DHAKA, Feb 17: The national flag was unfurled in all educational institutions and the national anthem was sung by students at 10am on Sunday to express solidarity with the young generation’s demand for the hanging of the war criminals on the 13th day of the sit-in protests. The movement, started and inspired by bloggers and social network activists, is being organised at Shahbagh Square in the city.
Braving inclement weather — it was drizzling on a cold wintry morning — thousands of young men and women began their vigil at the square, lighting candles with a minute’s silence at 6am. After this they sang the national anthem in chorus, which electrified the atmosphere and created a warm feeling of camaraderie. The youths paid their respects to one of their own, slain blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider, observing a minute’s silence in his memory.
Rajib Haider, one of the organisers of the protests, was silenced forever by the knives of assassins on Friday night when he was on his way home to Mirpur from Shahbagh. He used the pseudonym ‘Thaba Baba’ as a blogger in his campaign for the younger generation’s demand for execution of war criminals who committed crimes against humanity during the nation’s Liberation War in 1971. He was waging his own form of cyber war against war criminals and obscurantism, which is perhaps why his voice was silenced. His mortal remains were laid to rest at his family graveyard at Kapasia village in Gazipur on Sunday.
Slogans calling for the execution of war criminals and urging the people not to allow Rajib Haider’s death to go in vain soon filled the air.
The national flag was hoisted and thousands of students of all educational institutions across the country sang the national anthem simultaneously at 10am to express solidarity with the Shahbagh Square protests. Students of schools, colleges, universities and madrasas held rallies in front of their respective institutions all over the country after hoisting the national flag and singing the national anthem.
“The movement, which began from Shahbagh Square or Projonmo Chattar, will continue until the demands of the protesters are met,” said Sammilito Sanskrtik Jote president Nasiruddin Yusuf at around 11am. Expressing his solidarity with the Shahbagh protesters, he said, “All the educational institutions, offices and banks would remain open in the country in rejection of the nationwide hartal called by the Jamaat-e-Islami and its allied students of the Islami Chhatra Shibir. We shall remain on the streets during the hartal.”
Meanwhile, a 15-member team of Indian cyclists, which is touring Bangladesh on behalf of the Kolkata Footballers’ Association, is scheduled to join the Shahbagh protesters on Monday, it was announced. Local sources said the team has entered Bangladesh through Benapole check-post.
While addressing the Shahbagh rally, Imran H Sarkar, one of the organisers of the bloggers’ network, called upon all to foil Monday’s daylong hartal. “We will all continue our regular activities tomorrow,” he said.
Prior to hoisting the national flag and singing the national anthem, the protesters called upon all media houses not to publish or broadcast any advertisements of the Jamaat-backed institutions.
The protesters also announced that a memorial in honour of assassinated blogger Rajib Ahmed Haider would be erected at Shahbagh. Blogger Nazrul Islam Sujon, an architect, has already designed the memorial in memory of fellow blogger Rajib, who, too, was an architect.
Bangladesh Public Service Commission chairman Professor Dr Md Mostafa Chowdhury, expressing his solidarity, said that the war criminals had killed millions of innocent people and raped thousands of women during the Liberation War, which is why they deserve only capital punishment. Talking about the new generation, he said that they are the pride of the country and their strong participation would certainly make the movement successful.
The International Crimes Tribunal-2 (ICT-2) sentenced Jamaat-e-Islami assistant secretary general Abdul Quader Mollah to a life term in prison on February 5. Protests erupted in Shahbagh that evening itself, with the Blogger and Online Activist Network describing the verdict as “too little, too late”. They gradually spread to other parts of the country.
Huge crowds gathered at Shahbagh during Rajib’s Namaj-e-Janaza on Saturday evening. Representatives of different organizations, such as the Green Life Medical University, Bangladesh Institute of Research and Rehabilitation in Diabetes, Endocrine and Metabolic Disorders (BIRDEM) Employees, Nurse Oikkyo Parishad and Mirpur Ideal College and students from different city schools and colleges also came to Shahbagh to express solidarity with the vigil of the youths seeking the hanging of war criminals.