brutal killers of 1971. This was the way novelist Humayun Azad, blogger Asif Mohiuddin (was stabbed though) even journalist couple Shagor-Runi was murdered. Whichever hand deals the murderous blow it cannot be the hand of Islam. The need to prove this is imperative for the followers of Islam. Islam did not take the responsibility for genocide in 1971, rather believers of every faith stood for peoples right. So why should it be responsible for Rajib's murder? Whosoever justifies this murder is in the name of Islam is Islam's enemy, Bangladesh's enemy and the enemy of the Youth's upsurge. Unfortunately the daily Amar Desh is justifying this gruesome murder and continously instigating violence.

In 1971 newspapers that supported Al-Badr also misled people by saying people who wanted freedom from Pakistan were atheists, communists and traitors. The result of which, as we know, are the unresolved deaths of 3 million people and the rape of some hundreds of thousands of women. They forced razakars to murder their brothers. In 2013 Amar Desh is pushing many religious minded young men and women to change their understanding and set them on a path of destruction. It's calling them to stand against ‘traitors and the enemies of Islam'. Despite the price Bangladesh has had to pay no other enemy of Islam has been able to do as much damage as Jamat has. Will Muslim youths again ride the wave of emotion rather than rationale and intelligence?

Which law allows the murder of an atheist to be justified? In many Christian-majority countries there are anti-blasphemy laws. Islam does not condone blasphemy neither does it condone the murder of who has been blasphemous. The Roman Church is known to have killed many priests accused of blasphemy. Bruno was burned to death.

Historically such incidences are fewer when we look at Muslim nations in the middle ages. While Europe was languishing in the dark ages it was the Muslims who sought to initiate the first globalization. They brought about the Greek-Arab reawakening. Philosophers and scientists of that time claim to be Muslims. So saying we also should remember that though Lalon and Tagore were not Sharia followers, they were not atheists either. They recognized the need for ultimate dominance and control through fear and terror of the mullahs much like the priests/purohits of leading temples. So who are these men who issues fatwa for killing atheist? Are they became Pope or caliph of Islam? Against these types of misdeeds fourth caliph of Islam Imam Ali wrote to his subordinate:
''develop in your heart the feeling of love for your people and let it be the source of kindliness and blessing to them. Do not behave with them like a barbarian, and do not appropriate to yourself that which belongs to them. Remember that the citizens of the state are of two categories. They are either your brethren in religion or your brethren in kind. They are subject to infirmities and liable to commit mistakes. Some indeed do commit mistakes. But forgive them even as you would like God to forgive you. Bear in mind that you are placed over them, even as I am placed over you. And then there is God even above him who has given you the position of a Governor in order that you may look after those under you and to be sufficient unto them. And you will be judged by what you do for them.'' http://paulsarmstrong.com/articles/caliph-ali-letter-to-malik-ashtar/

The question is not Islam vs. liberation war

Rajib is known for having written posts that deliberately provoke. But let us stop for a moment and recognize him, not for what he has done, but for his rights as a human being in a democratic scenario. If we do not recognize his rights then we dehumanize ourselves and become bloodthirsty savages. Belief is entirely an individual's right but to ensure that individual and diverse beliefs are respected and protected is the responsibility of the state. We do not want a secular state which excludes or ignores the presence of religion rather we want a state that includes and respects all religions with the right to practice it and not stood as enemy of any religious group. The state must acknowledge the existence of all religious beliefs, practices and practitioners, at the same time it should act as a mundane apparatus of citizen's affairs.

An atheist is welcome to his belief of non-belief. It is within ones rights to practice it and patronize it but to abuse another religion, to deliberately hurt its practitioners in the name of that patronization is a sign of malicious intent. Rajib cannot be held responsible for destroying any material/physical goods. His problem was behavioral. So he cannot be tried in accordance of criminal law. Yet knowingly Amar Desh instigating/justifying his death? They stated that whoever killed him would be undertaking a great duty!!! Amar Desh is actively promoting fascism itself while accusing others of it. There is an internal war going on within the BNP camp as many of its workers, leaders and journalists wish to join the movement at Shahbag. The BNP-Jamat clique wants to stop this break-away group and has raised the alarm bells calling for a civil war. BNP or Amar Desh is not here to fight against fascism. For those who wish to represent Islam as a progressive and positive religion, to stop the steady encroachment of India, the West's' war of dominance and the wave of growing Islam-phobia of some sections of West one has to leave such political parties and gather to form a center stage of uncompromised honesty and courage. People always remember a traitor even if they forget who the patriotic hero is. It seems that they are willing to be labeled the traitor Mirjafor (who took side of lord Clive in 1757) in order to cash in on the current situation so as to materialize and establish its presence. They should be aware though that people never forgive a traitor.

The imagined conflict between Islam and spirit of the War of Liberation

History has witnessed the progress of Islam because in the region where it originated, their leaders were forward thinking and patronized the arts and philosophy. Islam was presented as a religion that did not need a medium to communicate with God/Allah, unlike the Roman Church that heavily depended on using fear tactics to keep tight control on its believers as to who could communicate with God. Islam, as a result, liberated many oppressed nations of Asia and Africa.

All sections of people must learn to be tolerant. Some debate can be go on in the sphere of culture; some fight must be fought in the stage of politics. Islam and Bengali identy can coexist peacefully. We must create a Buffer zone of culture for debate and develop. Russian Historian V. V. Bartold once wrote that, not for the lack of Science or technology, rather those strong Islamic empires collapsed by loosing their cultural leadership. They dried out internally by losing the power of communication between people and concepts. The power of culture is the biggest power of all. The Jamati politics have been failed to acquire the essence of history, culture and philosophy of Bangladesh. On the contrary we need to uphold the possibilities of culture and democratic nature of resistance. If those two can be maintained our rise is obvious.

There are some who are very capable to shade their anti-people activity by the musk of liberation war. The rise of Shahbag proved that they have only the musk; the spirit of liberation resides there where it should be, in the hearts of people. Another group however exists who use secularism and the memory of liberation war as a shell, not a shield, who profess to be pro-liberation but this movement has proven that it is just a shell. They betrayed people many times. Not only the BNP the so-called pro-liberation Awami League also rescued war criminals and their party for political several times. The spirit is where it has always been, in people's resistance. Shahbag has stood strong against the various ploys employed to derail the movement by the shell-carriers. There is no difference between the principles of Islam and the liberation war. You can be an atheist, a believer, a vegetarian, etcetera and yet still fight for freedom.

It's equal to mass murder when the belief and struggling spirit of hundreds of thousands of people is insulted just because of a few atheists. Those who choose to use religion to scare people into being its followers probably think themselves above that same religion. Atheists suffer the same malaise. Then what is the difference between those who use religion to terrorize and those who insult the religion itself? We must stand vigilant of them and stop all efforts to derail and distract. Politics brings people together using peoples' faith, belief in progress and logic. Religion hater and rajakars both use the same weapon: hate. Their belief or lacks of it are both blind and extreme. Just as the hate for atheists is secular so is the hate atheists have for religion. With all due respect for Rajib Haider we must also learn from this.

There are many believers who have fought for freedom before and are here even today. We have had leaders that were free thinkers, believed in progress and yet were believers of their respective religions. Non-secular leaders such as Emperor Asoka, Mughal King Akbar and Mahatma Gandhi were believers. Similarly Rabindranath Tagore, Maulana Bhashani, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman were believers too. To bring change to society one must possess the ability to be adept at social administration and possess the vigilance to nip evil forces at the bud. Whimsically removing a religion from a society never does it any good. The argument is never ending as to which kind of society is the better one. That is why politics was invented. Atheism does not add value to such politics of freethinking and morality.

Age of Resistance

We must keep the Shahbag movement outside of the fyasad of belief-vs.-atheism. We have to keep it free of corrupt and undemocratic political parties. We have to convert the war cry of revenge into the awakening cry of resistance. Yes, if this is not the age of revolutions, this is the age of resistance, and the youth of Arab, youth of Europe and America, PRECARIAT youth of everywhere are resisting the anti-people power through people's power.

We have to keep the door open for all people to join us. In front is a long and difficult path. Shaking the country for ten days is possible, but to change the country takes years. Our voices are now liberated with the promise of trying war criminals and a relief from a religiously fascist society. This cannot be ignored. The resounding “no” to traditional political parties and their practitioners cannot become “yes” ever again. It's time to change the rules of the game. People have changed and politics must follow. Shahbag will give birth to new leaders who will lead the masses to something beautiful, courageous and humanistic. We refuse to sit down anymore; we should act collectively and peacefully. This is the last message of Tariqul Islam Shanto as he chanted the slogans till he passed away.

Everyone must build a resistance in words and deeds, in person and in collective. It is our duty. We came here by erasing the path of retreat. We have no leader so every face in the rally is a leader. We do not have an Imam, Shohid Jononi (Mother of martyre Jahanara Imam is our Imam. We must not give up the fight. Don't waste your breath before the final battle is here or else Shahbag will be taken away from the people. In his historic speech of 7 th March (1971) Sheikh Mujib said “You all know everything and understand it too.” People have begun to learn and understand the deep politics. People have begun to think collectively, we must keep the pace, keep the unity and earn confidence of both the Islam and freedom loving people of Bangladesh. We must uphold that essentially there is no clash between them and the idea of Bangladesh.

Victory for the people, victory for Bangladesh

Faruk Wasif is Assistant Editor, Prothom Alo Dhaka, is an active participant of the Shahbag Movement.

This ariticle has taken from one of the Movements bulletin `GANARAAY' and translated from Bengali By
" AlaloDulal.org"




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