- Subhash Gatade
Any death is regrettable and those who died due to police fire may also come under this category. What is interesting is Jamaat’s modus operandi. The lone survivor of 14 December mass murder of intellectuals described in a recent TV documentary how Al Badr killed Prof Munier Chowdhury and others. Some were bitten with iron bars to death and at the final point; they would insert such bars into the head of their victims to ensure death. Jamaat-Shibir reportedly did exactly the same couple of weeks ago when they killed some police constables and others. It shows Jamaat-Shibir’s Standard Operating Procedure has remained unchanged for the last four decades…
(Rabiul H. Zaki, 1952, 1971, the genocide and Shahbagh)
“The Pakistani soldiers unleashed a reign of terror on the soil of Bangladesh in 1971. They brutally killed innocent people, molested Bengali women and ruined the economy. The Jamaat leaders, Ghulam Azam and Matiur Rahman Nizami, issued the fatwa that those activities were permissible to save Islam” (Dr Mohammed Hannan, Page 252, Bangladeshe Fatwar Itihas, 1999).
What is common between Syed Md Nurur Rahman Barkati, Shahi Imam of Tipu Sultan Masjid, Kolkatta and Maulana Syed Athar Abbas Rizvi, imam, Cossipore Masjid or Md Qamruzzaman, general secretary, All Bengal Minorities Youth Federation ? Well, if media reports are to be believed then they would be the leading lights of a demonstration to be held on March 30 th in Kolkata demanding stepping down of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Haseena’s resignation. In fact, a dozen odd Muslim outfits are planning to hold the demonstration to protest against the verdict of the ‘war crime tribunal’ against Jamaat-e-Islami’s leaders in connection with the atrocities committed by them during 1971’s Liberation War’. According to them the actions of the Bangladesh government was not only ‘anti-Islam’ but ‘anti-humanity’ as well. The organisers of the demonstration have said that if their demands are not met then they would appeal to the Indian government to severe all ties with Bangladesh.
Definitely this is not the first demonstration of its kind held by the various Islamist groups in this part of South Asia. Not some time ago, similar organizations had organised a protest in the city which had turned violent. It was in response to the death sentence given to Delawar Hossian Sayedee, the Vice President of Jamaat-e- Islami by a war crimes tribunal after he was found guilty for mass killing, rape and atrocities during the nine month war against Pakistan.
Karachi had also witnessed a demonstration in the second week of March led by the Jamaat-e-Islami (Pakistan) ‘to protest the indictment of Jamaat-e-Islami (Bangladesh) war criminals of 1971 and the treatment of its activists by the Bangladesh government, judiciary and the police in the aftermath of the Shahbag movement against the Islamists in Dhaka.’ President of Jamat-e-Islami of Punjab, Pakistan who participated in the demonstration reportedly insisted that, ‘the sentenced leaders of the razakars (pro-Pakistan militias) were innocent.’ Incidentally, close to this protest site a protest against the mob attack on the Christians of Badami Bagh ,Lahore by a rampaging mob of fanatics , was also held, although it was not as large. (The Express Tribune, 15 th March 2013)
In fact, opposition of the Islamists to the new awakening in Bangladesh – popularly known as Shahbagh movement – which wants to reinvigorate the basic principles of secularism and democracy which became a basis for founding of the country, is not limited to civil society organisations or political groups alone. Leaders of many Islamic countries especially President of Egypt and Prime Minister of Turkey are reported to have written letters to their Bangladesh counterparts expressing their ‘displeasure’ over the war crimes tribunal. Few other Islamic countries have through informal channels also ‘requested’ the Bangladesh government to ‘go slow’ on the trials or ensure that ‘violations of human rights’ does not take place. Wittingly or unwittingly all such ‘protests’ or ‘displeasures’ about ‘danger to Islam’ or ‘danger to humanity’ or alleged concern over democratic rights violation which the ongoing trials have allegedly provoked make one thing very clear.
None of them want that the role of organisations like Jamat-e-Islami or or many of its not so illustrious leaders in the 1971 war of Bangladesh’s independence is investigated afresh. They do not want to look into the fact that how many Jamaat activists became Razakars – literally volunteer – which was the paramilitary force organized by the Pakistan Army in East Pakistan during the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971 and helped unleash untold miseries on nationalist Bengali suspects. The Razakars received training at the hands of the Pakistan Army. Both organisations were later accused of having violated Geneva Conventions of War by raping, murdering and looting the locals.
In fact they want to dilute gravity of Jamaat’s support to the Pakistan army and also cover up its shameful attempts to provide religious justifications of torture, rape and murder, arson etc under the specious plea that it has been more than 42 years that the developments took place, and it is time that people should ‘move on’ or ‘forget and forgive’.
It needs emphasising that the demands of the Shahbagh protesters are not limited to trials of the war criminals , they have demanded that Jamat-e-Islami be banned and its financial sources be confiscated by the state. Launching the second phase of the movement on the 42 nd independence day of Bangladesh (26 th March) activists have reiterated their immediate demand of trial of the war criminals, many of whom are senior leaders of the Jamaat and strongly criticised the Awami League government for dilly dallying on their central demand of banning Jamaat-Shibir politics.