Shahbagh has finally reached prominent placement in New York Times, with this lead op-ed by Shahidul Alam, and illustration by Rashin Kheiriyeh.
“Bangladesh’s original Constitution had four basic principles: nationalism, democracy, socialism and secularism. Military dictators replaced that with “absolute trust and faith in the Almighty Allah as the basis of all actions” in 1977, and made another change in 1988 that led to our once-secular nation’s being redefined as an Islamist one. Martial law, amnesty and political deals allowed the collaborators to go free and Jamaat-e-Islami to gradually rejoin the political mainstream.”
“There is widespread fear that if a new government comes to power in approaching parliamentary elections, it will pardon Mr. Mollah, Mr. Azad and other Jamaat members still facing trial — allowing the collaborators of 1971 go free once again. The current government has set a dangerous precedent: Since 2009, Ms. Hasina has pardoned some 20 death-row convicts, including hardened criminals charged with grisly murders.”
“The demonstrators suspect that the life sentence is part of a secret deal the current prime minister, Sheikh Hasina Wazed (a daughter of the nation’s assassinated founder) has made with Islamist leaders to preserve her power.”
“The protests swelled with anger and grief, but Shahbagh did not erupt into a frenzy of revenge. There were those who felt we were being naïve, that an eye for an eye was the only answer. But this was a gentle crowd — prepared to resist, but not to imitate.”
“Young kids baying for blood will make many justifiably uncomfortable. And no court should be forced to alter a verdict because of popular pressure. But the protests in Shahbagh must be seen as more than a demand for blanket death sentences. They are also a democratic outcry, demanding that justice finally be done — and an attempt by a nation to wrest control from failed leaders who have consistently put personal profit over national interest.”
Full article here: A 40-Year Quest for Justice
Shahidul Alam’s photos: Winter of discontent