Forty two years after liberation, Bangladesh is at a crossroad—the nation is literally on the verge of a civil war because of Islamic extremism. On 14th August, 1947, Pakistan was created in two distinct regions, East and West, separated by India, on the basis of religious divide. Only a few months later, Pakistan's Father of the Nation Mohammad Ali Jinnah addressed a huge public rally at the Ramna Race Course Maidan, currently known as Suhrawardy Uddyanon. On 21st March 1948, Jinnah emphatically declared, “Let me make it very clear to you that the state language of Pakistan is going to be Urdu and no other language.” In his arrogance, Jinnah was totally insensible that Urdu was spoken by only about 3% of the Pakistanis, while Bangla was the vernacular of over 52% of the populace.
Two days later, Jinnah repeated his assertion of Urdu as the language of Pakistan at convocation of Dhaka University at Curzon Hall, and there was immediate protest from the attending students, astounding Jinnah. The commotion created from Jinnah’s proclamation incited spontaneous protests that later turned into language movement, popularly known as bhasa andolon. By 1952, the movement grew strength. On 21st February of that year police fired on a protest rally at the heart of Dhaka city, four students died, and the language movement spread to all corners of the country.
Two things happened on that day: it was clearly established that a country could not be founded on the basis of a religion and a strong national identity on the basis of language and culture took wings that would ultimately result in the birth of a new nation nearly two decades later.
Bangladesh became a free country in 1971, but its birth was bloody. Some Bangalees blinded with religious zeal collaborated with the Pakistanis, and together with Urdu-speaking migrants from Bihar, India, formed rajakar forces and participated in raping and killing of ordinary Bangladeshis. Pakistani army guided and protected the rajakars. Most heinous of their crime was participating in the murder of prominent Bangalee intellectuals on the eve of surrender of Pakistan army, 16th December, 1971. The very first government of Bangladesh had set up a tribunal for the trial of war criminals, but that tribunal was disbanded when Sheikh Mujib, the Father of the Nation was killed, and his government overturned by a military coup.
A new tribunal was constituted under the present government, and the first verdict of that tribunal came out only recently, when Abdul Kader Molla , a notorious rajakar was awarded life imprisonment. A spontaneous protest by young Bangladeshis soon mushroomed into a grassroots movement called projonmo, at projonmo chottor, at Shahbag in Dhaka. The movement initially spread through active participation of a few bloggers, who built a network of young activists primarily through the internet media. The political wing of the Islamic fundamentalists in Bangladesh, the Jamat-e-Islam party and its student front Chatra Shibir sensed immediate danger, and began anti-projonmo activities almost right away, by spreading rumors. They labeled the projonmo activists as anti-Islam and falsely accused them of hurling insults on Prophet Mohammad. They literally began a campaign of mendacity, hacked web-site of prominent bloggers to discredit them and blame them for sacrilege of Islam. The Islamic fundamentalists killed Rajib Haidar, a young architect and Shahbagh protest activist, accusing him of blasphemy. Jamat began inciting nation-wide violence against the Hindu minorities, destroying their properties, attacking their temples, and killing them. Jamat and other rightwing Islamic fronts receive strong support from, Saudi Arabia Turkey, and other Muslim countries, and they are awash with funds and arms.
When Delawar Hossain Sayedee, a grocer turned Islamic scholar, who had personally taken part in atrocities committed against common people in 1971, was awarded death sentence, Jamat was joined by the other pro-Pakistani party, BNP, and the violence spread all over the nation. Bangladesh’s Opposition leader Khaleda Zia, a former collaborator who spent the whole duration of Bangladesh liberation war under the protection of Pakistan army, revealed her true character lately by coming out openly in support of the Islamic fundamentalists and demanding a shutdown of the Shahbag protest against Jamaat-e-Islami war criminals. She branded the protest, a platform of “atheists and spoilt people,” which was a plain broadside against the national spirit and forces of freedom in Bangladesh.
Over hundred people have died so far from the ensuing violence and there is no end in sight of the hartals and bloodshed. On one side there are fanatic Muslims bent upon carrying out Islamic jihad, on the other there are moderate Muslims, who are nationalists and want to see their country as secular. Jamat's main assault has turned against the minority Hindus and their places of worship, making their safety at stake. Condition of the minority groups in Bangladesh is getting worse by the day, they are living under trepidation, as religious fundamentalism is threatening to consume their religious freedom, in line with the philosophy of the Taliban's and the Al Qaeda's.
Previously published on Technorati