Politicians in every democratic society claim to represent the wishes of the people. It is the wishes of the people that become the prime movers of the successful political parties and the leaders who lead them. “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time”- this famous saying of a great American President Abraham Lincoln was proven wrong time and again by a political party of Bangladesh. Lies, distortions and deceptions are the forte of this party which is once again proven by the party's two successive statements vis-à-vis the history which is in the making at Shahbag Square,newly renamed as Projonmo Chattor. Bengalees living in every nook and corner of the world know very well who and how this movement started and how it is being relentless led by a few youngsters strictly maintain its apolitical character. The patriotic Bengalees all around the globe are coming out in unprecedented numbers to declare their absolute allegiance to the sole cause which is to ensure ultimate punishment to perpetrators of the crimes against humanity committed in 1971.
But the BNP leadership pretends not to understand the difference between politics and patriotism. Referring to the sole demand of the movement unparallel after the historic '71, the BNP statement said, “the demand 'might have' some grounds, but it would have been 'more meaningful' had the youths included in their agenda”, the political agenda of BNP as well. The BNP's statement connotes as if the organizers are begging for BNP's support for the movement. Using the words 'might have', the BNP statement has insulted the convictions and sentiments of the millions from all walks of life who are ceaselessly declaring their allegiance to the movement and getting inspired by the values and virtues that led the nation to freedom at the expense of three millions martyrs. The movement is not designed to implement any political party's agenda or to put or remove any political party to or from state power. So, BNP's demand to include its own party agenda in the sole demand of the movement is outside the periphery of this unique movement on the one hand, while it is accusing that a particular political party has hijacked the agenda of the movement is absolute devoid of truth, on the other. It made no bones about its objection for the 'Joy Bangla' slogan, the most inspiring one during our liberation war, accusing that it was made party slogan after the independence. In fact, it was BNP's founder who reinstated the 'Zindabad' in line with Pakistani one after the August tragedy of 1975. It was not only the 'Joy Bangla', all other accompanied slogans of '71 have occupied the centre-stage of the Shahbagm movement that has spilled over to the Bengali communities all over the world. As a matter of fact, if at all, it is the apolitical movement that has 'hijacked' the implied party's slogans, not the other way around! Even, had it been the other way around, AL must be credited with the prudence to play to tune of the people.
Over the last week, I personally attended a number of rallies in Toronto to declare our allegiance to the demand of the Shahbag movement, the largest of which took place on February 9 at the Bengali populated Danforth area of Toronto. There was one foot of snow in the previous 24 hours and three feet of snow bank on the street of Toronto. Yet, several hundred people of Bangladeshi origin gathered braving subzero temperature to form a human chain, which was a few kilometers long. It was a historic occasion. People of age all age group from teen to late seventies, men, women and children, all came to declare allegiance to the making of history in Dhaka's Shahbag Square, where the spirit of '71 is being rekindled. The composition of a large percentage of women caught every one's attention. Groups came with different banners and posters hanging over their necks demanding death penalty for the razakars. Echoing the slogans of Shahbag gathering, the gathering in unified voice chanted "Joy Bangla"; "Tomar Amar Thikana, Padma, Meghna Jamuna"; "Tumi Ke, Ami Ke, Bangalee, Bangalee". I was personally taken back to '71 when these slogans were party of our lives in those fiery days.
The statement said, "a front line familiar female organiser was assaulted by party cadres as she stood for maintaining the apolitical character of the rally”. So BNP acknowledges that the fiery girl is an apolitical person. Those who are watching the Shahbag movement either through their presence or through TV, must be following that the BNP attributed so-called 'political' slogan chantings are led by no other than the apolitical 'female organiser'.
After publicly declaring that the accused Jamaat leaders are being tried in false cases, after putting the US government on the dock for its inaction in stopping the trial and attributing International tribunal as 'local' tribunal in Begum Zia's recent article in the Washington Times, the BNP statement promised, "if BNP is elected to power it will ensure full independence of the judiciary and definitely ensure neutral and fair trial of all offences including the crimes against humanity".
Despite the unprecedented nonviolent nature of the mass movement, the BNP statement accused that its "noted intellectual" Pias Karim and "brave editor" (of Amar Des) Mahmudur Rahman are being threatened". Although the 'noted intellectual' and the 'brave editor' who are using their democratic rights, without adhering to their obligations, to speak the truth, are ceaselessly spreading venoms and terming this movement as fascism, while both national and international media are glorifying the movement as exemplary precedence of the peaceful exercise of democratic power. For instance, The Daily Star's report Solidarity in Silence captures, "A silence that was more overpowering than the strongest of slogans, a silence stronger than the high-tempered steel. A silence that cried in the loudest of voices: We want just trial of the war criminals. We want justice for the genocide committed 42 years ago."
Finally, a solemn soul searching is in order for the freedom fighters in BNP who took part in the liberation war out of conviction. Human beings are mortal. In life, they are guided by greed for wealth and power. But, there are moments when human conscience should overtake all other aspects of human lives, which only could make a human being immortal. Is it not that the auspicious moment is knocking at our doorstep?
The writer is the Convenor of the Canadian Committee for Human Rights and Democracy in Bangladesh.