Bangla Spring at Shahbagh Square. Is this the wind of change?

Shahbag Square! It has caught the imagination of Bangla youth in a way not seen since the end of Cairo’s Tahrir Square. Dhaka may be close to ushering in a localized Arab Spring in what is now romantically referred to as Bangla Spring.

Whereas Arab Spring was sharply targeted at the tyrant of Cairo Bangla Spring will hint at a much wider landscape. Is Shahbag Square’s unity a symbolic picture of general frustration at social justice and the lack of an equitable socio-political economic system? Why is the post ‘71 generation so eager to revisit bloody scenes from the past, is it for restoring justice to the victims or to see the eviction of a political party?

Wael Ghonim, also known as El Shaheed on facebook, organized and directed the historic events in Cairo using latest mobile technology and old fashioned word of mouth which delivered the message of Arab revolution to the pharaoh’s doorsteps. Egyptians from all walks of life, mostly from the younger generation, updated their status with real time happenings with such frightening accuracy Mubarak’s iron arms were forced to pull the plug on Egypt’s social media networks to save his scalp.

It is the history of our human race that the forces of Goodness should triumph over evil. Second reason for Tahrir Square’s success was the movement’s ability to bring common people on a uniform platform. Egypt was suffering in the abysmal class warfare imposed by successive authoritarian regimes. At Tahrir Square they all came together through the natural bonds that held them together. They all professed to believe in one thing and that evolved rapidly into a common cause which united them against a common enemy. There were no ambiguities in the revolution.

Mubarak’s reconciliation met with one spontaneous response – no compromise. That was an answer for which he had not prepared himself. All his life he had been the one to dictate and now he was being told to get out by ordinary men on the street. Movement at Tahrir won because their cause was the right cause and for that right cause common people rallied behind the movement and remained firm until victory.

In Nuremberg a German judge Ernst Janning was accused because although he was a man of law he did not stand up against the tyranny of fascism committed by a fascist government. Justice Janning had failed to act righteously which would have been a symbolic cause for his nation. He was imprisoned for life.

One protestor at Shahbagh shouted “the government must take responsibility for their hanging”. Can the executive interfere in judicial matters based on peoples’ desirel?

Another protestor loudly explained “the cause is justice”. Social justice is not where we wanted it to be. Our struggle to break from Pakistan sprang from our deep desire to reinstate social justice. Policies of racism and discrimination stood in the way of a just socio-economic order for the state.

People should not remain in bondage to anyone and this deep spiritual feeling of freedom is natural in human beings. In ’71 it ignited in Bangla people a strong desire to break free from those chains. Military reaction was an act of barbarism without any just consideration for human life, liberty, property or honor. Why would anyone support or sympathize with such terror?

Groups which promoted religion as the basis for unity between two nations should have known better about the religion they claimed to profess. The religion of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) does NOT sanction murder, genocide, torture, or anything other than what is allowed in legal military warfare between states. Let alone killing innocent people this religion forbids felling trees, burning crops and attacking other religions’ temples and monasteries, in war and peace.

Authoritarian rulers reserved the fundamental principles of equality and justice for the elites while reducing others to “lower class” status. This was a clear violation of the faith which they were proudly defending. In reality the strongmen were doing nothing other than defending the agenda of imperialism and feudalism in their own strange way covered by the blanket of religious dogma.

The junta’s co-religionist loyalists also failed to understand their religion. The Holy Quran says, “O ye who believe! stand out firmly for Allah, as witnesses to fair dealing, and let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just: that is next to piety: and fear Allah. For Allah is well-acquainted with all that ye do”. TMQ 5:8.

Faith leaders should have been the first to condemn the atrocities of the junta calling on their faithful followers to stand up for the right cause at the cost of supreme sacrifice if necessary.

The cause at Shahbagh must rise above one single individual. People from all walks of life are talking about it. Some talk with fear and some with a lot of hope for the future. Common people are disillusioned by politicians’ lofty promises given before elections only to be forgotten the day after.

Social equality as told to the author by an ordinary car driver is like a solar eclipse. Before elections day candidates go out like salesmen begging for votes in what is largely a popularity contest. After being elected a politician becomes too “honorable” to be approached by ordinary people. His cars, flags and body guards are signature “class upgrades”. Social equality, liberty, rights and privileges of ordinary men get washed aside to make room for dogmas, sycophancies, greed and corruption.

People in general were happy to see the convergence of ordinary folks at Shahbagh. Mostly because common people are fed up with same old familiar faces in politics, they want to see a new generation take the torch from the old guard. In the new generation there is immense hope to turn things around. They can carry the banners of truth, justice, liberty and equality with dazzling courage and brutal honesty, which people so desperately search for in leaders. This is a beautiful country of ours and it deserves so much better from all of us. A friend asked, “is this the wind of change?”, the reply is “only if you want it to be”.


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