It might be hard to remember now, but Shahbagh awakening began as a protest against Awami League. Think back to the distant days at the beginning of February. After four years of de facto ban, Jamaat was all of a sudden allowed to hold ‘peaceful protests’. Oh, they were peaceful alright. Shibir cadres gave policemen rajanigandha. Ministers praised the young generation of Jamaat — they were a better lot than those old razakars. Bhuter Goli was full of talks about an AL-Jamaat deal.
And then came the guilty verdict, and the controversial sentence — life, not death! The contours of the deal was taking emerging — we don’t hang your leaders, you come to the election under us.
That was when Shahbagh started. There was a clear rejection of the আঁতাতের রায় . The protesters were progressive bloggers. Progressive, but not necessarily AL-er. No one would call Faruq Wasif or Asif Mohiuddin AL-ers. And AL leaders like Sajeda Chowdhury and Mahbub Hanif were clearly made unwelcome in Shahbagh.
In fact, AL-ers like Omi Rahman Pial (and alter ego Dr Aizuddin), as well as Sachal bloggers like Onarjo Shongeet, came out harshly against the Shahbagh crowd — questioning the verdict was apparently playing into Jamaat’s hand. Oh, how Bhuter Goli was full of Awami fire and brimstone against the Shahbagh crowd on 5 and 6 February.
And then things changed very quickly. By the first Friday, Awami League demonstrated why it is the country’s oldest and largest political party, why when it comes to politics, everyone from old left to BNP to the so-called third party wallahs are দুধ ভাত when it comes to AL. While BNPwallahs had no idea what was happening, and kept talking about fascism one day and full solidarity the next (and sometimes supporting Shahbagh in the morning and then expressing worry in the evening), AL slowly but steadily gained control of the stage.
Imran H Sharkar — a card carrying member of the AL and a honcho of its medical wing SwaChiP — was annointed by the Prothom Alo as the movement’s leader (there is complete silence in Bhuter Goli about why Prothom Alo didn’t promote their own). Then AL ministers started appearing. Finally, the Honourable Prime Minister expressed solidarity with the movement.
And BNP? It was left sucking its thumb.
The corporate media — that’s the new term for Prothom Alo and Daily Star, civil society is soooo 2010s, get on with time — initially supported the whole thing. India had Anna Hazare. Pakistan had Imran Khan. We needed something, so they backed Shahbagh. But they didn’t want AL capture it. So, Mahfuz Anam and friends started to sermon the crowd — the law has been amended, declare victory and go home.
Will they go home? Does AL want them to stay?
There are two sets of speculations in Bhuter Goli.
One scenario is to slowly wind down the movement. Balloon programme today. Lolly pop tomorrow. With March heat, things will end anyway. And a Sayedee death sentence will be the point to declare victory.
The other speculation is more fanciful. It involves some spectacular Jamaati violence, which will be followed by the largest crowd seen so far, with এক দফা এক দাবি — ban Jamaat. This will be duly obliged by the government — it’s a democratic government and it will bow to popular demand.
BNPwallahs will be in a quandary. Mahmudur Rahman will write a vitriolic editorial — see, fascism! But Mirza Fakhrul and Tariqul and Khoka will tell the Madam how this is all good — all those Jamaati votes will inevitably come to dhaner sheesh. Khondoker Mosharraf and Mirza Abbas will have to oppose Fakhrul-Khoka, so they will tell the Madam, they are banning Jamaat today, they will ban us tomorrow.
While the Madam deliberates in her Singapore hospital cabin or her son’s London apartment, a new party called Shamajik Nyaybichar Dal (Social Justice Party) will be launched in the Engineers Institute. This party will declare full allegiance to the Liberation War and sovereignty of Bangladesh. It will talk about an exploitation free society. It will talk about moral values and dignity of women. It will reject hartal and violence. It will declare an intention to participate in the coming elections, fielding candidates in 300 seats.
It will have someone like Barrister Abdur Razzaq as its convenor.
Well, this will make you feel worse.