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Candles light up Shahbagh and rest of Bangladesh

Millions of candles light up Shahbagh and the rest of Bangladesh on Thursday evening in memory of those killed by Jamaat-e-Islami and its student wing during and after the Liberation War, 1971. Photo: Rashed Shumon

Publication Date : 15-02-2013


On Thursday, millions of candles were lit around Bangladesh to remember those who lost their lives to Jamaat-Shibir brutality during and after the country's Liberation War.

At 7 pm, the Shahbagh intersection, as elsewhere in the country, turned into a sea of flickering lights as tens of thousands of protesters raised their candles towards thesky.

Shahbagh, which has come to be known as 'Projonmo Chattar', also observed one minute's silence, which was broken by an elegy by Shimul Yusuf.

This followed an announcement of a grand rally titled to be held in Shahbagh on Friday. Organisers urged all to join the rally, saying that a declaration of the next course of action will come from the programme.

Preparations for the scheduled candlelight vigil began in the morning. Organisers said they bought more than 50,000 candles for Shahbagh alone.

The countrywide candlelight vigil was part of the nonstop movement demanding capital punishment for all war criminals, including Jamaat leader Abdul Quader Mollah.

Thousands of demonstrators marched to the protest venue from different parts of the city with torches, chanting slogans. The crowd grew bigger and bigger as evening fell.

Rows of lit candles on the roofs of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University added to the surreal aura. Protesters drew Bangladesh maps and national flags and wrote '1971' with their candles.

On footpaths, footbridges and roofs and balconies of homes, offices and hospitals, people stood in solidarity. More than 100 lawmakers lined up in the south plaza of the parliament building in support.

The flames of Shahbagh spread all over the country. According to reports sent by The Daily Star's district correspondents, people in Chittagong, Barisal, Khulna, Bogra, Narsingdi, Feni, Rangpur, Rajshahi, Sylhet and Dinajpur, all responded to the call for the candlelight vigil.

Organisers said they hoped the amendment to the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act 1973 would be passed by Sunday, keeping the provision for appeal by the victims or the government to challenge inadequate sentence, thus meeting one of their six demands.

The movement began on February 5, hours after a war crimes tribunal sentenced Quader Mollah to life term in prison for crimes against humanity during the 1971 war.

Rejecting the verdict, Bloggers and Online Activist Network initiated the protest that soon turned into a mass movement. Within a few days, it spread to other parts of the country.

Yesterday's candlelight vigil at Shahbagh was joined by people from all walks of life. The number of students was overwhelming, many of whom took position at the protest venue soon after 10 am.

The day's programme began at 6:30am with the singing of the national anthem.

Protesters said they celebrated Valentine's Day by offering their unwavering love for the country.

Prof Mohammad Farasuddin, former governor of Bangladesh Bank, prominent actor Subarna Mostafa, Anti-Corruption Commission Chairman Ghulam Rahman and singer Haider Hossain, among others, joined the protest to express their solidarity.

Sammilita Muktijoddha Forum also joined the movement in the morning. "We all want capital punishment to all the war crimes suspects through proper judgement," said Amir Hossain Mollah, chief adviser of the forum.


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