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     Volume 12 |Issue 07| February 15, 2013 |


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Photo: Star File

The unexpected turnout of thousands must have surprised even those brave bloggers who had called on them. What was it that made so many people leave their fears behind and join in with that group to demand justice for crimes committed 42 years ago?

While the initial wave of protest was against a verdict that grossly disappointed millions who had believed that finally justice would be served, soon the congregation at Shahbagh became a symbol of a claiming of rights of the ordinary citizen.

Being constantly let down by our leaders has become part and parcel of being Bangladeshi. We are continuously being forced to adjust, to test our well-known resilience to the limit and beyond. Political scuffles, mayhem on the streets and false pretenses of opportunists of representing our interests, have left us exhausted and out of breath. Underlying all this has been this insidious disease called Fear that has crept into the pores of our skin, invading our minds and bodies, turning us into zombies just going with the motions of existence.

Terror in the name of religion has seeped into our society, leaked through surreptitiously while we were trying to keep our heads above water. People in general, are too scared to talk about it. You are just not allowed to criticize anything that has a whiff of religion, no matter how contradictory, misleading or destructive it can be.

Political opportunism and blind, unquestioning acceptance have allowed bigots and extremists to make their nest in this country, unopposed, unhindered. They have been allowed to roam freely leaving nets of terror in their trail.

The trial of those individuals who spearheaded the most heinous of crimes against humanity, against their own people, gave us a glimmer of hope. Finally it seemed that a dark chapter of silence and impunity, would come to a close. It is not just the loved ones of the martyred who needed closure but the entire nation that craved for some semblance of justice when everyday it seemed more elusive than ever.

It may be strange to some why this issue is so important when so many horrible things are happening in the present. Why are we so hung up on the past? It is because that inglorious chapter in our history that reinstated war criminals and allowed anti-liberation forces to invade our country has not ended. How can we move forward if we cannot right the wrongs of the past? This is the essence of this remarkable movement led by young people and followed by those who had thought they had become powerless and silenced.

It is with great pride and hope that we can say that the young people of this nation have given us, the older generations, the strength we have been looking for all these decades. They did not wield pistols or machetes, they did not explode cowardly bombs. They did not attack the unarmed. Nor did they break cars or burn buses. What they did was call on their fellow country people –young, old, man, woman and child, to join hands together in this extraordinary, peaceful display of solidarity against injustice and communal forces.

It is hard to predict what will happen in the near future. Whether this terrible disease called Fear will ever be eradicated. Whether the sound of terror will silence the voices of justice. Nobody knows what this movement will lead to. But the unprecedented support that these young men and women have garnered, even from the powers that be, will certainly be a rare moment in time.

It is not the hackneyed rhetoric of aging politicians that echoes the streets. It will be after a long time that the fresh roar of youth has been heard from Shahbagh square and has reverberated to the rest of the nation.


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