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5TH MAY 2013 SHAPLA ROUNDABOUT VIOLENCE: a Personal Reflection

Written By: Ahmedullah
13/04/2014 17:54
Burning Issue

I rarely participate in public debates or discussion regarding politics except when dominant narratives, powers and groups try to use propaganda and unsubstantiated claims to promote immoral demands and commit injustice against those who are weak and may be innocent. Then, sometimes but not always, I get driven to write a few words to argue against the wrongness of the whole thing. I usually do not get strongly motivated to write against propaganda, immoral demands and unsubstantiated claims of the weaker sides, especially if they are relatively much weaker than the dominant sides and have no chance of putting their ideas, hopes, aims and objectives into practice.

However, on the question of the violent incident that took place on the night of 5th May 2013 at the Shapla Roundabout in Dhaka I feel I have to say a few words in relation to the claims being made by Islamic, pro Islamic and many elements in the BNP in Bangladesh.

First, the word genocide was used which has no basis and there is no justification for the use of such word to describe the incident. I looked at various definitions of the English word, in dictionary and UN declaration, and it is also clear to me that the word genocide cannot be legitimately utilised to describe the event.

What did happen then? Well, from various reports that I read and discussion that I had with people I feel that for those who were camped and sleeping on that night it must have been a very terrifying experience for them. Noise of explosions, bullets firing from several directions, perhaps without end for several hours (live, plastic and tear gas), must have triggered panic, fear and fast and chaotic movements of people in all directions. Many people must have been trampled by others and there must have been some mini stampedes too. This was followed by police beating, merciless in many cases, and direct firing on some of the those running away or trying to put up resistance. And so on. The end result was that a large number of people were injured and killed and most of the participants were terrorised and humiliated. For the Awami League and their supporters this was a victory, and they sought to consolidate their gains, while undertaking steps to damage control the potential negative impacts of the large number of death and injuries.

Exactly how many people died is not known. However, I believe a careful and serious investigation, if carried out by independent bodies, will help us get nearer the truth. On the one hand, I believe, based on some reports, that the Awami League government took steps to disappear bodies of many people killed and got their supporters in the media and other arenas to help cover up so they can effectively avoid being made to feel uncomfortable. On the other hand the Islamic and pro Islamic groups have resorted to propaganda, with high levels of exaggeration and unfounded claims of deaths. They talk about a massacre and I have seen a figure of 2-3,000 being floated, on the back which these people are expressing outrage and moral indignation.

I think the use of this number of deaths when there is no evidence is a misuse of a horrible event for those who were at the receiving end of violence on that terrifying night. Those using the event to generate anti Awami League propaganda, bizarrely seem to want and hope that it was true that lot of people died, so this can be used for propaganda purposes. They, like the Awami League people, seem not to care about lives and sufferings of people, but only about propaganda values. The need casualties, death and injuries in their thousands, committed by the Awami League, in order to get energy in their deadly struggle against the Awami League.

I feel the use of the 5th May 2013 incidence by the anti-Awami League people is not primarily as a result of a sincere anger and feeling of outrage due to the sufferings of the religious people on that day but for propaganda purposes. Therefore, it is clear to me that the Islamic and pro Islamic people will not be able to win on this issue, on moral or intellectual ground. Previously, I stated that with respect to Shahbagh movement and the War Crimes Trial in Bangladesh the moral and intellectual victory was going to be with the Jamaat and their supporters and sympathisers. They have, in my view, managed to achieve a high moral ground and showed that they are not a walk over any more, with regard to intellectual arena of and critical engagement / output concerning Bangladeshis and country's links with the outside world. As such one sided narrative generation and dissemination was over for Bangladesh. It does not however mean that the dominance and monopoly of the intellectual arena and narrative generation / dissemination has now gone to the other side, as a result of the Bengali Nationalist / secular side's poor performance, immoral demands and over utilisation of the invented / exaggerated of the 1971 war casualties to damage their opponents.

Recently, the Awmi League and Bengali nationalists have become a laughing stock and this is increasing day by day as more and more people realise how amazing are their false claims about 1971 war casualties. The religious Islamic sides will also become a laughing stock, to an extent it has already become, if they continue to claim that a large pre-planned massacre took place on the terrifying, in order to gain propaganda benefits against the Awami League. Their position is likely to be weakened by this misuse of what happened on the night of 5th May 2013. If they truly care about the death and injuries of the event then they should carefully gather evidence, present facts to the world and organise help for the victims and their families


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