Shahbagh Movement: A beacon of hope for South Asia
Speakers:Sumit Chakravartty (Editor, Mainstream Magazine),Kalyani Menon Sen(Feminist Activist and Researcher),Jawed Naqvi (Senior Journalist, Dawn) and Noor Zaheer (Author, Poet and Cultural Activist)
14th May; 5 pm onward; Gandhi Peace Foundation, New Delhi
Background Note: Neighbouring country Bangladesh, is going through a great churning.. As we go to the press, there are reports indicating the mobilisation of fundamentalist forces and their attempts to scuttle the trials of the war criminals. Violence engineered by the activists belonging to Hefazat-e-Islam alongwith the Jamaat-Shibir clique, and the state's alleged highhandedness in dealing with the situation seemed to have further helped them up the ante.
Everybody knows that it is a direct reaction to the historic movement - popularly known as Shahbagh movement - initiated by youth bloggers wherein hundreds and thousands of people have hit the streets of Dhaka, demanding strict punitive action against war criminals and their organisations, namely Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami, who forty-two years ago—at the time of the liberation struggle/war of the then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh)—colluded with the Pakistan army and committed untold acts of atrocities on the general public.
It is true that by taking lead in this historic movement and persisting against heavy odds, the youth of Bangladesh are attempting to carry forward the forgotten legacy of all those unnamed martyrs who sacrificed their present for a better future for the people of Bangladesh - a future free of religious extremism, a future guaranteeing a life of dignity to everyone.
Clearly, at a time when the rest of South Asia is witnessing the rise of communal mobilizations, Bangladesh’s Shahbagh Movement stands apart as a unique and ground-breaking venture, for it has demanded that secular principles and ethos alone should guide and govern all politics. Thus, this movement is qualitatively and politically far more mature than, say, movements which arose from the womb of Tahrir square of Cairo.Undoubtedly, in an atmosphere of growing religiosity and faith based practices the world over, where one witnesses increasing intrusion of faith and religion in matters of governance as well as societal functioning, the Shahbagh movement offers the rest of humanity not only a beacon of hope but a promise that things can be changed for the better.
Ironically, the secular-democratic and left forces of India have till now maintained a studied silence on the historical movement being driven and sustained by the general public of Bangladesh. We believe that there is an urgent need to break this silence, as well to express our solidarity to the people of Bangladesh in their historic struggle.
The proposed seminar under the auspices of New Socialist Initiative is an attempt not only to understand the significance of Shahbagh movement but also to draw necessary lessons for our ongoing struggles.
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