I have a different take from Naeem as to what’s going on in Shahbagh. It is a more pessimistic take. If you are one of those people who think that a 18 year old speaking against Zafar Iqbal (Sir) should be treated like a Rajakar, please stop reading now and go elsewhere.
Let’s start with the trivial. What delusional egomaniac decided to brand this Shahbagh “Square”? Clearly someone who’s trying hard to draw parallels with events in Tahrir Square, Cairo in 2011. Whoever it was, let me disabuse them of the notion. This is not an anti-governmental protest constantly hounded by state-sponsored hooligans, aka the police/RAB.
Rather this is the opposite. This protest is against a political party which has never been in power, a party which is anathema to most voters of the ruling Awami League, if not necessarily to its leaders (more on that later). There is no “dhawa, palta dhawa” with police and the protesters as we saw at Tahrir, or more recently, at Ashulia. The festive atmosphere is there because the government has not decided to bother with them. Hosni Mubarak did not have that luxury.
So lets call this what it is. This is Shahbagher More with more people than usual. The chatpati stands must be doing brisk business.
Naeem’s piece tells us that this could be interpreted as a move to thwart a potential alliance with Jamaat. Of course, this would not be the first time that Awami League and Jamaat would shack up, even if the “leading English daily” refuses to include that in its timeline of Jamaat’s history.
But in that case, how come there isn’t more of an anti-AL sentiment in these protests? Most of the coverage, most of the facebook chit-chat has focussed on getting Kader Mollah hanged and pushing against Jamaat/Shibir’s recent excursions. If Awami League really is in backroom talks with Jamaat, why are the protesters being so coy about this? Whoever heard of a mass protest that tries to be this subtle? Get real.
The most distressing development over the past week has been the name calling one has had to witness on facebook and twitter. It seems that anyone with doubts about the value of these protests is a Jamaat sympathiser at best, or a Rajakar at worst. For years, those of us who wanted the 1971 war criminals to face trial were told that any trial would become a name-calling exercise. Jamaat sympathisers would look at us condescendingly and say with a smile, “But bhai, apnader shathey jara ek mot na, tader shobai kei to Rajakar daaken apnara”. The facebook/twitter discourse over the past few days have validated that point of view. I used to think liberals welcomed dissent and challenges to their view. Intolerance and takfir were hallmarks of right wingers like Jamaat. The last week has opened my eyes.
But the very worst thing about this protest is undoubtedly this: it is manned by the same set of people who pushed back against anyone who had doubts about the trial process. When Skype-gate happened, these were the same people who said the integrity of the tribunals were intact.
So why are they now not satisfied with the tribunal’s verdict, the same tribunal they assured us were working? And how come none of the judges are taking any heat because of it? Anyone seen a single sign against the judges who gave the verdict?
The involvement of this set of people makes me harbour doubts about Naeem’s suggestion that the Shahbagh protests might morph into a movement that asks for a better trial protest. I admire his optimism. But as long as this set of people are at Shahbagh, this will remain a gathering asking for blood, not due process.
In other words, this is very much Shahbagh More, not Shahbagh Square.