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India: Solidarity Vigil for Bangladesh’s Shahbagh Movement held in Delhi - report and memo

Wednesday 10 April 2013, by siawi3

9 April

On the 9th of April 2013 a small solidarity vigil was held at the Bangladesh High Commission in Delhi in support of the Shahbag protests. The vigil was jointly organised by New Socialist Initiative (NSI), Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association (JTSA), NISHANT, ANHAD, Krantikari Lok Adhikar Sangathan, Stree Mukti Sangathan.
Text of the memorandum handed in to the Bangladesh authorities in Delhi is posted below.

excerpt from a report by NSI
Solidarity Vigil Held in Delhi for Bangladesh’s Shahbagh Movement
New Socialist Initiative (NSI), JTSA along with few other organisations and concerned individuals held a solidarity Vigil for Bangladesh’s Shahbagh Movement in front the Bangladesh High Commission, New Delhi.

Subhash Gatade (Convener, NSI) appraised the demonstrators of the unfolding situation in Bangladesh. Following Subhash Gatade, Harsh Kapoor (South Asia Citizens’ Web), Nagesh Rao, Kamalesh Kumar (Krantikari Lok Adhikar Sangathan), Pranav Jani (Prof., Ohio State University, USA) addressed the demonstrators. A solidarity message sent by Mukul Mangalik (Associate Prof., Delhi University) was read out in the vigil.

During the addresses most speakers at the vigil reiterated that despite the need to critically engage with certain demands like that of Death penalty emanating from the Shahbagh Movement, it is imperative that the secular-democratic and left forces in India stand in solidarity with Shahbagh Movement because the demand that secular principles and ethos alone should guide and govern all politics is not just a demand for Bangladesh but is universal in nature. It was also pointed out that majoritarian and fascist forces feed and thrive on each other and that there has been a coinciding rise of Hindutva in India and fundamentalist forces in our neighborhood.

Photo credit: NSI

A draft memorandum was read out in the vigil, despite minor disagreements most demonstrators agreed to sign it and submit it the High Commission officials. On behalf of the Bangladesh High Commission, Syed Muntashir Mamum (First secretary & Head of Chancery, Bangladesh High Commission) received the memorandum and assured the demonstrators that the memorandum will be forwarded to Prime Minister’s Office, Government of Bangladesh. [. . .].

Text of Memorandum handed in:

To, The Prime Minister of Bangladesh
Through the office of
The High Commissioner of Bangladesh, New Delhi
Respected Madam

We, representatives of different democratic, secular and left organisations and concerned individuals have gathered here to convey our solidarity to the Shahbagh Movement, an unprecedented and historic movement led by youth with massive participation of different sections of people, demanding strict punishment to the war criminals of 1971 and a complete ban on sectarian organisation like Jamaat-e-Islam.

We sincerely feel that 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.

We feel that by taking lead in this historic movement and persisting against heavy odds, the youth of Bangladesh are trying 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.

It is evident that the Jamaat-e-Islami, who was opposed to the creation of Bangladesh, and whose members actively participated in the killings of innocents and acted as mercenaries of the ’occupying Pakistani army’, and who finds itself cornered with many leaders in jail or underground and a combined onslaught of judicial intervention, administrative action coupled with a tremendous pressure created by the mass movement, is passing through the biggest existential crisis since its inception and has tried every trick in its kitty to ward off this danger.

Apart from murder of the young blogger Rajib Haldar, whom it charged as showing ’disrespect’ to god through its posts, the Jamaat has been accused of unleashing violence against the religious minorities - namely Hindu, Buddhist etc - and is firmly behind the move by a non-descript Muslim organisation ’Hefazat-e-Islam’ whose members - all students of Madarsa - recently lodged a violent protest in Dhaka to punish the atheist bloggers and introduce blasphemy law in the statute books.

It is clear that all such diversionary tactics would not succeed and Jamaat and its members who have been convicted for their crimes would be made to price for the same.

In this milieu, it is disturbing to note that bowing to pressure by the fundamentalists, your government has arrested four bloggers for their ’objectionable’ post and has not yet taken any concrete step either to sop the Jamaat and its money sources.

We demand:

Unconditionally release the four bloggers immediately
Ensure strict and speedy punishment of the ’war criminals.
Without any delay arrest all those fanatic elements who have engaged in violence to disturb the peaceful shahbagh Movement
Nationalise all such entities which have been floated by the Jamaat.

Signed by:

Subhash Gatade (New socialist Initiative)
Naveen chander (New socialist Initiative)
Pradeep Singh (New socialist Initiative)
Roopali Singh (Stree Mukti Sangathan)
Praveen (New socialist Initiative)
Ram Naresh Ram (Delhi University - AISA)
Ahmed Sohaib (Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association)
Mohit (AISA)
Sandeep Yadav (Law Faculty, Delhi University)
Nagesh Rao
Usman Jawed (Association of students’ for Equitable Access to Knowledge)
Sanjeev Kumar (Delhi Solidarity Group)
Kamalesh Kumar (Krantikari Lok Adhikar Sangathan)
Pranav Jani (Prof. Ohio State University)
Harsh Kapoor (South Asia Citizens Web,
Santosh Kumar (PSA)
Bonojit Hussain (New Socialist Initiative)
Apoorva Gautam (Delhi School of Economics/ Association of Students for Equitable Access to Knowledge)
Aashima Subberwal (New socialist Initiative / PSA)
Kishore Jha