Millions light candle of hope across Bangladesh

Life stopped in its tracks as millions of people across Bangladesh held a candlelight vigil from wherever they could on Thursday in an extraordinary show of support to the Shahbagh movement.

The protesters converged on the heart of the capital announced a ‘Ganajagaran Samabesh’, or Mass Awakening Rally, for Friday, to roll out the next agitation programmes to press for execution of all war criminals, including Jamaat-e-Islami leader Abdul Quader Molla.

People – irrespective of age, sex and class – poured out of their offices and homes in droves with candles in hand as the time for the vigil at 7pm approached.

The solidarity gesture – in an echo of the three-minute silence of Tuesday – reinforced the massive public support to the Shabagh protest that continued for the 10th consecutive day.

At the Shabagh intersection, tens of thousands of people sang: ‘Muktiro Mandiro Sopano Tole, Koto Pran Holo Bolidan, Lekha Aachhe Oshru Jole.”

After the candlelight vigil, one of the organisers, Imran H Chowdhury of Blogger and Online Activist Network, announced the Friday programme.

“We urge students, teachers, cultural activists and factory workers to join Ganajagaran Samabesh at 3pm tomorrow.”

“One of our demands, amendment to the (international Crimes) Tribunal law is set to be passed. We hope it will be passed on Sunday. This is a primary victory for us.”

He pledged to press on with the movement until their all demands were met, including the one calling for a ban on Jamaat-e-Islami’s politics.

On Wednesday, the protesters from the centre stage at Shahbagh, now christened Ganajagaran Mancha, called upon the people to participate in a candlelight vigil.

The Members of Parliament led by Deputy Speaker Shawkat Ali took part in the programme in the parliament complex. district correspondents reported that the similar silence was also observed across the country.

The Blogger and Online Activist Network initiated the nonstop protest at Shahbagh intersection hours after the International Crimes Tribunal-2 on Feb 5 sentenced Jamaat-e-Islami leader Molla to life in prison for crimes against humanity during the Liberation War in 1971.

Hundreds of thousands of people from all walks of life expressed their solidarity with the young men and women by joining a massive rally last Friday. They also took an oath to continue their movement until Molla is awarded death sentence and vowed to fight anti-liberation forces like Jamaat-e-Islami and its student wing Islami Chhatra Shibir.

They also pledged to boycott all business and social organisations, including media outlets, of the party.

The movement has already spread across the country and even to the Bangladesh diaspora abroad.

Meanwhile, the International Crimes (Tribunals) (Amendment) Bill, 2013, was placed in parliament on Wednesday with a provision to allow both prosecution and defence to appeal against inadequate sentences and orders of acquittal against 1971 war criminals to the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court.

Parliament is expected to pass the bill on Sunday.

The Jamaat had opposed Bangladesh’s independence and sided with Pakistani troops during the 1971 Liberation War, in which three million died and more than quarter of a million women were dishonoured. The Jamaat activists staffed the auxiliary support forces of the Pakistani army like the Razakars, Al Badr and Al Shams who masterminded the mass murders. Exterminating the Bengali intelligentsia was their main

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