Bangla young crusaders on a song at ‘ carnival’ of protests


By, TNN | Mar 13, 2013,

DHAKA: It’s a carnival that’s rocking the entire nation. Quite literally. The Shahbag Movement — fuelled by music, art, blogging and the sheer spontaneity of youth — is teaching a new way of protest to a country ravaged by vengeance and violence for over four decades.The teenagers leading the movement have the natural confidence of youth. Violence and death threats do not deter them. For they have seen the vision of a new Bangladesh. Rarely in history has a ‘carnival’ engineered social change as here.

The young crusaders put it very simply — they are “tired of strikes, explosions and goonda raaj”. “Violence can’t be a solution. Look at the youngsters at Shahbag Square — they are singing, painting. But they are more powerful than the fundamentalists,” said Safiqul Islam, a middle-aged autorickshaw driver, who is caught up in the energy of the movement.

His profession brings him face to face with various sections of the society every day. And over the past month, he noticed that all roads led to Shahbag Square. “Finally, overcome by curiosity, I decided to take a look,” says the native of Brammanberia district. He is now a convert. Age no factor.

“Every day, I visit the square at least once even though I sacrifice some of my earnings. Initially, I was a bystander. One evening, a young girl asked me to join in their song. I can’t read or write. I hesitated. But they cheered me on. Now I even compose songs and sing them,” said Safiqul.

He is now ‘mama’ (uncle) to all us youngsters, say like Lucky Akhter and her journalist friend Roksana Amin. Lucky, a native of Noakhali, studies in Dhaka Jagannath University. Her father was a liberation fighter. “I grew up with the stories of the Liberation War. Ours is a war for the entire nation — to ensure justice for the martyrs,” says Lucky, who has been with the movement since the first day and is loved for coining powerful slogans.

Roksana feels it is the duty of all Bangladeshis to join the movement. She quit her job to join the Shahbag army and is now organizing a ‘squad’ of protesters in the name of the legendary Jahanara Imam, mother of a martyr.

Imran Firdaus from Rajsahi, a student of linguistics at Dhaka University, confesses he “just couldn’t stay away”. In the past month, Shahbag Square has given birth to several little magazines and newspapers. And Imran, a freelance filmmaker and researcher, writes for them as if his life depended on it.

Shahbag Square has turned into a must-stop for millions of people. Sanatan has his hands full meeting business targets for his private firm but ensures that his first stop from office is always the protest platform. “I spend at least three hours here as an expression of solidarity,” said Sanatan. It’s the same with college lecturer Amita Chakraborty.

The Jamat-backing outfit Hefajat e Islam has threatened to stop the mass meeting of Shahbag protesters at Chittagong on Wednesday, but the crusaders have laughed it away. “We won’t give up. We will definitely hold our meeting in Chittagong,” said Imran H Sarkar, convenor of the protest forum.

Showing a thumb to the fundamentalists, it’s an open forum for girls. The Shahbag revolution has brought a message of gender and class equality. Boys and girls stay in the square till late night or often the entire night. Shahbag is the bridge between the age of Liberation and its third generation. “The spontaneity of the people has made all the difference,” says Shah Asif, one of protesters. “People are pulled here by an inner urge, melting in the wave of protest…”

Lucky’s firebrand slogans, Rokasana’s songs, someone’s painting, colours, grief, joy and tears melt into “Notun Diner Notun Daak. Shahbag Shahbag (Call of a New Day, Shahbag-Shahbag)”.

Bomb attack at press meet

Activists of the Jamat-backing outfit Hefajat-e-Islam hurled bombs near the Dhaka Press Clubwhere Shahbag Movement campaigners were holding a press conference on Tuesday evening.

No one was hurt in the attack but it triggered fears of violence in Chittagong on Wednesday since Jamat has called a strike on the same day as the Shahbag crusaders plan to organize a rally.

Tuesday’s press conference was called to give details of the proposed march in Chittagong when Hefajat men attacked with bombs, police sources said.

The Shahbag campaigners, who have floated the Gana Jagaran Mancha, have been getting threats to cancel their Chittagong march but they have vowed not to be cowed down.

 

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Bangladesh -Jamat-e-Islami misguiding international human rights bodies | kracktivist
  2. Trackback: Loud and clear: Bangladeshi youth choose their platform | kracktivist

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