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Dhaka: Protesters demand severe punishment for 1971 war-crime accused


Suhasini Haidar,CNN-IBN
Feb 21, 2013 at 07:13pm IST

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Dhaka: The number of protesters continues to swell at the Shahbagh Square in Dhaka, demanding severe punishment for Islamist politician Abdul Quader Mollah and others accused of war-crimes during the formation of Bangladesh in 1971.

In her early 20s, Lucky Akter is an unlikely leader for a protest movement that has brought lakhs into Dhaka's Shahbagh area and to other cities in Bangladesh.

But she, and others like her have kept the crowds going for weeks now, chanting slogans through the day and even in the night, through candle-light vigils and music.

There's a lot of anger at the Shahbagh Square, there's also a lot of energy. The entire area has now been named 'projonmo chatter' or square for the new generation. And it is the new generation that is pouring in, even though the crimes that have outraged them were committed 40 years ago, during the 1971 liberation war.

The final straw came when the war crimes tribunal, set up by the Sheikh Hasina government convicted senior jamaat leader Abdul Qadir Mullah of killings and rape and sentenced him to life imprisonment.

Blogger and co-founder of the movement Pervez Alam said, "If you think this is about hanging the accused then you are wrong."

The Jamaat, who has held its own protests, accuses the movement of being backed by the ruling Awaami league, and says the Shahbag activists are anti-islamic. But the Protesters say that they want to push fundamentalism out of the country.

Protester Roshan Chanu said, "Why did Bangladesh separate from Pakistan? Because Bangladesh is not a religious, fundamentalist country. Pakistan is a Muslim country, we are also a Muslim country but we separated because we are moderate and liberal.

The big blow for the movement was the killing of one of their founder blogger Rajib Haidar. At his funeral, many swore on his coffin they wouldn't leave Shahbag till his killers and those responsible for lakhs of killings in 1971 were punished. If they are able to stay the course, they may yet become the game changer in Bangladeshi politics, with elections due in December.

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