Two dead in Bangladesh as supporters of war criminals resort to violence

by | Feb 14, 2013 | News

Bangladesh chhatra Shibir members vandalizing vehicles during a nationwide strike as a scared bystander tries to hide from them. COURTESY FACEBOOK.

Bangladesh Chhatra Shibir members vandalizing vehicles during a nationwide strike . COURTESY FACEBOOK.

Shumu Haque

Two men died in Bangladesh hospitals Thursday after succumbing to injuries from attacks by Bangladesh Chhatra Shibir (Shibir), the student wing of fundamentalist political party Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh,  the Daily Star, a Bangladeshi newspaper reported.

These  are just two in a series of attacks by Shibir since the mass protest demanding justice for war crimes began ten days ago.

The attacks have angered the protesters who have been demanding justice for victims in the 1971 genocide which occurred in Bangladesh.

Shibir has been fighting the War Crime Tribunal’s verdict – life in prison – against one of their leaders, Abdul Quader Mollah.

The first victim Zafar Munshi, a 47-year-old bank employee from Dhaka, the capital, was injured earlier on Wednesday, and the other victim, 55-year-old Bahadur Hossain was beaten up in Chittagong, a port city, by Shibir members during a nationwide strike Feb. 6, the Bangladeshi newspaper reported Thursday.

“Shibir has always been known for their violent tendencies. And since the verdict, they have started causing unrest and trying to fight the mass protest that is asking for death penalty for some of their leaders,” said Razib Mir, an assistant professor of Mass Communication and Journalism at Jagannath University, Bangladesh.

This has angered the mass protesters demanding death penalty for war criminals.

“What Jamaat did to Bangladeshi people in 1971 can only be compared to the Nazi war crimes in Europe, they are the Nazi’s in Bangladesh.” -Abdullah Al Muyid, Bangladeshi Journalist

Abdullah Al Muyid is a journalist and a Communications Consultant with the United Nations Development Programme who supports the recent protests.

“It may be unclear to the international media why we are demanding death penalty for these people, may be if they realize the desperation in us, they will understand,” he said, “Let’s remind them that in Nuremberg trial, not only the National Socialist party was banned, but Hermann Wilhelm Goering, Hans Frank and Marshall Keitel were hanged to death without ever even firing a single bullet themselves.”

“What Jamaat did to Bangladeshi people in 1971 can only be compared to the Nazi war crimes in Europe, they are the Nazi’s in Bangladesh,” said Muyid.

The people demanded to have Jamaat and its allies banned from Bangladeshi national politics, and understandably so, he said.

“Right now, the Bangladeshi politics is polarized in two different groups. On hand are all the political parties, whether they are left, right or center, and on the other hand, the common people of Bangladesh. The political parties are not willing to listen to the demands of the common people, all of whom are in favour of justice for the war victims and the most severe penalty for the war criminals,”said Muyid, “Which, under Bangladeshi penal code is the death penalty.”

Mir said he believes that the government’s willingness is absolutely necessary to bring this war criminals to justice.

“If it wants to, the Government of Bangladesh can help move the process of war crime tribunal smoothly forward. If it gives its support, we can definitely see the war criminals receive the proper punishment, which, in this case should be death penalty,” said Mir.

Sharmin Kabir is a senior teacher at Holy Cross Girls’ School and the general secretary of Karmojibi Nari. Kabir, along with her colleagues from the school have been attending the protest almost every day since it started.

“A mistake can be forgiven, but a crime does not deserve forgiveness, especially one that is as grave as what these people (the war criminals) did to our nation,” said Kabir.
She said it is the mandate of common people of Bangladesh.

“I become speechless when I hear about a grade three student from my school draws a banner (without her parents or anyone else ever telling her to do so) asking for justice for the martyrs of ’71 and asks her parents to bring her to the Shahbag Square so she can support the masses demanding justice,” said Kabir.

This is a golden opportunity for Bangladeshi people to ask for justice and protest against the injustice that has been plaguing the country for the past 42 years, said Kabir.

“We have tolerated the presence of those war criminals on our soil for over 42 years, this is about time we punish them for their crimes and get rid of them from the country whose independence they fought against so hard, ” said Kabir, “because if we don’t do it this time, I am afraid it will be far too late.”

The protesters at Shabag Square in Dhaka, Bangladesh, demanding justice for genocide victims of Bangladesh held a candle-light vigil on Thursday evening, local time. COURTESY FACEBOOK

The protesters at Shabag Square in Dhaka, Bangladesh,
demanding justice for genocide victims of 1971 held a candle-light vigil on Thursday evening.


Jamaat-e-Islami and the political history of Bangladesh

During the liberation war of 1971, the Pakistani Army and its local collaborators Razakar, Al-Badr and Al-Shams groups launched a massive genocide against the Bangladeshi people.

Apart from the three million people being killed, approximately 250,000 women were raped and millions of people tortured during those nine months of liberation war in Bangladesh.

Initially after the independence they had disappeared from the political picture. During the terms of successive military rules beginning from 1975, many of the former Razakar and their associates re-established themselves in the political scene of Bangladesh by building their political identities through the Jamaat-e Islami Bangladesh and its student wing Islami Chhatra Shibir (known commonly as Shibir).

In 1991, after the dictator President Hussain Muhammad Ershad was ousted from power, and one of the alleged war criminals Ghulam Azam was elected the “Amir” or the leader of Jamaat-e -Islami Bangladesh, a secular movement called the “Ghatak dalal Nirmul Committee” (Committee to exterminate the Killers and Collaborators) was created and the demand for justice for the war crime victims was brought forward.

In spite of this movement, the following two governments were unable to bring the war criminals to justice.

In fact, in numerous occasions, both the prominent political parties Bangladesh Awami League and Bangladesh Nationalist Party has been known to rely on Jamaat’s support in order to strengthen their position in the country’s parliamentary democracy.

The current government of Bangladesh Awami League came to power with a commitment to bring the war criminals to justice, although it has not been able to do so in the first four years of its rule.

The International Crime tribunal was set up in March of 2012, at the end of the fourth year of current government’s rule, leading to the court’s decision to give the death penalty to one of the accused Abul Kalam Azad (aka Bachchu Razaakar) on Jan. 21.

However, on the second and latest verdict that was announced on Feb. 5, another one of the war criminals on trial Abdul Quader Mollah, in spite of being found guilty in five out of the six war crime cases against him was given a mere life sentence instead of the much expected death penalty.

Charges against Mollah included killings of at at least 350 people, along with charges of torture and rapes during the liberation war of Bangladesh.

This verdict enraged the common people of Bangladesh.

Initially a group of bloggers started a protest in one of the main Squares in Bangladeshi capital Dhaka, that has eventually turned into a mass protest with people from all sections of society participating in millions and occupying the Shahbag Square day and night for ten consecutive days.