#India – Muslim women question community leaders with a public protest #Vaw


June 29th, Doolnews

Muslim women question community leaders with a public protest

On Saturday, Kozhikode, Kerala witnessed a first of its kind protest with a group of Muslim women burning an effigy of Kanthapuram A. P. Aboobacker Musalyar, General Secretary of the All India Sunni Jam-Eyyathul Ulema for his recent comments which supported the reducing of legal marriage age for Muslim women. This is the first time that the women from the community are coming out in protest against their own community leaders and opposing their regressive opinions.

The women not owing allegiance to any party or organisation said that they were forced to protest after the many regressive comments from Muslim organisations and clerics supporting the recent circular to legalise marriage of Muslim girls who have completed 16.

Kanthapuram had on Friday said that girls should be married off by the time they are 16 to prevent them from going wayward. The Jamaat-e-islami said that it is not right to fix the age for marriage in a democratic country like India. K. Alikutti Musaliar, the General Secretary of the SYS EK group had said that girls who have reached physical maturity can be married off. The Siraj newspaper owing allegiance to the AP Sunni group had published all their comments on Saturday, which led to the protest.

The women raised slogans that went – ‘Girls are not pieces of meat. Religious leaders should apologise for their comments’. They said that this is just a symbolic protest and if the leaders make further comments questioning the individuality of women, wider protest programmes will be arranged.

“The stand taken by these clerics and leaders is not just against Muslim society but against the whole of humanity. They are trying to see women as pieces of flesh and not as independent citizens. Marriage at such an age will only curtail the mental growth of these girls. It is also an age when they should be gaining better education and widen their horizon. The religious clerics do not want the girls to see the outside world. They are making such comments because they fear that educated girls who will be aware of their rights will question their authority,” said V.P. Rajeena, one of the protesters.

They criticised the UDF Government for acting according to the diktats of the religious organisations and coming out with a circular which is against the laws of a country where child marriage is illegal.

“The circular was issued keeping in mind the interests of a few people in the community. They are citing the recent moves by the Central Government to reduce the minimum age of consensual sex to 16. That is just a ploy to save some political leaders who are entangled in cases of raping minors. This is nothing less than child marriage and will only tarnish the image of the community as a whole. There should be strong opposition to such trends which will only help in taking Muslim Society many centuries backward. This community leaders should withdraw their comments and apologise to the people of Kerala,” said A. Seenath, another of the protesters.

 

Whose side are you on?


 

By Javed Anand

Leaders and the led from a host of rightwing Indian Muslim organisations – Jamaat-e-Islami Hind (JEI), All India Muslim Majlis-e Mushawarat, All India Milli Council, All Bengal Minority Youth Federation, West Bengal Sunnat Al Jamaat Committee included – have not been sleeping well in the last several weeks. Their angst is on two counts. One, the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) set up by the ruling Awami League in 2009 to investigate and prosecute suspects for the genocide committed in 1971 by the Pakistan army and their local collaborators, Razakars, Al-Badr and Al-Shams during the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971. Two, the “atheist conspiracy” to banish Islam from Bangladesh that is supposedly behind the lakhs who have been thronging Shahbagh. 

So far, nearly a dozen men including nine currently top-ranking leaders of the Jamaat, the largest Islamist party in Bangladesh, have been held guilty and served stiff sentences. According to the sleepy-heads, the ongoing trials are a sham, a mere cover for the ruling Awami League’s “vendetta politics” against the Jamaat and its youth wing, Islami Chhatra Shibir. That the Jamaat had any hand in the genocide is news to them.

“Islamists are the most principled, pious, god-fearing and kind people on the earth… It’s far beyond their high moral standards to rape or kill someone,” claims a JEI spokesperson in an email. This is news to me. Are the Jamaat-Shibir supporters in India ignorant, wilfully blind, or do we smell theological affinity here to a totalitarian ideology parading as Islamic?

Keep the genocide of 1971 aside for the moment and take a look at what the “most kind” have been up to in recent years.

April 26, 2011: “A judicial commission has concluded that over 200 Hindu women were raped following the 2001 parliamentary election, forcing many terrorized families to flee the country. The acts were allegedly committed by cadres of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its ally Jamaat-e-Islami who won the 2001 polls, the report said, citing the involvement of many top leaders and lawmakers of the alliance that is now in the opposition… It lists 3,625 incidents of major crimes, including killing, rape, arson and looting”. (IANS report from Dhaka published by the Muslim news portal, Two Circles).

 September 26, 2005: Syed Najibul Bashar Maizbhandari, international affairs secretary of the ruling Bangladesh National Party (BNP) resigns from the party protesting “the government’s failure to act” against the Jamaat-e-Islami (part of the then ruling coalition) which he said had direct links to terrorist activities across the country. The Daily Star published from Dhaka, quoted police records that the over 100 militants who were arrested during 2005 in connection with the bombings (including the simultaneous bomb blasts at 459 spots in 63 districts across Bangladesh on a single day – August 17 – aimed at establishing Islamic rule in the country) either belonged to the Jamaat or its various wings, or had worked with them previously.

November 24, 2005: The BNP expels one of its MPs, Abu Hena, from the party for blaming a section of his own government and party for patronising militants. What’s more, he charged that two ministers “are doing everything for the militants”. Hena further alleged that the Jamaat was directly involved in the emergence of the outlawed Jamaatul-Mujahedeen Bangladesh. His expulsion notwithstanding, BNP’s standing committee member and former minister Oli Ahmed and BNP whip Ashraf Hossain also spoke out, implicating the Jamaat-e-Islami in the rise of militancy in the country.

March 6, 2013: “Over the past week, individuals taking part in strikes called by Islamic parties have vandalised more than 40 Hindu temples across Bangladesh. Scores of shops and houses belonging to the Hindu community have also been burned down, leaving hundreds of people homeless… Survivors told Amnesty International that the attackers were taking part in rallies organised by the opposition Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami (JIB) and its student group Chhatra Shibir. JIB has publicly denied any involvement in violence against the Hindu community”. (A press release by Amnesty International)

April 20, 2013: “Despite High Court directives to the government to protect religious minorities and their places of worships, criminals continue their attacks on minorities across the country. In the latest such crimes, a group of criminals torched a 200-year-old Hindu temple in Rajoir upazila of Madaripur (on April 19)… at least 94 attacks were carried out in March (2013) on minorities, mainly on the Hindus. In total, 187 houses, 162 businesses and 89 temples were attacked and looted and 133 idols were vandalised, according to the statement of a writ petition jointly filed by six rights organizations”. (Daily Star, Dhaka). As always, the JIB will no doubt deny any role in the recurrent targeting of Hindus.

As for “atheist conspiracy”, an entire galaxy of maulanas affiliated to the Imam Ulema Somonnoy Oikyo Parishad, Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (Bangladesh) and other religious bodies in Bangladesh have publicly alleged that the Jamaat-Shibir is linked with terrorist Islamist organizations. “People who believe in Wahabism and Moududism (Maulana Abul Ala Maududi was the founder of the Jamaat-e-Islami) are enemies of Islam as they misinterpret Quran and Sunnah”, thundered Ahle Sunnat (Bangladesh) secretary general Syed Muhammad Masiuddoula at a Sunni Ulema-Mashayekh Conference on March 17. (Daily Star).

On one side are the Jamaat which has never polled more than four per cent of total votes and extremist Islamist outfits dreaming of an Islamic state andshariah law. On the other side is the overwhelming majority of Bangladeshi Muslims love “their Islam” but would like it to stay far away from politics. It’s as simple as that. That’s what Shahbagh is all about.

Whose side are you on? The question is addressed in particular to Indian Muslim supporters of the violence-promoting Jamat-Shibir outfits in Bangladesh as much as to the Left Front and the Trinamool Congress in West Bengal, both of whom seem to have granted to local Muslims the right to hold the state to ransom as often as they please.

(Javed Anand is co-editor, Communalism Combat, and General Secretary, Muslims for Secular Democracy).

Bangladesh -Jamat-e-Islami misguiding international human rights bodies


Thursday, 07 March 2013 20:28by Farooq Sulehria , viewpointonline.com

The Communist Party of Bangladesh or Bangladesh Samajtantrik Dol (Socialist Party) have been unwavering in their commitment to the war criminal trials

‘Sadly, the Awami League has not fully restored the 1972 constitution – the present constitution is a strange chimera – it has Islam as state religion and also says that that the republic is secular, at the same time !,’ says Garga Chatterjee.

He is a political commentator on the sub-continental issues. His articles are regularly published from newspapers and magazines in Lahore, Mumbai, Kolkata, Dhaka, Sri Nagar, Delhi, and Kathmandu. By profession, he is a brain scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Read on:

You were recently in Dhaka. Tell us about the unrest that has gripped the country of late.

I was in Dhaka recently when the protests at Shahbag were going on in full swing. The protests started when one of the war criminals of 1971, a Bengali killer-collaborator called Kader Mollah, was handed down a life sentence. The initial protest organizers, sort of an informal alliance between a network of bloggers and certain secular and left student organizations, snowballed into a continuous protest against the verdict. People from many walks of life, especially women and youth, joined in. People who have seen protests in Dhaka before told me that they have not seen anything this big since the pro-democracy protests against General Ershad. Some say this even dwarfs that. Soon enough, the demands on the protesters went beyond asking for death penalty for Kader Mollah. This finally coalesced in to the 6-point demand from the ‘Projonmo Chottor’, which is the informal name for the Shahbag demonstration – which roughly translates as the Generation Campus/Square.

The 6-points are:

1. Maximum penalty for all war criminals including Kader Molla.
2. Ensuring equal legal rights of both defendant and prosecution, ensuring 3-month time limit on all trials, abolishing clemency power of the state for these trials.
3. Banning Pakistani aggressor force’s allies Jamat-Shibir and all communal parties for resisting Bangladesh liberation and committing war crimes. Immediate arrest and justice for activists of Jamat-Shibir for threatening a civil war by identifying through television and print media pictures.
4.  Bring all the political parties, forces, individuals and organizations who are trying to safeguard these war criminals, resisting the trials and conspiring with them to justice.
5. Arrest and bring under ICT Trials all the war criminals who were either convicted or undergoing trial till their release on December 31, 1975
6.  Ban all the business, social and cultural organizations like Islami Bank, Ibn Sina, Focus, Retina Coaching, etc. Block all the local and foreign sources of income of Jamat-Shibir. Shut down war criminal owned media organizations like Diganta TV, Daily Naya Diganta, Daily Amar Desh, Daily Sangram, blogsite SonarBangladesh.com , etc.

The last point is significant because Jamaat and its cohorts run one of the largest business networks in Bangladesh.

Also, solidarity protests have been held beyond Dhaka in almost all parts of Bangladesh. I myself saw protests in Barisal being held in front of the Ashwini Dutta Town Hall. Certain progressive-left cultural troupes like Udichi are taking a very active role in organizing these- through singing songs of Liberation war and also Bangla songs of Robindronath, Dwinjendro Lal Ray and other stalwarts.

There are extempore paintings being done by local artists. In Shahbag, at any point, 2-3 film screenings, 4-5 street theatres and numerous small gatherings (jotlas) were happening side by side with the central assembly. The atmosphere was electric – nothing like what I have ever seen before, and being from Calcutta, I have been to many protests, including the much talked about Delhi rape protests.

It is being commented that people are asserting the secular identity of their country. Why this stress on war crimes. What is the link between the secular identity and the war crimes?

People in Shahbag are indeed asserting the importance of secular politics. This is evident in their slogans and in the absence of informal obeisance to this religion or the other, which take place in many other ‘secular’ scenarios. Apart from brief Namaj [prayer] breaks, I noticed nothing that had any particular stamp. What was interesting that most of the assemblies were not talking of ‘true Islam’ or ‘true Hinduism’ but of a politics bereft of the use of religion. I am not sure whether Shahbag’s strand of hard secularism is representative of Bangladesh as a whole, but Shahbag is a political act and in that, it aims for a change, rather than simply reflect what is. So Shahbag’s secularism is derived partly from the present polity but also is trying to project a political programme. Interestingly, this separation of religion from politics is something that is enshrined in the 1972 constitution, which the military rulers removed. Sadly, the Awami League has not fully restored the 1972 constitution – the present constitution is a strange chimera – it has Islam as state religion and also says that that the republic is secular, at the same time!

The question of war crimes is central to this movement. The 1971 Liberation war is the central defining event that resulted in the nation-state of the people’s republic of Bangladesh. That central fissure, of those for and those against the idea of Bangladesh, remains unresolved – as those against the idea have retained considerable clout in politics. They have tried to systematically distort history. The War crimes are important because in spite of all the distortion, except a few religious cranks, no one really disputes that they really happened. The war criminals represent a festering wound – of the kind few nation-states have. Imagine having the butcher of Jallianwalabagh being a minister in post-British Punjab! Then you start getting an idea of what we are talking about. The war crimes trials are a short-hand for historical justice, but also for many, something that needs to be resolved so that those who opposed independence violently can be delegitimized in politics.

The link between secular identity and war crimes is important. The war crimes happened in the name of preserving the unity of the Islamic state, Pakistan. The Hindus of East Bengal were victims of war crimes in disproportionately high numbers. Even in 1971, the pro Liberation forces were touted to be anti-Islam for being pro-Bengali. In this nation-state, Muslims form a progressively stupendous majority. So, the demand for war crimes trial, also is part of the demand the calls for a return to the ‘ideals of 71′ – which, in theory, is not communal.

Do you think there are lessons for other Muslim countries, especially Pakistan, in this movement?

There are important lessons for other countries with large Muslims majority populations. The Shahbag protests are quite different from the other iconic protest of recent times- the Tahrir Square. Unlike Tahrir, in Shahbag Islamists were not part of the protests. So beyond superficial comparisons, Shahbag is quite different – in composition, in political direction, in participation and leadership of women ( leading some pro-Jamaat groups and clerics to call Shahbag a den of vice and prostitution!). Shahbag also underlines the role of long-term political organizing in Muslim-majority societies that may be missed in the ‘spontaneity’. Make no mistake about it, without the student and youth organizations of the political left, there would be no Shahbag. I remember a cartoon by Sabir Nazar that was printed in The Friday Times, where he shows the successive destruction of ‘minorities’ in Pakistan – Hindus, Ahmadis, Sunnis and then a bullet coming towards the Sunnis. In Bangladesh, this politics of ‘purification’ is something that was countered, albeit incompletely, during 71. Given the devastating effects of finding the one pure faithful befitting Pakistan, Shahbag, in its prioritizing the issue of genocide and war crimes of 71, brings to front, what solution such ‘purifying’ politics leads to. In all places, where minorities are living a threatened existence, Shahbag should act as a political message. From Shahbag, there have been slogans that venerate Surya Sen and Pritilata Waddeddar. These ‘Hindu’ freedom fighters from 80 years ago were centre of mass slogans by an assembly that was largely Muslim. Can Pakistan conceive of a politics where Bhagat Singh can have a similar status? These are issues that need to be reflected upon.

Jamaat was feared in Bangladesh. It seems that fear is disappearing. Your comments.

This is something I heard at many places. Many said, if Shahbag has done one thing, it is this – earlier, in many places, the ‘commoner’ would criticize Jamaat in a low voice. Now they swear openly at it.

The Jamaat and its associates are a marginal but significant political force in Bangladesh. The silence was due to their terror techniques. Especially notorious is their student wing, the Islami Chhatra Shibir. The similarity with the IJT’s terrorizing of campuses in Pakistan is striking.

Has Jamaat-e-Islami been on the defensive? Is it true that JI members have been killed by Awami League? Or is it the case that Jamaat has been targeting opponents. In Pakistan, Jamaat is propagating that their members have been killed by Awami League activists?

If the 6 demands of Shahbag are fulfilled, then Jamaat will be severely compromised politically – though their strand of politics will find other outlets. So for JI, this is a battle for political survival. They are fighting back on all fronts. In any case JI cadres are brain-washed to believe that they are perennially besieged. They are doing online propaganda, trying to misguide international human rights organizations, and on the streets, they are doing looting, killing and arson. Very recently, they have been targeting Hindu and Buddhist temples, homes and businesses to create a riot-like situation. The state forces of Bangladesh have come down in a heavy handed manner – so it is incorrect to say that Awami League (AL) is killing them now. It is true that AL, BNP and Jamaat have been involved in murderous clashes. The student and youth wing of the Awami League has been particularly violent in the last 2 years – but most of it has been feuds between AL factions. The student wing of the Jamaat however is the most notorious, having earned the terrifying epithet of ‘rog-kata’ or ‘muscle/tendon cutters’.

What has been the role of Awami League and other mainstream parties during these trial? Also, what about the left: its stand and level of participation?

The AL has been formally supportive of the trial. This was one of their elections manifesto pledges. They have however mismanaged the trial but nominating a bunch of loyal but worthless lawyers in the prosecution side. Also the tribunal does not have much resources. This has led many to question whether AL really wants the trial and prosecution of war criminals. AL has earlier made underhand deals with many powers, including the Jamaat. However, this time, the tenor of the struggle on the ground is different.

The left organizations, like the Communist Party of Bangladesh or Bangladesh Samajtantrik Dol (Socialist Party) have been unwavering in their commitment to the war criminal trials. They have been trying to follow a line of tactically criticizing the AL to keep it in line with its election manifesto commitments on the war trial issue. The AL smells election benefits of Shahbag, if it can channelize the youth vote, which is an increasingly large part of the electorate. At the same time, AL knows that the widespread support and participation in Shahbag has happened as it was no explicitly partisan. It is a case of the goose that lays the golden eggs. AL wants to steal the eggs – however, it also knows that trying to do that too brashly, will kill the goose.

Farooq Sulehria is currently pursuing his media studies. Previously, he has worked with Stockholm-based Weekly Internationalen. In Pakistan, he has worked with The Nation, The Frontier Post, The News, and the Pakistan. He has MA in Mass Communication from the University of Punjab, Lahore. He also contributes for Znet and various left publications internationally.

Bangladesh moves Supreme Court for #deathpenalty to Abdul Quader Mollah


PTI Mar 3, 2013,

DHAKA: Bangladesh government today moved the Supreme Court seeking death penalty for Jamaat-e-Islami leader Abdul Quader Mollah, who escaped with life imprisonment from a court here for committing “crimes against humanity” during the country’s independence war in 1971.

The attorney general’s office submitted the 484-page appeal to the section concerned of the apex court in this morning.

Attorney general Mahbubey Alam said his office will now file an application in the chamber judge of the Appellate Division for fixing a date for hearing the appeal at a regular bench.

In its petition, the government asked the Supreme Court to award Mollah, Jamaat assistant secretary general, capital punishment considering the gravity of his crimes committed during the 1971 Liberation War.

The verdict delivered on February 5 by a war crime tribunal convicted 65-year-old Mollah for five wartime criminal offences out of the six he was charged with, and sentenced him to life imprisonment.

In two of the five acts of crimes against humanity, at least 350 people were killed and a girl was raped.

Mollah was also sentenced to 15-year imprisonment for his complicity in three other criminal offences in which six people were killed. He was acquitted of the charge of killing hundreds of people at Keraniganj in Dhaka as the charge was not proved in the tribunal.

The life imprisonment for Mollah angered thousands of secular protesters, mostly youths, who have been demonstrating at Shahbagh Square here since February 5 to press enhancing his punishment to death sentence.

Mollah’s party colleague and Jamaat vice-president Delwar Hossain Sayedee was last week sentenced to death for setting ablaze 25 houses in a Hindu village and aiding the killing of two persons.

The court found him guilty of helping a pro-Pakistani armed group which abducted three Hindu girls and raped them and forced 100 Hindus to convert.

In January, former Jamaat leader Abul Kalam Azad was sentenced to death on similar charges.

The government’s moving the apex court to seek death for Mollah came on a day when Jamaat and its student wing Islamic Chhatra Shibir attacked civilians and clashed with police across Bangladesh, leaving 14 people dead.

 

Shahbag: Story of two hangings; differences in their dynamics #deathpenalty


 

The name Shahbag will not evoke much recognition from the Indian pretenders to ‘global citizenship’. Dhaka is the city many Indians believe that ‘they’ liberated in 1971. Shahbag is one of the main street intersections of Dhaka where the events taking place as I write may have historic consequences. If you walk from the Science Lab intersection in Dhaka and hear passionate slogans from the young and old shaking the ground beneath your feet, you are at Shahbag.

After the 1971 Liberation war of Bangladesh, the governments of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh reached a tripartite agreement. One of the despicable results of this was the granting of clemency to some of the worst perpetrators of crimes against humanity in the last millennium. Some Bengali collaborators of the Pakistan forces indulged in mass-murders and rapes that have few parallels in recent memory. They have never faced the judicial process, until now.

The International War Crimes tribunal in Bangladesh has been pursuing some of the biggest leaders of the Jamaat-e-Islami, Razakar, Al-Shams and Al-Badr militia — a process that has stupendous public support. One of the most hated of these characters, Kader Mollah, has been handed a life sentence and not a death sentence. This resulted in a protest assembly started by a bloggers and online activist network that was quickly joined by progressive and left-wing student organisations.

The result has been an unprecedented mass assembly that has been going on almost continuously since February 5 with people from all walks of life joining in. If the Anna protests in Delhi were a stove-flame, Shahbag is a veritable volcano. It was briefly called off after February 21 only to start again a day later.

As I stand in Shahbag, soaking in this immense human energy, I cannot help compare this to another such urban assembly I was recently witness to, where too, calls for hanging (something I am personallyopposed to, under any circumstance) were the primary chant. These were the India Gate protests after the Delhi rape and murder case. At India Gate, Kavita Krishnan and others tried their best to inject sanity into the folks demands for death and castration. There the political was trying to reason with the expressly ‘apolitical’. Here in Shahbag, from the very outset, it was very political. However, it was not partisan. The difference showed. In Shahbag, the politicised students and youth mood that bordered on uber-nationalism was blood-lust was interrogated, at the square itself, by mass chants, that challenged simplistic understandings of nation, nationalism and revenge.

The slogan Tumi ke, ami ke, Bangali, Bangali (Who are you, who am I? Bengali, Bengali) was often changed to Chakma, Marma, Bangali to include other ethnicities in the state of Bangladesh. The former two ethnic groups were involved in a long-armed insurrection with the government. This is not easy, especially in a nation-state formed primarily on the basis of an exclusivist ethno-linguistic nationalism.

Imagine saying the K-word or the N-word as different from ‘Indian’ in the Delhi chants. But Dhaka could, and they could precisely because Shahbag is political. The media covers Shahbag, it does not dictate it. It does not repeat the word ‘apolitical’ like a ghost-busting mantra as those in Delhi studios did as soon as the ‘Damini’ protests started. In Shahbag, it was demanded that whole organisations that were involved in rapes and murders be banned. In the Indian Union, can we even dare to name the organisations and agencies to which the highest numbers of alleged rapists are affiliated?

The amateur flash-in-the-pan nature of Delhi protests showed when it was all but broken but a Lathi-charge. The brutal murder of one of the organisers of the Shahbag protests, blogger Rajeeb Haidar, only strengthened the resolve of the square. In Shahbag, the government is trying hard to appropriate the movement for justice.

At the India Gate, the Delhi Police meted out instant justice of another kind. Shahbag is also a call for a different political direction — the youth wanting to resolve issues that happened before their birth. This bursts the myth that today’s young only react when things affect them directly. The hip metro youth of India, are still sadly, in a state of political infancy in this regard.

I stood mesmerised by the slogan-chanting figure of Bangladesh Chhatro Union’s Lucky Akhtar, who has now been nicknamed ‘slogankanya’ by Shahbag itself. Lucky has been hospitalised multiple times, once after being pushed by ruling party operatives keen to capture the stage.

Whenever Lucky led the sloganeering, it was hard to separate the aesthetic from the political. And why should one? In this assembly for justice against crimes that also includes innumerable rapes, there were thousands who were there not as somebody’s mother, daughter or sister, but as politically inspired women. And it matters. And that showed.

 

 

Bangladesh amends war crimes law, mulls banning Islamists


By Anis Ahmed

DHAKA (Reuters) – DHAKA | Sun Feb

Feb 17 (Reuters) – Bangladesh‘s parliament, meeting the demands of protesters thronging the capital, amended a law on Sunday allowing the state to appeal any verdict in war crimes trials it deems inadequate and out of step with public opinion.

Tens of thousands of demonstrators jamming central Shahbag Square for the 13th day burst into cheers amid driving rain as the assembly approved the changes.

The protesters have been demanding the death penalty for war crimes after a tribunal this month sentenced a prominent Islamist to life in prison in connection with Bangladesh’s 1971 war of independence from Pakistan.

The life sentence pronounced on Abdul Quader Mollah, assistant Secretary General of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, for murder, rape and torture had stunned many Bangaldeshis.

The amendment will “empower the tribunals to try and punish any organizations, including Jamaat-e-Islami, for committing crimes during country’s liberation war in 1971″, Law Minister Shafique Ahmed said after the change was approved.

Lawyers said the amendment sets a timetable for the government to appeal against Mollah’s sentence and secure a retrial. The previous law did not allow state prosecutors to call for a retrial except in the case of acquittals.

Adoption was quick — less than a week after the amendment was approved by the cabinet in the overwhelmingly Muslim country of 150 million.

OPPOSITION BOYCOTTS PARLIAMENT

Opposition benches were empty as the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (the BNP) of former premier Begum Khaleda Zia and its allies have been boycotting sessions almost since her arch rival, Sheikh Hasina, leader of the Awami League, took office in 2009.

The BNP accuses the prime minister of using the war crimes tribunal as a weapon against its opponents. Hasina denies the allegation.

In its first verdict last month, the tribunal sentenced a former Jamaat leader, Abul Kamal Azad, also an Islamic preacher, to death in absentia for similar offences.

Eight other Jamaat leaders, including its current and former chiefs, are being tried by the war crimes court that Hasina set up in 2010 to investigate abuses during the 1971 conflict. Three million people were killed and thousands of women were raped.

The government is facing growing pressure from the protesters to ban Jamaat-e-Islami, the country’s largest Islamist party, and groups linked to it.

Students and teachers throughout the country hoisted the national flag and sang the national anthem simultaneously to support the demonstrators’ call to put war criminals to death.

Law minister Shafique Ahmed told reporters the government was considering such a ban.

Jamaat activists have called a country-wide strike for Monday, but demonstrators and many shopkeepers have pledged to resist any attempt to enforce such a stoppage.

Demonstrators have shown new resolve after the killing on Friday of one of the protest leaders, a popular blogger.

Bangladesh became part of Pakistan at the end of British rule in 1947 but broke away in 1971 after a war between Bangladeshi nationalists, backed by India, and Pakistani forces.

Some factions in what was then East Pakistan opposed the break with Pakistan. Jamaat denies accusations that it opposed independence and helped the Pakistani army.

(Editing by Ron Popeski)

 

Bangladesh war crimes trial: Blogger killed, violence escalates


Feb 17, 2013

 

Dhaka, Bangladesh: Blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider, a 30-year-old architect, was found dead near the gate of his home on Friday night, a local police official, Abdul Latif Sheikh, said. An autopsy showed Haider had at least eight stab wounds, said Sohel Mahmud, a physician at Dhaka Medical College Hospital said.

Police have launched an investigation into the killing, but would not say anything about who may have been responsible. Haider’s family and friends suspect Jamaat-e-Islami in the attack, but the Islamic party issued a statement Saturday denying involvement.

Demonstrations in Bangladesh. AP.Demonstrations in Bangladesh. AP.

His friends said Haider posted many statements in his blog urging the young generation to support tougher punishments for Mollah and others facing charges stemming from the 1971 war for independence.

For many in Bangladesh, the “V” for victory sign was more than they could bear.

They had waited more than four decades for justice in the mass killings and rapes during their independence war. But there was a smiling Abdul Quader Mollah on Feb. 5 apparently celebrating his life sentence — given in place of an expected death sentence — for his role in the killing of 381 civilians.

Within hours, thousands of university students demanding his death poured into the streets of Dhaka, the seeds of what has grown into a mass protest that has exposed again the unhealed wounds from the nation’s 1971 war for independence from Pakistan.

“I could not take it. That was really insulting,” Gazi Nasiruddin Khokon, a protester who works for an online newspaper, said of Mollah’s victorious gesture after his sentencing last week. “If we don’t get proper justice for such crimes, where would we stand in the future?”

Mollah was convicted by a special war crimes tribunal that was set up to hold people accountable for the first time for their roles in the civil war, where Bangladesh says as many as 3 million people were killed and 200,000 women raped by Pakistani troops and local collaborators.

But the trials are also seen as part of a long and bitter rivalry between Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and the main opposition leader, former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, who is allied with the Islamic party Jamaat-e-Islami, many of whose leaders face charges before the tribunal.

Jamaat, which opposed Bangladesh’s fight for independence, and Zia have called the tribunal politically motivated, while international rights groups have raised questions about the conduct of the trials. The head of one of the tribunals resigned in December over reports he had improper conversations with a lawyer about the panel.

Mollah, an assistant secretary of Jamaat, was found guilty Feb. 5 of killing a student and a family of 11 and of aiding Pakistani troops in killing 369 others. Members of his party took to the streets in anger at his conviction, exploding homemade bombs and clashing with police.

But they were soon overshadowed by thousands of protesters who flooded a major intersection in the capital, Dhaka, upset by what they said was a lenient sentence of life in prison, which actually means just 14 years in Bangladesh. They also were inflamed by the image of Mollah smiling at journalists and holding up two fingers in a “V” sign as he was led from the court, apparently in celebration of his avoiding the death penalty.

Fueled by online posts, the protests grew until hundreds of thousands of people took over the Shahbagh intersection, which they renamed Projonmo Chattar, or New Generation Platform.

Many slept there, collecting donations for food. Others came after work and stayed late into the night, listening to chants for justice over loudspeakers. Some beat drums and wrapped their heads in scarves with slogans saying “We want death for the war criminals” and “Traitors have no place in this land.”

The protesters also called for Jamaat to be banned.

The immensely popular national cricket team came to the site to express solidarity with the protesters, and on Thursday evening, organizers said more than 100,000 candles were lit at the site.

To counter any accusations that the protest was organized by Hasina’s government, politicians were banned from the stage.

“This is a history. A new history is in the making,” said Aminul Islam, a 30-year-old bank employee at the protest site.

“It is unbelievable,” he said. “This is our fight, this is another war, not with rifles in hand, but with an unconditional urge to bringing those to book for killing our people and dishonoring our mothers and sisters.”

Even though many of the protesters had not been born when the war raged, they were still scarred by it and the lack of accountability for those accused of crimes during the fighting, said Hassan Shahriar. To some that lack of accountability was reflected in the fact two members of Jamaat have served as Cabinet ministers.

“Generation after generation have seen no remedy, no punishment for the perpetrators. Rather they have become influential political actors, social actors, and the new generation has been silently frustrated,” he said. “The wounds are still fresh.”

The protesters are also fed up with corruption, nepotism and other perceived injustices and have seized on the tribunals to express their dissatisfaction, he said.

On Saturday, nearly 100,000 people mourned as the body of a blogger believed to be one of the organizers of the protest was brought to the intersection.

In response to the demonstrations, the government has sent a bill to Parliament that would amend the law creating the tribunals, allowing the prosecution to appeal if it felt a sentence handed down was too lenient.

Law Minister Shafique Ahmed said the bill was expected to be passed by Parliament on Sunday, and the government has said it would use it to appeal Mollah’s sentence.

One legal analyst, Shahdeen Malik, said the amendments would strengthen the law, and that the country’s legal system could be counted on to give verdicts based on evidence and not simply in response to street pressure.

But New York-based Human Rights Watch criticized the proposed amendments, saying that passing retroactive laws to overturn unpopular verdicts violated the country’s commitments to protect the rights of defendants.

“Convictions of those responsible for the 1971 atrocities is important for the country, but not at the expense of the principles that make Bangladesh a democracy,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

AP

 

Voices from Bangladesh- Youth Power #Sundayreading


 

 Shayantani,

In Bangladesh political parties are mired in corruption. Amongst ordinary people, there is little hope of achieving positive change through party politics. The brutal stabbing of Bishwajit in December 2012 in front of hundreds of people reveals this to be a country deeply divided by communal tensions. The destruction of Ramu in late 2012 show that this is a countr­­y where religious fundamentalists dare to burn down an entire Buddhist village. This is a country where the murder of a journalist couple in February 2012remains uninvestigated and the killers remain unpunished. This is a country where war criminals and perpetrators of genocide have the privilege of being members of parliament.
We, the youth, had almost forgotten that we are the strength of this country. For so long we forgot that Bangladesh was born as a secular, democratic country. We forgot that we have the power to change our future. We forgot how to stand up for justice. We, the people did not know how to raise our voice.
On the 5th of February 2013, the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) delivered a verdict on Abdul Quader Mulla. Widely known as ‘koshai Quader’ (butcher Quader), he is a leading member of the political party Jamat Islaami and was prosecuted at the ICT for killing 344 people during the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971. Abdul Quader Mulla was sentenced to life imprisonment. It was a day that has taken on special significance for my generation and for the history of Bangladesh. The first verdict passed by the ICT was against Mawlana Abul Kalam. Known as ‘Bachchu razakar,’ he was sentenced to death for killing one family during 1971. The question arose: if Bachchu gets life sentence for killing one family, why did Quader Mulla only receive lifetime imprisonment for killing hundreds of people and raping an eleven year old child? It smells of corruption.
Rumors began to circulate that the justice of the tribunal delivered such a verdict under the influence of a bribe or a threat. The people of Bangladesh were devastated. Would there never be justice for the heinous crimes committed in 1971? They lost all hope and they were angry. The crimes committed at the very birth of the nation need to be addressed if we are to change the corrupted system. If we cannot bring justice for the crime that has been committed 42 years ago, how will we demand justice for all other crimes in recent times? If we cannot bring those to justice who were against the birth of the nation and still working against the nation’s welfare, will there be any moral ground for fighting corruption and injustice?
Around 4 pm on 5th February, through social network sites and receiving phone calls from friends, we received news that a group of bloggers had gathered near Shahbag, the heart of Dhaka. Hearing that many passersby had stopped to support them I immediately felt like perhaps there was some hope for justice. I rushed to Shahbag to stand with them. There were about 50 people sitting on the street. I sat with them. Some of the bloggers instructed us to guard the periphery and by the evening, there were several hundreds of people gathered. The surprising part was that all these people were young. These were Bangladeshis who never saw war of liberation. They never saw the rape of women and children in 1971. But all of them were united for one purpose: the highest possible punishment under Bangladesh law for war criminals.
By the second day, thousands of people had gathered at Shahbag. With the help of press coverage and electronic media, across the nation people came to know about the protest at Shahbag and began to gather in their respective districts. Within 3 days, the number of people at Shahbag exceeded half a million and the number kept increasing.
So far, this has been the biggest social movement that I have seen in my life. It is the largest non violent movement since the birth of Bangladesh and globally it is one of the biggest uprisings against religious fundamentalism in recent history. The youth identified politics driven by Islamic fundamentalism as the root of the problem. Their anger focused in on the terror unleashed on Bangladesh by Jamaat-e-Islami and their student arm, Islami Chhatra Shibir. Members of these parties slaughter innocent people in the name of Islam. The youth identified ‘Jamaat-Shibir’ driven business, health, education and media organizations and vowed to boycott them. The youth demand the elimination of political parties based on religion. We demand that we proceed towards a secular Bangladesh.
Against all odds, Bangladesh won the war in 1971, which gave us independence. The youth of 1971 were fearless and patriotic. They fought till their last breath. They fought for justice. And now history is repeating itself. We are fighting a war now in 2013. Our weapons are candles, paint brushes, colors, music and our voices.
We have found our voice and we know now how to raise it. We stand up for justice and what’s right. At Shahbag we are building a platform from which we can stand up against crime and corruption. We are the strength of Bangladesh. In fact, we are the strength of the world.
visit her blog at -http://shayantani-twisha.blogspot.in/

 

Protests erupt in Bangladesh after war-crimes verdict


By Farid Ahmed for CNN
February 7, 2013 — U

Dhaka, Bangladesh (CNN) – Outraged by a court verdict they considered too lenient, thousands of people took to the streets across Bangladesh on Wednesday demanding the death penalty for an Islamic party leader convicted of war crimes carried out more than four decades ago.

“We’ve taken additional measures across the country to heighten security,” State Minister for Home Affairs Shamsul Hoque told reporters.

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The demonstrations began Tuesday, when an International Crimes Tribunal sentenced Abdul Quader Mollah, assistant secretary general for the Jamaat-e-Islami party, to life in prison.

The Jamaat-e-Islami party had called for a two-day general strike across Bangladesh beginning Tuesday, and demonstrators clashed with police and demanded that ruling party officials scrap the trial process.

The government on Tuesday evening called in paramilitary troopers to maintain law and order in Dhaka and elsewhere as deadly protests erupted after the verdict.

Jamaat-e-Islami protested the verdict as demonstrators — including some from ruling party alliances — took to the streets demanding the death penalty for Mollah.

Read more: General strike disrupts life in Bangladesh

“We’ve deployed troopers from the Border Guards of Bangladesh to maintain law and order,” Hoque said.

Hundreds of Dhaka University students took to the streets in the capital’s Shahbagh Square, where they were joined by other city residents in protests that began Tuesday.

Home Ministry officials said security forces were patrolling in Dhaka and other major cities, including in the large southeastern port city of Chittagong, where at least four people were killed Tuesday during clashes between police and supporters of Jamaat-e-Islami.

Police opened fire and shot tear-gas shells to disperse the protesters, who torched and otherwise damaged more than 100 vehicles in major cities.

Jamaat-e-Islami said its members would continue to protest; many of its leaders are behind bars facing charges of murder, arson, looting and rape stemming from the war of independence in 1971.

Read more: Clinton leaves drama in China for turmoil in Bangladesh

They said the war-crimes trials, which began after more than 40 years of independence, was done with “ill political motive.”

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina showed no sign of backing down, saying the trials would be completed at any cost.

The government, which promised in its election pledges in 2008 to complete the war-crimes trials, set up the tribunals in 2010.

Amid tight security, a three-member panel of judges of the International Crimes Tribunal-2 delivered the judgment against Mollah in a crowded courtroom on Tuesday.

Mollah, 64, was found guilty of five of six charges, including murder.

They included crimes against humanity, tribunal Chairman Justice Obaidul Hassan said.

After the verdict was read, Mollah stood from the chair on which he had been seated and cried, “Allahu Akbar!” (God is Great!)

He declared he was innocent and began to curse the judges and the government.

He then pulled a copy of the Quran from his pocket and held it in front of him, saying that the judges would one day find themselves on trial in accordance with the holy book’s law.

Lawmakers of the ruling party alliance criticized the verdict in parliament and asked the prosecution to appeal for the death penalty.

Mollah, who was the chief of the students’ wing of Jamaat-e-Islami in 1971, is the first Jamaat-e-Islami leader convicted in a war-crimes case by the tribunal.

On January 21, the same tribunal sentenced to death the first war crimes convict, Abul Kalam Azad, alias Bachchu Razakar.

Bangladesh had been the eastern portion of Pakistan until it gained independence in 1971 in a war that killed 3 million people.

 

Bangladesh freedom fighter says war crimes trial will set an example for world


Dhaka , Sun, 04 Nov 2012ANI

Dhaka, Nov.4 (ANI): Bangladeshi freedom fighter and chairman of the country’s University Grants Commission A. K. Azad Chowdhury has said that the successful holding of the war crimes trial in his country would set an example for the rest of world.

War crimes tribunal, which was set in 2010, requires wrapping up investigations of all those who were accused, as the government aims to finish their trials before Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s five-year term ends. She took charge of office in early 2009.

A former chief of Jamaat-e-Islami, Bangladesh‘s biggest Islamic political party and the country’s top Islamist leader, Golan Azam, is on trial for helping the Pakistani army during Bangladesh’s 1971 war of independence when the then East Pakistan broke away to form Bangladesh.

Jamaat -e-Islami and its close ally the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party allege that the tribunal hearing the case takes orders from the government.

While talking reporters in Dhaka, the former freedom fighter stressed that holding of trial in a proper manner will project Bangladesh with a positive image.

“Why not there should be a justified trial to strengthen and bolster the human values, and give a teaching and lesson to the world that nobody can get away doing this sort of genocide and criminal activity and war crimes? This is more needed for the civilisation to uphold this sort of trial. It is not only Bangladesh’s cause, definitely Bangladesh has sore point in its heart,” said Chowdhury.

Chowdhury also added that the implementation of justice in this case will deter other tyrants in the world and will put an end to such acts of crime against humanity in future.

“The world at large should and will appreciate in such a manner that no other evil force in the world wherever it is will venture to commit crimes against humanity, to commit war crime. We are living in a civilised society though there are hotspots in the world. But systematic genocide and killing and such incidents are few and far behind. If this trial is properly done that will work as a deterrent to any other people who are conspiring or will be conspiring to commit genocide,” he said.

Chowdhury said that if anybody would try to defend the alleged war criminals, it would put the entire genocide undercover.

“This sort of trial should not prolong that much. Some people are bringing about all those defence with the objective to delay the whole process. This is in another word denial of the war crime trial. I expect the process will be expedited for the sake of humanity, for the sake of Bengali nation, for the sake of mankind,” he said.

Bangladesh, formerly East Pakistan, gained independence with India’s help in December 1971, following a nine-month war against Pakistan. Around 3 million people were killed.

The Islamist groups in Bangladesh want to scrap “secularism” as a state principle in the Muslim-majority country.

Jamaat-e-Islami opposed Bangladesh’s independence from Pakistan and fought with the Pakistan army.

They were allegedly involved in war crimes and have thousands of militant followers, including in the Defence forces, analysts say.

Dozens of other Jamaat leaders including its chief Moulana Motiur Rahman Nizami and secretary-general Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid are already in prison accused of war crimes.

A court in Bangladesh charged prominent opposition politician Moulana Delwar Hossain Sayedi with war crimes in the country’s 1971 war of independence.

Court officials said Sayedi was the first to be formally charged with war crimes, and others would be charged soon. (ANI)

Bachchu Razakar goes on trial
Sun, Nov 4th, 2012 7:18 pm BdST
Dhaka, Nov 4 (bdnews24.com)—The second war crimes tribunal of Bangladesh on Sunday ordered the start of the trial against Jamaat-e-Islami leader Abul Kalam Azad, better known as ‘Bachchu Razakar’, on eight charges of crimes against humanity committed during the Liberation Warin 1971.The three-judge International Crimes Tribunal–2 led by Justice ATM Fazle Kabir framed charges against Azad and set Nov 14 for witness deposition to start.

The court also threw away a plea by Azad’s counsels seeking his acquittal.

The prosecution on Sept 2 had submitted former charges linking him to crimes against humanity including genocide, murder, rape, arson, loot, abduction, deportation and persecution.

Prosecutor Shahidur Rahman had said the Pakistan Army entered Faridpur on Apr 21, 1971. On that day, Azad along with the Pakistan troops murdered eight people at Faridpur’s well-known Jagatbandhu Ashram and later killed Kolaron village Zamindar (landlord) Sudhanshu Mohon Roy and his son Monimoy Roy, he added.

‘Bachchu Razakar’ is said to have been an accomplice of Jamaat-e-Islami Secretary General Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujaheed in Faridpur district during the war.

He was a member of Jamaat’s student wing Islami Chhatra Sangha when he was a student of Rajendra College in Faridpur in 1971.

After Mar 25, 1971, Azad formed a group of his own which committed crimes against humanity in different places in Faridpur during the war.

The ICT-2 on Sept 9 accepted charges and ordered his arrest and production by Sept 23.

The arrest warrant for him was issued in April, police failed to find him after raids on his office and residence. He is believed to have fled to Pakistan.

The tribunal on Oct 7 decided to continue trial in Azad’s absentia as he did not turn up even after public notice was issued for his appearance.

bdnews24.com/eh/shs/bd/1900h