Shahbag – Have a Kitkat

Shahbag: please have a break, have a Kitkat.

Those about to shriek in horror and point out how the very mention of such a thing is blasphemy / treason etc etc and that I must belong to JI-Shibir / BNP / Pakistanis etc etc – shut the fuck up! This oppressive peer-pressure to agree 100% with Gonojagoron Moncho is now becoming childish: it means well, but just isn’t feasible. Shahbag cannot be oppressive (of dissenting opinions) just because Islamists / fundamentalists do it too. The two are not the same.Image

WHY BREAK?

Shahbag, at its core, represents a true people’s movement. There may have been political machinations on stage – but the participation was purely out of patriotism and the ’71 spirit. This is democracy in action. And such movements need to demand and oversee a million other issues (not necessarily right now).

For a democracy to work, people need to be vigilant and vocal. Some random issues I’d raise are:

  • Allow on floor-crossing in the parliament based on the merit of a proposal / bill
  • Prohibit party-chiefs from choosing / approving / ratifying local committees
  • Introduce capital punishment for large, financial crimes
  • Stop criminalizing children and families of war-criminals – unless accused/convicted of some real crime
  • Show-cause the Ministry of Finance for the additional 3%-4% we must pay on the Padma Bridge project

These are just demands. We need to debate and discuss and find the most important issues for Bangladesh and pressurize parties in power to make necessary changes. This will require mobilizing a vast amount of energy, organization and credibility (of similar movements) for the future. Shahbag’s current demands, while vital, are not ends in themselves. They are measures for justice and closure. The Youth need to preserve energy and positivism for a million other issues and movements of this sort, need to retain their efficacy and credibility for future issues.

IMPLICATIONS

Core objectives of Shahbag have already been achieved. The rest must be left to political, legal and judicial institutions and procedures. I believe the ultra-nationalist strain of a movement only opens doors for political Islam to capitalize on the simple, rural population’s faith and belief.

AL, if they could help it, would probably not want to stop the movement now. BNP and Jamat would. Ershad’s stance is still unclear – but it seems JP could well fall into the latter category.

If we can, somehow, ignore above political considerations and the mathematics of votes – I believe Shahbag could do with a break. It could come back stronger if a verdict is not carried out. It could come back if violence needs to stop. It could come back with all the relevant issues that will make Bangladesh a better country in the future. And when back, it would still be a robust voice of a revived revolution – and not a shadow of a once-mighty, later-faded agenda.

Take my suggestions with pragmatism …a pinch of salt even – instead of the divisive ‘us-them’ binary that’s tearing our Youth apart. Entertain the idea without accepting it.

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