For the last sixteen days, Bangladesh has been in an intense new political phase. The ground has shifted and been recast by the scale of the Shahbagh movement. The flash point was the sentencing of the “Butcher of Mirpur” (a war criminal who collaborated with the Pakistan army in 1971). But, by now, the demands have expanded to a call for a ban on the main Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami, or even Islamist politics altogether. Older leftist thinkers like Badruddin Umar are daring to ask questions of the hallowed place of “state religion” in the constitution. Younger bloggers are urging all to make it clear that the movement is about war criminals, not religion. But of course, with war criminals conflated with the Jamaat-e-Islami, and that party eager to present themselves as standing for “Islam,” category errors will happen.
That is one reason why I insist that the energy of Shahbaghh should be channeled into the desire to do thorough historical research, digging out solid evidence that can result in fair trials that do not require government contortions and interventions. This cannot be a transformative movement if its demands are made only of the government, a government that has otherwise been anti-peoples in its policies in many other areas. It must make demands of itself.
War Crimes File Dispatches Series by Channel 4
Twenty Twenty Television’s documentary War Crimes File, directed by David Bergman and produced by Twenty Twenty Television broadcast as part of the Dispatches Series by Channel 4 aired on 3 May 1995—recording eye witness accounts of Mueen-Uddin’s involvement in disappearances of journalists and other intellectuals in December 1971.