2961No one sings 'Bangladesh' anymore | Toronto Sun column on the uprising in Dhaka
- Feb 20, 2013"Back in the 1970s when ratings was not all that mattered to the super stars of the time, George Harrison and Ravi Shankar played for our conscience at the memorable ‘Concert for Bangladesh’ in Madison Square Garden. And then there was Joan Baez who let out a wail in the midst of a genocide. Her song rallied millions:Bangladesh, BangladeshBangladesh, BangladeshWhen the sun sinks in the westDie a million people of the BangladeshToday too, the sun sinks in the west,, but no one is singing for Bangladesh anymore."February 20, 2013No one sings 'Bangladesh' anymoreTarek FatahIn a tiny country on the other side of the globe, far away from the glare of celebrity TV anchors and big-shot correspondents in jungle khaki, a revolution is unfolding, but not if you watch CNN, BBC or CBC.For two weeks now, hundreds of thousands people from young men and women, aging former guerrilla fighters and grandmothers who still carry the scars of violence, have occupied the Shahbag Square in Dhaka, Bangladesh.The collective anger of a nation, simmering for over 40 years below the surface, finally erupted this month.The roots of this resentment lay in the genocide of the Bengali people that started in March 1971 by the Pakistan Army and its accuses jihadi collaborators, the mullahs of the Jamaat-e-Islami. The military-sanctioned massacres did not stop until nine months later in December that year when the Indian Army intervened and the Pakistan military promptly surrendered.From the ashes of a war and three million dead people choking its rivers, the new country of Bangladesh emerged, but without its founding father, Sheikh Mujib.He was being held as prisoner and hostage by the Pakistan military. To secure his release, international agreements were brokered, which in exchange allowed for most of the collaborating jihadis to not face war crime trials.It was not until 2008 when Sheikh Mujib’s daughter, the current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina campaigned on the promise to set up tribunals to try the 1971 collaborators for war crimes. On that promise, she was swept to power with an overwhelming majority in parliament and in 2010 the war crimes trials finally got off to a start.Among the first to be convicted was a senior leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami, Abdul Quader Mollah. But instead of the death sentence, Mollah was given life imprisonment with possibility of future pardon. Hearing that his life had been saved, Mollah turned to the news cameras and with a huge grin on face, waved a victory sign to the crowd.While the bearded Mollah was ecstatic, liberal and secular Bangladeshis were enraged. How could a man pronounced guilty of war crimes, accused of raping and shooting 344 civilians to death during the 1971 war, not receive the maximum punishment, the death sentence?Within hours of the judgement, which was handed down of February 5, ordinary students and bloggers used Facebook and Twitter to rally their contacts. Soon an impromptu gathering of hundreds, then thousands and soon hundreds of thousands collected at Dhaka’s Shahbag square.For 15 days, they have been there and despite the gruesome murder of one of the leaders, they have kept their movement peaceful. The protesters want the government to appeal the decision of the tribunal and ask the courts to deliver a death sentence. In addition, they want a ban on the Jamaat-e-Islami as a collaborator that took active part of the genocide.For the first time ever in the Muslim world, there has been a popular uprising against the fascism of Islamist parties. One would have expected the western intelligentsia to be thrilled at this development and for the media to report from the square, but the Walter Cronkites of the world are no more.Back in the 1970s when ratings was not all that mattered to the super stars of the time, George Harrison and Ravi Shankar played for our conscience at the memorable ‘Concert for Bangladesh’ in Madison Square Garden. And then there was Joan Baez who let out a wail in the midst of a genocide. Her song rallied millions:Bangladesh, BangladeshBangladesh, BangladeshWhen the sun sinks in the westDie a million people of the BangladeshToday too, the sun sinks in the west,, but no one is singing for Bangladesh anymore.