The paradoxes of the shahbagh protests!!

The shahbag circle in Dhaka has recently seen one of the largest mass gatherings in the history of an independent Bangladesh. Many have claimed that the shahbag protests have attracted more than a hundred thousand people so far. If it is true, indeed that is a large number! Not only that, it has also stirred up in the cyber arena. Al Jazeera Stream has reported that it received an average of 48 tweets a minute during their program on shahbag yesterday (19 February 2013) at 1930 GMT. That is indeed massive, no doubt!

The protests began on the 5th of February, after Abdul Qader Molla, a senior leader of the main opposition Islamic party – Jamaat-e-Islami – was sentenced to a life imprisonment for his alleged involvement in the war of independence in 1971. He had been accused with 6 cases including being involved in mass killing, rape, and beheading of a poet. The protesters at shahbag are not happy with the High Court verdict, and want capital punishment, not only for him, but for all Jamaat-e-Islami leaders currently being tried at the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) in Bangladesh!

I applaud in support for the shahbag protesters, for they have been brave enough to come down to the streets and demand justice. It is a sign of uncompromising bravery! But at the same time, I am personally perplexed when I found the some severe contradictions in the shahbag protests. The people over there are mostly emotionally outburst, and probably have lost their sense of logic, which have rendered the following severe paradoxes:

1. It is an ‘illegal’ gathering for making changes in the law!

The gathering at the shahbag square is an expression of gross dissatisfaction with the High Court verdict of Abdul Qader Molla. The protesters demand that he needs to be hanged, and the hence the law should be amended accordingly!
A gathering against the High Court verdict itself is a ‘contempt of court’ and hence cannot be legal in the first place! How could, then, their demand of amending the law of ICT be justified? They want a legal change in an illegal way? Contradicting indeed!

Besides, earlier the government has arrested, tortured and harassed many opposition political leaders for their ‘contempt of court;’ whereas these protesters are well fed and given proper security and protection from the same government!! Isn’t it an explicit expression of the government’s double standards?

2. It is a protest demanding “injustice” in the name of ‘justice’!

The protesters at shahbag have gathered to demand death penalty for all collaborators (Razakar) of the 1971 war of independence. They want ‘justice’! This is how they have expresses:

There is no problem to seek death penalty for a criminal in Bangladesh, as the country is yet to abolish capital punishment. In fact, we all want all the criminals to be duly punished, we want justice too! However, when the punishment sought is totally unjust, when it is biased and based on insubstantial evidences, sentencing a death penalty on such grounds is never a justice at all! In fact it is a gross injustice! They have so far not been able to provide any substantial evidence or proof which could prove direct involvement of any of the accused leaders with the accusations! On which ground can the sentence be written for capital punishment?

They accuse Qader Molla as being the “Butcher of Mirpur” who killed almost 400 people, beheaded a poet, and raped an 11 year old girl! If he was so brutal, how did he teach at the Udayan School (at the premise of Dhaka University) during 1972-75 when Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was the president? Why didn’t the president arrest him while more than 90000 people were arrested under the war crimes act at that time? If he really was the butcher of Mirpur, how did he suddenly change his character and turned a “gentleman”, who had no cases filed against him from 1971 till 2009? Is it so easy to change an inherent character for a butcher who killed 400 people within 9 months (an average of 44.44 persons a month, and 1.5 persons a day!)? He should have been a better narration for the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde character, then!

The court or the witnesses could not so far prove a single relevance with the accused leaders, which may grant them a sentence to death! The protest for ‘justice’ at shahbag is surely demanding “gross injustice”!

3. A so called ‘lawful’ gathering to support and upgrade a trial which has been severely criticised by many International law associations, and Human Rights organizations?

The shahbag gathering, as mentioned earlier, demands upgrade in the ICT laws which will enforce capital punishment on all accused opposition leaders under the trial. However, it is very necessary to mention here that the whole process of ICT had been severely criticized and condemned by a large number of international legal and human rights experts, including Stephen Rapp, the Ambassador at large of the US for International War Crimes Issues, the International Bar Association, Bar Human Rights Committee for England and Wales, International Centre for Transitional Justice, among many others! International lawyer Steven Kay has expressed the trial as ‘unfair’ during a recent interview with Al Jazeera:

Similarly, Professor Suzannah Linton of Hong Kong University, the author of the first comprehensive examination of the legislation and rules of procedure, welcomed the “important international precedent” that is being set by Bangladesh in creating the ICT and thereby trying to achieve accountability. At the same time, she warned that the legislation as it stands is now well out of date and “runs contrary to its international obligations and the wider objective of the international criminal justice movement, which is not to bring about revenge, but justice.” According to Professor Linton, the most critical shortcoming of the legislation is its lack of adequate fair trial and due process safeguards.

We have mentioned earlier how ‘illegal’ the gathering is, yet the protesters at shahbag claim it to be a ‘lawful’ gathering and an expression of mass people’s interest. If the gathering is so ‘lawful’, how could it propound an internationally ‘unlawful, unfair and unacceptable’ trial? It is completely paradoxical!

4. An apolitical gathering with “pro-government-only” activists!

The protesters at shahbag claim the gathering to be an apolitical one. However, there have appeared reports and incidences where the leaders of the shahbag gathering are established to have direct links with the current ruling party! Amardesh reported with a detailed picture of Bappadittya Basu leading the shahbag gathering, whereas he is an active member of BCL (student wing of ruling party Bangladesh Awami League – BAL), and was among the “logi-boitta” (sticks and oars used to kill) killers of a shibir activist on 28 October 2006! Here is the picture:

Besides, the shahbag protesters have been fed and provided security by the government security forces. The government has supported them with all possible means, from moral, monetary to media support! After all these supports, how do they claim to be ‘apolitical?’ Moreover, most of the people there at shahbag are either activists or supporters of the government party, or its allies! How apolitical is that?

5. A grand ‘religious funeral’ for a self declared atheist?

Recently blogger Rajib nicknamed “Thaba Baba” was brutally murdered by some unknown thugs! The following day, the nation witnessed a large Janazah prayer (funeral) with thousands attending it. Rajib was an active blogger who used to promote and advocate for the shahbag movement, and was quite vocal against the politics of Jamaat-e-Islami. Interestingly, after his death, his personal blog ( was revealed and found to be full of malicious and disgraceful writings on the Prophet of Islam (Muhammad pbuh), Islam and Allah! His blog was later suspended, but among those who had some screenshots of the blog have reproduced it as a reference for others. Here are some other screenshots from his facebook page, which may confirm with the previous reproduction:

Shot 1
Shot 2

He utterly expressed his disrespect and denial of the existence of God!
How logical and how justified is it to hold a ‘grand funeral’ for a person who doesn’t even believe in God, let alone the necessity of prayers? Weird indeed!

6. ‘Islamic’ branding for ‘Anti-Islam’ campaign!

Thaba Baba is not the only atheistic blogger and campaigner among the main organizers of the shahbag protest! Most of them are involved in severe criticism of Islam and any Islamic element!
Now the Imam of Sholakia Eid ground has joined them in solidarity with the protest! They have taken it as an “Islamic” or “Muslim” branding for them, which will help the protest gain popularity from the mass!! Isn’t it absurd to find them branding them with “Islam” whereas majority of them have devoted their lives to eliminate Islam from Bangladesh!?

7. A “peaceful” protest with vandalism?

The protesters have always exerted that they are at shahbag at a peaceful protest from the mass! How is it then the pro-shahbag activists have set fire on a Daily Nayadiganta van, and an Islami Bank Bangladesh Limited ATM booth?

A “peaceful protest” indeed!

I have severe doubts about the real motives of the shahbag gathering now! It is full of paradoxes! Really need to figure out who are the screen-players behind it?

Source: Pathik Rasel’s Blog