I really believe that a large number of young men and women who joined the movement did so on idealistic grounds and for more than just hanging. They want to see Bangladesh become more modern and free where they can enjoy life like other young people in developed and many developing countries. But it was the hanging issues that propelled many to join the movement in the first place as the people who are the subject of their demand are considered to be the symbols of everything antithetical to how they want Bangladesh to move forward. They consider Jamaat and the people being tried to be criminals, murderers, rapists, genociders, anti women, anti freedom, anti Bengali culture, responsible for dividing Bengal and keeping Bengali nation divided, against Bengali language, opposed the creation of Bangladesh and so on and on. They feel if you get rid-off them then you will clear a big hurdle in the forward march toward progress and prosperity. First if you cut-off the snake’s head then the snake will die.
However, Jamaatist feel that Awami League has brainwashed people into believing something they did not do so why should they shoulder the burden of what the Pakistani military did in 1971. Further, the scale of accusation against Jamaatists are incredible lies, they believe. Jamaatists do and have been accepting that they opposed the creation of Bangladesh and actively worked to keep Pakistan united but deny that they committed the atrocities attributed to them. They felt very weak morally and intellectually for forty years and could not face up to the Bengali cultural people who used drama, songs and poetry as propaganda weapons and intellectual and political people who used books and political process to keep them at bay and making them feel guilty, morally weak and marginalised.
However, I believe the war crime trial has changed the situation and the Jamaatist do not feel guilty any more as now they are better equipped to answer effectively and with more intellectual rigour the charges of rape, genocide, etc. against them and with more moral courage and surety. This is for primarily three intertwined reasons. First, internationally the trial process has become discredited and seen as political sham and witch hunt. Second, the collusion between the government, prosecution and the judges have shown, to them and the world can see clearly, that this process is not fair. Third, the prosecution’s weakness in producing a watertight case and credible witnesses. This means that the power of poetry, songs and drama that could be used as effective weapons to discredit and weaken Jamaat in the eyes of the people and within the Jamaat support based and follwoers is clearly becoming less effective day by day.
I cannot see how the Shahbagh movement can be changed to widen and broaden demands and people. It has a very big and unsolvable dilemma. If it remains focused on narrow hanging (even though other more idealistic and burning issues are behind the motivations of the new generation who are participating) then it will not go far and lose support from people who want to bring more idealistic issues on the fore. On the other hand, if the movement incorporates wider issues and people then it will probably lose focus and some of the people involved are likely to get confused and disheartened. In that case they may also be abandoned by the Awami League and who may get the Chattro League to deal with the movement. There is no other way out for this movement, at least as far as I can see. However, things never proceed exactly according to how one’s logical process have predicted. Therefore, I will really wait and see what happens.