It is perplexing and annoying (to say the least) to be not physically present to witness the Shahbag movement. Shahbag has of course transcended beyond the national borders, and people all over the world are showing solidarity. Students living outside Bangladesh right now have questions, confusions and so many things to ask and say. I was curious to know what they thought. What do you think of Shahbag? What does the political scenario look like, given the election is drawing near?
Ashik Bin Mohib, student of London School of Business and Finance, London, UK says, “There are people who are being critical about why the Shahbag movement hasn’t been about the current problems of the country. I would ask all these critics to get more involved and carry the movement further in the future to address all these problems. We have finally all come united under one cause and we could use this as a force to shape the future of Bangladesh. Failure in the Shahbag movement will be a failure for you and me. We cannot afford to give this unity away easily”.
“Needless to say, the unexpected and undesired occurrences of the past few years left us the Bangladeshis in a dilemma: do we matter at all. Democracy, humanity, reformation, freedom, the very pillars, on which once stood our nation, were becoming weak and shaky. So to someone like me, the unity of the thousands of civilians at Shahbag Square is not about mere processions, cyber wars and echoes of protesting slogans, but the beginning of a reformed Bangladesh and the revival of the very belief that our nation is ‘of the people, by the people and most importantly for the people!” says Fauzia Sultana, McGill University, Montreal, Canada.
“According to the new law Jamaat will be getting banned from the political front because there are war criminals within the party. If the three war criminals identified from BNP are incriminated and found guilty BNP might get banned too, and I am apprehensive about the consequential effect on the “democracy” in Bangladesh. I might be misinformed though. It is interesting to see that so many people, who are actively against capital punishment, are also part of this movement. But I don’t think this is about being ‘rational.’ It gives me strength and rekindles my hope that the people haven’t given up on the country. We value freedom and it shall be exercised,” says Hiya Islam, student of Colby College, Maine, USA.
I was also curious to talk to one of my Pakistani friends, Sofia Saeed, who recently graduated from University of Karachi, Karachi, Pakistan. I asked her if she knows about the movement and are youths in Pakistan aware of the movement. She says, “In my position, I cannot comment on the severity or suitability of the penalty as it is a legal subject and should be taken accordingly. I would neither comment on the political significance nor the time of the verdict followed by the demonstration. Rather, I would like to see it as one the many examples of how much people of this region want justice and if this demonstration is contributing to the cause of empowerment of justice, then sure! Why not demanding what the people are protesting for. Another aspect why I see this demonstration significant is the fact that it is a youth-led initiative that later became this huge. I am delighted to see under-discussion demonstration along with various similar yet recent demonstrations within South Asian continent, all demanding justice. I believe that it is significant that youth takes over the social responsibility and all these recent examples of youth activism are enough to keep the optimism alive. Having said that, I don’t want readers to generalise my opinion as a popular one prevailing in Pakistan. While majority is completely unaware of the incident, few who do know, have varied opinions ranging from extremely pro to extremely against considering the history we have learnt or experiences our older generations had during the 1971 war. While shaping my own opinion, I had a chat with few young activists here and they raised all very legit questions like ‘then what about those who did the same to this side of the border? Will the protesters also demand to bring those under the law?’ and comments like ‘I don’t think this is anything to do with justice, it’s all political’ ‘justice delayed is justice denied’, stating all this of no need. I, having the luxury of analysing situations from global lens helps me remove the bias from my thoughts but they exist in huge numbers in my society.”
Important questions and concerns are being raised—questions that might have difficult answers, but it is important to ask nevertheless. All eyes on Shahbag now.
(The writer is a Reporter, Star Campus, currently doing Master’s in Gender Studies: Intersectionality and Change at Linköping University, Sweden.)