HAS THE SHAHBAG SPRING FAILED?
Now that the BNP alliance with the active backing of Islamic fundamentalist parties has secured victory in five city corporation elections, the question must be asked has the Shahbagh spring failed?
For some, the answer is that “It was not a spring.” Their argument is that, if this was a spring of the youth, why are the people not with them now? Senior politicians even blame Shahbagh for encouraging funda-mentalists in the country.
It is only human for depression to follow elation. So, after the spring of Shahbagh, the rise of fundamental-ists and the depression that has followed for many is natural. It does not mean that the whole society is following the fundamentalists. To understand this, we need to examine the catalyst for the character of the spring of Shahbagh.
We can say that the people who gathered in Shahbagh were patriots. They were mostly young,educated and idealistic. They gathered peacefully, at the calling of nothing other than the demands of their hearts.
Thousands of people gathered non-violently to demand capital punishment for a notorious war criminal. Like a bud turning into a flower, their demands expanded. They raised their voices that the politics of the country should be run more in the spirit of the freedom struggle. They made clear that the trials of war criminals are a historical necessity for taking the nation forward, away from its dark birth towards the spirit of justice and freedom
Shabagh’s demands were at their core a reflection of our freedom struggle.
However, it is true now that the youth who gathered in Shahbagh and elsewhere are not in the street and some have been smeared by forces calling them “atheist” and this factor played a role in the city corpora-tion polls. This suggests fundamentalists will be a key player not only in the next election but also in future policy-making, while the youth of Shahbagh take a back seat. That is why it may seem that the Shahbagh spring has failed.
It is one side of the coin, but there is another view also.
We should remember the folk tale about the demon who came out from the sea and mountain when the brave prince found the weapon which would cause the death of the demon. The Shahbagh spring repre-sents the work of the brave prince of the old folk story. It highlighted fundamentalists in this country as a key problem. Not only did their predecessors try to prevent the freedom of our nation, but they helped create the atmosphere which allowed notorious army officers to kill liberation heroes.
They have actively sought and obtained help from countries who were against our freedom struggle.
Since 1975, after the killing of our national heroes, they have strengthened their place in society and poli-tics. We achieved a limited democracy in 1990; I describe it as limited because people got only the right to change a government in elections but not the right to establish the spirit of freedom in every place of the state.
Until we can establish such a right, the promise of democracy will not be fulfilled. So since 1990 we have seen all parties, governments and oppositions co-operating with or helping the forces of fundamentalism.
With the Shahbagh spring boldly identifying fundamentalists as opposed to our democracy, development and progress as a society, it was maybe to be expected that existing fundamentalists would come out to fight the Shahbagh youth. Opportunistic politicians have either joined with them or tried to placate them.
But their present rise does not mean that the spring of Shahbagh has failed. Rather, the success of Shahbagh is that they have managed to bring dark forces into the light. More people have came to know what kind of forces they are up against and have learned about their ultimate goals.
Shafi’s notorious comments regarding women are enough to illustrate the true goals of fundamentalism. People now face the dilemma of politicians who cooperate with them and others who are afraid to chal-lenge them.
On the other hand, we should remember that if you light a candle it gives light.
Shahbagh has lit the candle for us and light will always defeat the dark.
It is always dark before a storm ends. One can argue that the spring of Egypt’s Tahrir Square was tempo-rarily halted by the rise of Morsi. But the flower of the spring in Egypt has blossomed again. So shall the flower of Shahbagh.
The Shahbagh spirit is the light at the heart of Bangladesh and can never be destroyed. Timid politicians need to rethink working with those that rally against the light.
August 12, 2013