Lubna Marium: Shahbag should be about banning ‘religion in politics’, not death

Lubna Marium

Lubna Marium participated in the 1971 liberation war by working in the Refugee Camps and later an Advance Dressing Center of Sector 7, with her mother Sultana Zaman and sister Naila Khan. Her father, Quazi Nooruzzaman, was Sector Commander of Sector 7, where her younger brother Nadeem was a muktijoddha. Circumstantially she joined her sister, Naila, who was with the Muktishongrami Shilpi Shongstha, when Lear Levin was filming them. That footage was later turned into ‘MUKTIR GAAN’ by Tareque Masud. Today, Lubna is director of Shadhona — a center for promotion of South Asian performing arts, and principal of Kalpataru — a school of dance, music and arts in Dhaka. Here she shares her thoughts on Shahbag.

The movement should be about banning ‘religion in politics’, about banning Jamaat. Not a blood-thirsty call for ‘a death for a death’ .

Taking another life is in itself dehumanizing and at the end of the day doesn’t bring peace to the mind.

My most painful memory is that of standing in front of a line of dead bodies of brave muktijodhas I knew personally.

Killing the Pakistani soldiers would never be any form of compensation.

It wouldn’t take away the pain. There would just be a realization that I too can be inhuman and murderous.

Think about it.

I meant that WE become dehumanized. By chanting ‘death, death, death’, we are blunting out our own sensibilities.

My younger brother, Nadeem, at the age of 15, was a Muktijoddha. As a young person he used to read philosophy all the time – Buddhism, Marx, Sarte.

And then a machine gun was placed in his hand.

His most horrifying experience was when our Muktijoddhas caught a Pakistani soldier and gouged out the soldier’s eyes.

Nadeem was never able to overcome the horror of war, and later committed suicide.

Think about it, that’s all I ask.


27 thoughts on “Lubna Marium: Shahbag should be about banning ‘religion in politics’, not death

  1. Just because these leading collaborators who are responsible for one of the worst genocide in history were not tried right after the war and got away with just cancellation of citizenship. They could get back to desh with visa on a Pakistani passports just in 7 years… was permitted to operate political party in no time and eventually became the prime party of choice for alliance of the major political parties. IN 42 years, today apparently their banks finances 60% of the RMG businesses of this country… crippling many to support the spirit of 71…

    Many are giving their inputs what Shahbah should’ve done…Shahbagh is spontaneous movement and they did what they felt was needed to be done… if anyone feels otherwise they should’ve started a movement. It was funny to see BNP support to the movement with list “ifs” and “buts”

  2. Apu. I recognize your sentiment. I myself am not a fan of unnatural death in any form .. I think the woman in us cannot accept it.. but the protests have taken exactly the turn you’ve asked for .. they are demanding the ban on ‘religion in politics’.. I am proud of my generation to have the sense to ask for this ban. But that ‘v’ sign that Kader Mollah showed is burnt in the brains of millions of Bangladeshis. And also the youth isn’t barging into the jail and taking the revenge that was rampant after 1971.. they are asking the law/courts do what’s right…..if the highest punishment in Bangladesh was ‘jabojjibon’ they wouldn’t have bothered.. but we ask for the highest punishment we possibly can… ! in any case kader Mollah cannot walk free in this country any more… whether he gets death sentence now is beyond the question… this life might be worse than death for him…so this revolution has seen one success in my book! We are all praying for the overall welfare of our beloved country. Let’s wait and see.

  3. Completely disagree and I am sure 99% percent of the freedom fighters of 1971 and 2013 will agree with me–not you. It’s a challenge. You simply don’t understand our mind. Anyone will realize that if he/she tries to preach mercy for these beasts in Shahbag. Try and see. No mercy for the Razakars. Hanging is less punishment for them–they should be cut to pieces by slow slicing. We want banning Jaamat in politics–not religion. Jaamat is the culprit here. Or are you trying to say that the Jaamat=Religion? Neither we are not for death. We want death for these war criminals.

  4. Apa, you are a real artist, a real human being. Thousands of such stories– painful to tell- co-exist with the known narrative/ horrors of ’71. In reply to Arindam hassan Stalin– Apa is not asking for ‘mercy’ for war criminals. She is questioning the mirror this crowd is putting up to inhumanity. She recognizes that the entire ‘mind’ of the crowd/mob in Shahbag, diverse as it is, has manifested a desire for Death rather than Justice, an eye for an eye rather than mercy in general. When you say slow slicing is sufficient punishment– is really anything sufficient punishment for those who were raped, killed? Nothing is. There is no such thing as sufficient punishment. There is only a sense of justice from having socially and legally tried them for war crimes. Jaamat is the culprit– yes. But every political party has brainwashed its young people. You are teaching a three year old to hate QM or to hate a ‘word’ called Razakar— they can’t tell the difference between a war criminal and a young boy who was told a different story. Those who lived through war know how horrifying and inhuman everyone can become– turning people into collaborators, turning their victims into killers. Nafisa makes a good point. If the crowd is that sane– it would be fine. But from what i see– it has lost its respect for life in general in the hunger for one (‘justified’) death. The crowd will have to pursue constitutional and legal means of ending Jaamat if they have a respect for life– if they want to dance in blood, they will usher in their own extrajudicial killing squad (a people’s RAB if you will) and then we can say to them ‘Come, generals….come see the blood on the streets….’ The slow slicing of our humanity does not slowly slice Koshais. It makes them immortal.

  5. the real heroes– not those who gouged out an eye for an eye– but men like Shanat Kumar Sha ha who protected a Bihari child during the war from the hands of (however righteous) revenge, Minorities who protected minorities, majorities who protected minorities….They negate the Koshais of this world. They negate hatred itself. They overcome.

  6. I am a member of the older generation. I lived through the nine months of 1971 and the many months of the years since then in Bangladesh. I was not a freedom fighter, neither were any of many friends who were killed and are today remembered as martyrs. Even if I was not a freedom fighter I think I saw and knew the most cruel kind of modern war, the war from within in which a foreign power uses your own country’s people to wage its battles. Our nation is not the only one to have fought a war like this one. I was and am still grateful that we only had nine months of this war and not the thirty years of Vietnam or Lebanon. I know now that war is only glorious when it is remembered, not when it is being fought.

    I completely agree with Lubna Marium. I wish the generation of my children were shouting for life and dignity, not blood and death — no matter whose blood, no matter whose death.

  7. Finally a voice of sanity in this war drums of death and revenge! (Lubna’s comment: Shahbag should be about banning ‘religion in politics’, not death).
    Perhaps we shd learn by looking at how other nations have handled such despicable people in recent past. East German internal spies destroyed many, many lives. But the Germans realized that quest for “absolute justice” may satisfy one’s hunger for blood, but will divide the people and destroy the nation. So they decided not to prosecute these people. These people got their punishment through other means. (Sadly, one of my teachers was one of these spies. When the truth came out, he lost his job, and lived in disgrace.) Look at how Nelson Mandela dealt with whites who killed some of the freedom fighters. S. Afrika introduced the “truth commision”, but didn’t kill the perpetrators of the heinous crimes. That’s the difference between a STATESMAN like Mandela and our political leaders. Reminds me of the saying: A statesman works for the next generation, a politician for the next election. I don’t want to minimize the crimes these people commited. But Bangladesh has more urgent problems to deal with than the circus that’s taking place. What’s “international” in the commision other than the name? When will we be a nation that obeys its own “law”? The law has given out the verdict. We need to accept it, no matter how much we disagree with it.
    To Lubna: Was sorry to hear about your brother. I tutored him for a while. You may or may not remember. I’m a friend of Flora. Last time I met your family was 40 years ago. Naila came to see me off at the airport with Flora when I left for Germany. I do get the news of your family from Flora from time to time.

    • SR…..Nadeem was such a gentle, young intellectual. He would say things like…’Don’t go to shops, it’ll make you want to buy more’. Even when he was so disturbed mentally, he tutored me for my Admissions to BUET. Little things that I remember about a bright, sensitive young man who had to embrace violence, perforce. I once asked him how it had felt to be part of an armed warfare. He replied with one word, ‘Scary.’ Remembering my darling of a brother, I wouldn’t wish a war on any nation. I wouldn’t wish violence on to this young and vibrant new generation of Bangladeshis.

      Unfortunately, ‘Shahbagh’ is turning unreasonable. Today I read the following statement on Facebook: ‘Dr.Yunus rajakar der jonno USA tha lobbyist hishabey kaj korchen! uner baba ebong unioyo rajkar chilen!’ And, this from a nation in which such great thinkers like Atisa Dipankar and Lalon were born.

      A constant call for death and violence will not make us a better nation.

      • I have seen Muktir Gaan so many hundred times! I recall, verbatim, you and Naila Apa’s conversations about your brother Nadeem. You were talking how different he looked with beard and guerrilla gears. May his soul rest in peace. Thank you for being a voice of sanity during this time of mass insanity.

  8. It is heartening to see that SOMEONE (Ms Lubna Marium) still has their feet grounded on HUMANITY!

    Thank you for that, Ms Marium…

    On one hand, the Supreme court of India, one of the largest ‘democracies’ of the world, passes a DEATH SENTENCE based on the ‘collective conscience of the nation’ – in a case which is vitiated by a number of doubts; that his legal defence was compromised; that fabricated and forged evidence was submitted AND accepted by the highest court of the land, and so on…

    On the other hand, an unprecedented gathering of people, at the Shahbag Square of Dhaka, Bangladesh, demand the DEATH PENALTY to ‘bring to a closure’ the atrocities of the Bangladesh War of Independence…

    … I too have a lot of anger – against all the injustices that this world of human ‘civilisation’ has meted-out through the course of history – but somehow, THIS does not seem like a path to be proud of – hiding behind the garb of ‘justice’ to satiate one’s blood-lust!

    There’s something innately pathetic, uncreative and cowardly about BOTH the phenomenon, by my books!

    • how is this senior lady’s denial of the political rights of those of us who dont buy her (and your) secular guff at all the voice of reason. Bangladeshi mattabary is appalling.

    • Shahbag should suceed for the betterment for bengali sentiments …. Arabic penetrated with keeping islam in front the same way North Indians entered by keeping Sanskrit infront…WHERE IS BENGALI ??? Are we going to follow arabic and north indian culture ..are our daughters going to sleep with them and produce arabic and hindi speaking babies ????

  9. My grandfather was murdered most brutally by the Bengali collaborators right after the declaration of liberation in December. The movement in shahbagh is the bravest and the noblest. And I can understand this call for phanshi. Compared to Bacchu rajakar’s sentence, mollah’s seem rather callous… However, to me,to demand the death of another human being is inhumane. Surely,we’re better than that. This is just my very humble opinion.

  10. Even if it’s mass murder and crime against humanitY, death for death, blood for blood , and taking life for life, in mY humble opinion is not the ultimate answer. Spilling blood, and more blood, does no good for anY one…It is addictive, leading to more blood spilling. One horror cannot be justified bY committing another horror. Yes! I remember so clearlY and so vividlY, everYthing…I remember all the precious souls, the dear ones, the loved ones, we lost…I remember Nadeem so fondlY…Lubna! MY deepest respect for you. You are a rare example of a sane mind amongst oceans of insanitY. I’m so proud of you for your candid, honest, humane & compassionatelY balanced thoughts…All mY love & hugs for you…Ra’ana Apa.

  11. A freedom fighter may have a different take on 71 from mine. So has Lubna, a great freedom fighter in her own right, furthermore, a talented daughter of a brilliant Sector commander of our Liberation War. The difference may be on many aspects; reasons and circumstances that compelled/ motivated one to join the war, wartime experience, knowledge and involvement in pre and post war political dynamics, cultural and economic metamorphoses through four decades and last but not the least type of awareness in proximity of the socio-political tremor and chasm that has now threatened the existence of Bangladesh. ‘Not Death’, this humane pronunciation of Lubna may sound pure and monastic, but unfortunate reality is, it has never been a panacea of healing of a nation in the globe. Gandhi’s non-violence theory has been a great spiritual impact on Indians and now on global citizens but played no role in ending bloody colonial rule of India or no role even in healing appendicitis ailment of his granddaughter. Politics for a nation building, always and everywhere has been a ruthless and bloody resolve and preaching non-violence, in the present context, to resolve our national crises is a hermetically disconnected idea to perpetuate status quo in the country. Lubna, do you have a regret or remorse now for being part of a violent war, our liberation war?

    • I feel that we the common populace are often taken for a ride by political forces.

      Now, in the autumn of my life, I have ceased to believe that the nation state is the answer needed for the survival of human civilization. The jingoism that excites extreme patriotism is a construct of hierarchical political ideology which isn’t designed to meet the needs of the common man.

      But, I am an optimist and feel certain that humankind will think of alternative systems for its survival and the survival of this planet.

      Its a pity, too, that we have drifted so very far away from radical philosophies which were born in this very region – the compassion of Buddha, the radical philosophy of our own Bauls which negates distinctions between person and person as cultural and contingent, rather than natural. Both are very practical philosophies of life. We need a critical mass of people who think the same. Not in my lifetime, I know….but it will happen.

      If not a global citizen, I am definitely more Southasian than Bangladeshi.

      I hope this answers your question about my reflections, in retrospect, on 1971.

    • No, of course, Shahbagh isn’t violent. Shahbagh reflects the frustration and angst of the youth of Bangladesh. However, overwhelmingly there is no political ideology behind it, therefore, too it is ‘naive’. More and more we can see a slow politicalization and polarisation happening within Shahbagh.

      One of the founder members of ‘Ekkattorer Ghatok o Dalal Nirmul Committee’ was my father, the late Quazi Nooruzzaman. For the first four or five months all meetings took place in our little apartment at Aminabad Colony. After it started gaining momentum there was a need for a symbolic figurehead. I remember Abbu and Shahriar Bhai inviting Jahanara Chachi to take that position. She was initially reluctant but after some weeks of earnestly explaining the need for this ‘social movement’ to gain momentum, she agreed wholeheartedly. This was some thirty years ago. SOME THIRTY YEARS AGO THE COUNTRY HAD RISEN TO BAN RELIGION IN POLITICS. Then too Suhrawardy Uddyan was buzzing with hope.

      People from every walk of life joined the movement and it culminated in the mass attendance of a ‘Gono Adalot’ at Suhrawardy Uddyan. There Jamat was to be tried by the people and be forever banned from politicking. On the day of the People’s Trial, with much muscle-flexing, the political parties took over the ‘social movement’ and made it a defunct ‘political movement’ which never, ever achieved what the people of Bangladesh had so wanted. Go to the archives. Check this out.

      I believe in the people of Bangladesh. I believe that together we have the right aspirations. But, I fear, too, that political forces are far too strong. Therefore, there is a need for astute political ideology.

      • Lubna apa,

        I’ve just been humbled.

        In these days of the beautiful, turbulent Shahbag Movement, it has become very difficult to untangle our emotions from reason. But you’ve done that with admirable patience, eloquence and fortitude.

        Its now almost sacrilegious to question the motive or method of the movement. But we need the voice of reason and of humanity to fight those who were the antithesis of these qualities in ’71. I hope we’re not out for blood – only justice. Just like in ’71. I hope we see that Shahbag is much more about discovering ourselves than it is about exposing war-criminals.

        Your piece is an eye-opener. Your few lines is the nation’s conscience.

        Yours is the true ’71 spirit.

  12. We all have this spirit with us. We just need to search for it.
    This is a land where we have always debated issues, and that too through music. The unique tradition of ‘kobi gaan’ which is a living, vibrant practice symbolizes who were are as a nation. But, our opponents have become strong. Thus the need to be careful.

  13. What an inspiration for all of us. I just spent a quiet Saturday morning surfing the web for news on Shahbag…what I found was even more rewarding than anything I had expected. The debate that’s unfolding between the people in Bangladesh is very uplifting and makes me feel fortunate to be living in this country at this time and watching things unfold. Not being a ‘citizen’ of this country I felt obliged to stay out and observe things from afar. I cannot refrain anymore. From the day that the Shahbag movement started, so many good things have come of it; so many positive things that we could never have expected…the fact that this has been peaceful non-partisan movement of people from diverse backgrounds demanding change, has come as an unexpected and a very pleasant surprise to all of us. It is also heartening as it gives us all hope that there is still hope in our own countries,which are plagued by many of the same problems, and seem almost beyond any hope for repair. If this can happen here, it can also happen in the place that I call home. More than the movement itself, which I think is so remarkable, it is encouraging to see the diversity of voices and opinions unfold around this movement, and heartwarming to see that even with our differences there is something that we have in common, our humanity. And this thought is what compelled me join the discussion and add my two cents worth, even though I may not be entitled to do so. I couldn’t agree more with Lubna apa. I am a citizen of the world, and of this region in particular, and so I write as one, whose hopes and prayers are with the voices raised in Shahbag and also the voices raised around this movement which I hope will have a role in shaping its future and the future of Bangladesh. If all goes well, there is hope for all of us.

  14. I don’t advocate the death penalty. So much so that I had written a thesis in law school on the death penalty and why it should be banned by civilized nations. However, Lubna Apa it is with great sadness that I, too feel that war criminals of Bangladesh need to get the highest punishment allowed in the land – the death sentence. Democracy and all it’s beauties including the banning of the death penalty can only work when the populace of a nation is educated and savvy enough to have the wherewithal to understand that Democracy not only includes rights but is accompanied by pretty onerous (i.e. not so easy) duties and obligations. Few nations can fulfill those elements so as to truly be a democracy. Simply having elections when the majority of the electorate doesn’t understand what they are truly voting for doesn’t make one a democracy. That definition of democracy ( “free elections” in the absence of other essentials of democracy) is a farce and would make the great Aristotle and Plato turn in their graves. Herein lies the problem in Bangladeshi politics. The convicted war criminals will be let out once their friends( BNP?) come to power in the musical chair of Bangladeshi politics, making a mockery of justice. Precisely because there is no respect for the law. We have the death penalty in Bangladesh and there is no moratorium. These are people who committed rape and genocide on the men, women and children of Bangladesh while most of the world stood by doing nothing for 9 months. The possibility is too real that any life sentence will be meaningless given that BNP will turn them lose again ( given also that BNP has been keeping them safe and sound all these years so that it took more than 40 years to bring them to trial). Besides , in reality, life sentence doesn’t mean imprisonment for entire life either and these people would be out again no matter the circumstances. Finally , our shocheton youth have taken the lead. I am happy to see them engaged. I am sorry for your brother. I, too, have lost a sister and know the pain.

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