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Thursday, February 21, 2013

[] Shahbag showdown: An objective analysis of events

Shahbag showdown: An objective analysis of events

M. Shahidul Islam
Those who witnessed the glowing flickers of 1971 in the Shahbag showdown may not have to wait longer to see its anti-climax. The sustainability of any movement being grounded in the raison d etre it tends to espouse, the movement may have already run out of fuel to prolong much longer.As the loose-cannon activists want the alleged war crime accused to be served with death penalty, which only the court can do, the movement now finds itself up against an insurmountable brick wall. It has no choice but to retreat soon, leaving behind its intended enemies politically stronger.

Movement hijacked
The reasons are obvious. First: The matter is a legal one which has been misconstrued as being political. Second: The movement has been hijacked by die-hard anti-Islamist forces; something ordinary Bangladeshis will never digest or tolerate without retaliation. Third: It's been linked with a particular external state-power, and its intelligence apparatuses; which too is an anathema to the people of Bangladesh.

More ominous is that the Shahbag activists are blessed fully by the incumbent government although the main demand of the activists tantamount to insulting the nation's judiciary and the courts where the war crime trials are being held, and, where one of the accused has been served with life imprisonment which the activists did not like. They want him hung to death.Juxtapose and contrast this with the Jamat's lawful request for months to the authorities to hold rallies to demand for the acquittal of the same accused, which too tantamount to insulting the court and the judiciary. It's a battle between two extremist forces which the government should have stayed away from.
Underlying nuances
That the government sponsored the Shahbag showdown and did not relent to allowing Jamat to holding any rally at all - instead amended legislation to ban the party itself - are unerasable blots of unfairness which observers have taken note of and which history and the historians will not fail to register with due care.

That said, the agonies faced by the nation and its budding generation are no less poignant; something succinctly summed up in a Guardian newspaper (Uk) report on February 17 that said, "As with popular revolts throughout history, Bangladeshi liberals are in two minds about the Shahbag demonstrations. On the one hand, they cannot fail to admire the determination of the young to state loudly and clearly that religion-based politics had poisoned society. On the other, the demonstrators are saying with equal force that they want the death penalty, the most anti-liberal of punishments, applied to the war criminals without mercy."The reference here was made to the standard international war crime convictions which do not carry death penalty. That aside, given the intensity of the polarity whipped up by the ongoing showdowns by both the camps, an analysis like the one provided by the Guardian failed to capture the underlying nuances of Bangladesh's circuitous and divisive political culture.
View from within
That divisiveness has been captured more accurately by a columnist of the, which has an altogether different take on the issue and which seems home grown and more authentic. Addressing the Shahbag activists, S. Ahmed wrote on February 15, "A court of the country has given a verdict and who are you to dispute the judgment and the justice system of the country and demand that someone must be hanged? I would not have protested if you said that these judges were NOT qualified to hold trial of a serious crime as a neutral body, and government appointed them for their loyalty to the regime rather than for upholding the honour and fairness of the justice system."

Some of the latter arguments may seem far-fetched, but, regardless, what seems certain is that the Shahbag showdown was made inevitable due to the Jamat having gained an upper hand in the streets in the weeks preceding February 5 (when Shahbag showdown began) and the urgency created by the accelerated momentum of the Islamists to counter their rise politically by deploying the secularists in the streets, in full force.

Evidence of cash handouts to the activists and visits to the spot of pro-regime luminaries - as well as patrons from a neighbouring country - are anecdotes that speak a volume about who's behind this showdown and why it smacks of political ball-gaming.Yet, such craftiness being fair in love, politics and war, one could condone the government's gambit if the economy did not suffer, lives did not get laid to waste, and the nation did not get fractured at the seams due to the intense polarization and the enmity it'd created so far. Politically, it has caused a major diversion from issues that are more vital to the future of our democracy, to growth and prosperity of the nation.
Join the Sufis
More alarmingly, the index of polarization has now jumped few rungs upward in the escalation ladder and attained a new height due to the induction into the mix of a new phenomenon which may soon transform the ongoing conflict between the Islamists and the secularists into something more global in nature, and, more hazardous in ramifications.The Sufi brand of Islam, led by the peers (saints), have taken a firm stand against the activities of the Shahbag-based secularists following a shocking discovery in the aftermath of blogger Rajib's death that the Shahbag secularists are mentored and led by people with venomous disgust against Islam and its prophet.

The Holiday has learnt that over 5 million followers of various peers –within and outside Bangladesh- have been instructed to prepare for a movement against what the groups term as the 'atheist and infidels' embarked in a mission to destroy Bangladesh's Islamic faith, culture and heritage.

"It's not a matter of whether we like or dislike the war crime trials. We cannot stand idle by when our faith is attacked by blogger like Rajib and countless others in the name of demand for justice against war crime defendants," said Mohammed Hanif who has returned to the UK from Dhaka following a liaison trip with various Sufi groups.A citizen of the UK, Hnaif said, "We've nothing to do with the Jamat or Shibir. We're Tarikat (tradition of saints) followers. But we will not allow Bangladesh to become a testing ground for blasphemous outcries. Islam here came through the saints like Baba Shah Jalal and, it will be saved by the followers of those saints."
Islamists close ranks
The Holiday has confirmed that banners with names of various peers (saints) did appear in the streets of Dhaka and other cities during last Monday's general strike which was called by Jamat, but seemed to have been conjoined by the Tarikatis (sufis) too. This has undoubtedly emboldened the Islamists as they seem to have begun to unite for a single cause.

Meanwhile, followers of various peers have held meetings in New York, Toronto, London, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Singapore and many other cities of the world during the weekend. In the UK, money was collected to help organize a campaign against what the organizers said an "anti-Islamic Crusade in Bangladesh." Local Bangladeshi media outlets in many cities are receiving press release and ads from little known Islamic groups which are linked with various Mazars (resting place of deceased saints).

Bangladesh Islamic Front (BIF), which has been vehemently anti-Jamat and had aligned with the Awami League in 2006 to form a grand alliance, has decided to join the anti-Shahbag movement, according to a source within the outfit. Bangladesh Tarikat Federation (BTF), a loose conglomeration of various shrine-based devotees, is planning to come out with a written statement soon against the Shahbag activists and their anti-Islamic propagations.

On Tuesday, Hefajat E Islam Bangladesh (HIB) circulated a detailed literature with the shared concerns of all believing Muslims - containing selective samples of despicable blogging activities of many Shahbag activists, including of the assassinated blogger Rajib - and urged Muslims to unite against what it called a deliberate conspiracy against Islam and the teachings of the holy prophet. A copy of the literature was published prominently as a front-page news item in one of the leading Bengali dailies.
In the final analysis, the AL-led regime has managed not only to divide the nation at the seams, history is set to anoint it as a party deeply involved in anti-Islamic adventures for divisive and dangerous political gains.


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