The Meaning of Shahbagh-er More

Intolerance for doubt

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.

12 comments

  1. They had a chance to transcend the impression to foreign eyes, of being a slow-burning partisan blood-thirsty lynch-mob, by demanding universal justice, at least for a couple of other contemporary killings like Bishwajit or Sagar-Runi, in their letter to the Parliament Speaker

  2. either this writer doesn’t use Facebook or he is a deaf..if he actually use fb or not a deaf, he would see/listen that how much anger people have against any types of crime.. it shouldn’t be unseen/unheard..

    1st..he says “Clearly someone who’s trying hard to draw parallels with events in Tahrir Square, Cairo in 2011”..

    what’s the problem with it? if 100 of thousands Egyptians can seek for justice together, why not we can’t do the same as Millions of bengali? They fought for their democracy, their own problem and we r fighting for hanging this goddamn war criminal which our own problem..he is also trying to say that..there were lots of lives sacrificed in Tahrir square..doesn’t he think we had enough sacrifice enough during 71? purai ajeeb..

    2nd..he asks “how come there isn’t more of an anti-AL sentiment in these protests?” I am asking back “why there would be”..

    [Admin: Obscenity deleted.]

    this is a platform to hang all the war criminals and to stop them who doesn’t/didn’t believe in our freedom..that’s all..not a political platform..so why dis question?

    he said some other stuff too..but whats the point to quote sm1 who is either deaf or doesn’t use fb as a networking source..Please,don’t think now i m an awamileauger too.. :P..I just don’t want to compromise with sm1 who doesn’t believe in Bangladesh or any efforts of the youth of this most gorgeous country of the whole universe.. 🙂 ..I’m writing this all cause this article just increased my blood pressure.. 😛

  3. Thank life you exist man woman whatever. This is a 13th generation version of earlier history…it shows what Bangladeshis ‘can’ be made of. Their rage is limited to ‘abeger’ chorom omanushik rup….Khuda….Reactionary towards the present and future, progressive towards the past. Doomed to be locked in the past unless this changes.

    This Square reveals the cultural state of the general middle class and some upper class ‘jonnota’ and the left…It has potential, any crowd does. But a certain cultural inertia and tendency to wipe out difference– intolerance– that is shared by secularists and fundamentalists in this country leads us to this. And, if only one good thing came of it– but religious politics is feeling really secure. So the left suddenly feel like wow– this is People, Man…we have the People, let’s take them somewhere. Meanwhile, the people….making pita in monipuripara. On the intersection of parliament, three children patiently wait for the traffic to subside or not…they cross in the midst of the mad four wheeled mob…

  4. yes. and more yes. The more yes will come later. And some…history…the left this time is both at the beginning and in the back….an interesting and familiar position. To be in a square in a capital is never to be in the heart of revolution….all such revolutions subside.. vulnerable to puppet-play…tied to external forces…locked in communal and secular rage….and those supplying food from distant rivers….flow by. When the deluge comes, we will know how blue this red and green flag is. Or, how deep deeply felt oppression is. How it has stared at these Shahbag shows for not just forty years….

  5. Btw, jara 1971-e Urdu-speakers-der hottya korechilo, tara ki war criminals, naki ei bepar niye ekhon kotha tulle it will be tantamount to being rajakar?

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