Reverberating Historic Gonojagoron Mancha Movement

Anwar A. Khan

5 February, 2020 12:00 AM printer

5 February 2020 is the 7th commencing anniversary of Gonojagoron Mancha Movement. The Grand Alliance under the leadership of Sheikh Hasina, the Modern Day Joan of Arc, won the election held on 29 December 2008 with a two-thirds majority, based in part on its promise to prosecute alleged war criminals. On 29 January 2009, the new Parliament unanimously passed a resolution to prosecute the war criminals of 1971.

In our country, Bangladesh and in the world in general, or even in our lives, we do not value things that come easy. Anything that we achieve as an outcome of struggle or movement becomes invaluable to us. How can we forget the popular movement of Ganojagoron Mancha (National Mass Awakening Stage) for death punishment of 1971 war criminals in Bangladesh?  The movement commenced on 5 February 2013 and it is a turning point in Bangladesh’s history after our glorious Liberation War of 1971.

This year on 5 February will be the 7th anniversary of Gonojagoron Mancha Movement. It is as if the sun breaks bright to the soil of Bangladesh. The spring…The great awakening…A golden star in our hearts…The victims and their family members too are human beings who deserve and demand rights equal to those of the war criminals of 1971. Alas! It betided differently; the convicted criminals only were given the right to appeal to the apex court as per the ICT law for a further scrutiny of the war criminals. The appeal right of the victims colossally ignored by the concerned Ministry. On 5th February, 2013, the scene exploded into the public eye when Kader Molla, the ‘Butcher of Mirpur’ was awarded life imprisonment by the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) instead of death punishment.

Without Gonojagoron Mancha Movement, it was almost impossible to let the worst war criminals walk to the gallows. A single event can awaken within us a stranger totally unknown to us. It actually has honoured the victims and their families who fell prey to the deadliest enemies during our glorious Liberation War in 1971, Bangladesh, its national flag and people of all walks of life who fought bravely with utmost patriotism to achieve Bangladesh. It ignited the veridical spark to arouse the people and showed the right-angled pathname. After our Liberation War, nothing reminds us of an awakening more than this historic movement.

Our path is called Justice . . . and now we must walk it, and stoutly avow to follow wherever it leads till the sun sets blaze to the weeds… We announce what comes after us; we announce mightier offspring, orators, days, and then, for the present, depart. We remember we said, before our leaves sprang at all, we would raise our voice jocund and strong, with reference to consummations. We announce natural persons to arise; we announce justice triumphant; we announce uncompromising liberty and equality; we announce the justification of candour, and the justification of pride. We announce a life that shall be copious, vehement, spiritual, and bold; we announce an end that shall lightly and joyfully meet its translation; we announce myriads of youths, beautiful, gigantic, and sweet-blooded; and we announce a race of splendid people. An unknown sphere, more real than we dreamt, more direct, darts awakening rays about us - so long 49 years!

The Gonojagoron Mancha movement means a platform for popular uprising or mass awakening platform. It’s a real song…The movement experienced threats from extremist forces, such as, Jamaati sub-humans and their buddies because the group has become less politically active than the widespread mobilisation seen during February to March-April 2013 and January 2014. The spontaneous movement initially aimed at non-violently building popular support for a harsher sentence for Kader Mollah and the likes of him notorious war criminals in accordance with the penal code, and that it has focused on nationalism and patriotism. The demonstrations were called the biggest mass mobilisation in recent memory in Bangladesh by both the local and foreign media outlets. In the wake of the Gonojagoron Mancha protests, the governing Awami League amended the respective ICT law in the parliament and incorporated the appeal provision for the victims to that flawed law. On hearing appeal from the victims’ side, the Supreme Court overturned the life sentence awarded by the ICT and ordered that Molla be put to death.

In a speech on 8 February 2013, the spokesman of the Gonojagoron Mancha conducted an oath to the crowds of protesters at the Shahbagh intersection, which stated objectives related to the continuation of the movement for capital punishment for those on trial for crimes against humanity committed in 1971 and took a vow for achieving their goals without violence. 

The Bloggers and Online Activists Network (BOAN) is the group in Bangladesh that initiated Gonojagoron Mancha protests through online networking and social media. Its spokesman Imran H. Sarkar is the main organiser of BOAN. The movement was a coalition of loose networks, associations, and individual actors though there are core networks. Participants in the initial Gonojagoron Mancha protests numbered hundreds of thousands. The movement can be described the movement as initiated by youth, with hundreds of thousands of supporters including men, women, boys, and girls from all walks of life and citizens irrespective of age and faith. Support for the movement has soon spread across the country.

Three Gonojagoron Mancha activists were killed in different regions across Bangladesh by the Jamaati killers: Prominent blogger Rajib Ahmed Haider was attacked and killed in February 2013. Gonojagoron Mancha is also known platform for popular rising mass growing platform. It refers to the Shahbagh mass protest and social movement. It demands for the death consequence for those found guilty of war crimes in the Bangladesh war of independence from Pakistan in 1971.

Fiery band sloganeer young girl activist Lucky Akhter has emerged as junior “Agni-kannaya’ (the junior daughter of fire) after the former Agricultural Minister Matia Chowdhury, has always captivated the audience by her skyrocket patriotic slogans. Ganajagoron Mancha has announced its decision to continue the sit-in at Shahbagh until Quader Molla’s death sentence is executed. Activists blocked the Shahbagh intersection from 10:50 pm in demand for the execution, and crowds began gathering since 7pm in anticipation of the verdict, bursting into protests when the news of the death sentence arrived.

As a generation of participating in 1971 war, I ought to think how meaningless the fight of liberation has become under the ignominious regimes of Zia, Ershad and pitiless politician like Begum Zia. It is possible to rebuild a secular state only if the government recognises its responsibility to identify the network of fanatics and prosecute the criminals, including those that hide under the banner of different noms de guerre.

People of all strata of Bangladesh supported the clarion call of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to create a free and independent Bangladesh during the Liberation War in 1971. However, Pakistani supporters and members of Islamist political parties, particularly Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) and its student wing Islami Chhatra Sangha (ICS), the Muslim League, the Pakistan Democratic Party (PDP) and Nejam-e-Islami, collaborated with the Pakistani army to resist the formation of an independent Bangladesh. All these butchers went on rampage with all ferocities to murder the freedom-loving people of Bangladesh.

The Ganajagoron Mancha leaders swore an oath “that the leadership of the mass of people from the Gonojagaran Mancha (National Awakening Stage) will continue the movement from Teknaf to Tetulia until capital punishment is handed down to those Al-Badr members and the likes of them who committed crimes against humanity like mass killing and rape in 1971… At the same time, we request the pro-liberation mass media to boycott the war criminals and their accomplices.”

Protest began right after the verdict of Kader Molla, the ‘Butcher of Mirpur’ was announced. Student organisations started the protest immediately after the Judgment in the Shahbag square that was the actual call for people to gather in the Shahbag square within half an hour of the Judgment. It took half an hour to spread out the call for protest through different social media and later the satellite TV channels. Some other social and cultural organisations called for different programmes in the same venue who later worked together. Demonstrators gathered at Shahbag Circle; they painted murals on the road, drew cartoons, hanged effigies of war-crimes criminals and chanted slogans, with a vow to continue demonstrating until their demands were met. Protesters at night were chanting and holding torches in support of their call.

The-then State Minister for Law, Quamrul Islam, said that the verdict against Abdul Quader Mollah could have been different if people had not taken to the streets sooner. The Movement or the National Mass Awakening Stage movement is the biggest turning point in Bangladesh's history. This very attempt to blot out forever the stigma of non-bringing the war criminals of 1971 to justice for decades and it may be one necessary link in the chain of events preparatory to the complete overthrow of the whole non-trialing system of the mass murderers. This movement served as a defining moment for those culprits to book and inflict due punishment to them, and the movement soon emerged as the most prominent one in the annals of Bangladesh’s history.

Celebrated Educationist Prof Dr. Khan Sarwar Murshid once reminded us, “Forgetting or forgetfulness is equivalent to perfidiousness.” We should celebrate this great movement every year with due honour and admiration toward its organisers and people who actively participated and supported this crusading battle tending in the direction of a particular glorious goal-directed purposive. Because of the Gonojagoron Monch Movement, we could lawfully try six beastly animals and successfully executed them.

We salute the Gonojagoron Monch Movement on its 7th anniversary this year. Let us not force our flagging spirit into a poor preparation for worship of the Gonojagoron Mancha Movement. It is thou who draw the veil of night upon the tired eyes of the day to renew its sight in a fresher gladness of National Mass Awakening Stage of 5th February of 2013. Grace, then, is grace, – that is to say, it is sovereign, it is free, it is sure, it is unconditional, and it is everlasting. This song isn’t a song of theology—it’s our own heartfelt expression of gratitude to the organisers of this great movement. We salute the Gonojagoron Manch Movement on its 7th anniversary.

 

The writer is an independent political observer who writes on politics, political and human-centred figures, current and international affairs.

 


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