As Shahbagh protesters pause to regroup, India's silence rankles


In the speeches and animated discussions at Shahbagh, India has figured repeatedly — ironically, by reason of its absence. Asaduzzaman Arzoo, who introduced himself as joint secretary of Bangladesh Muktijoddha Sansad, said the charged streams of consciousness here ought to have had a natural Indian connection.

"In demanding a ban on religion-backed politics, the leaders of the movement have asked for a politics bereft of jangibaazi (militancy). Both the Awami League and India have a stake in ensuring that parties with militant, religion-based ideologies are isolated," Arzoo said.

Several protesters at Shahbagh felt India's solidarity could have been expressed in many ways. Many rued the silence of the lndian political establishment, media and student community. The only significant gesture, they said, had come from the singer and Trinamool Congress MP Kabir Suman, who had composed the song 'Shahid Rajib Haidar' immediately after the blogger Rajib Haidar was killed.

On his web site, Suman had written, "Shoheed Rajib was a fighter for the great Shahbagh cause. I heard the news of his death and saw a picture of his body lying on the street... This (song) is the only way to express my great sorrow and anger... Long live the dream of a truly free and secular Bangladesh. Long live the young people's struggle for a better future. Joy Bangla."

A senior Awami League leader who declined to be identified said India's indifference to the upheaval might well be a conscious decision. For the movement too, a very visible Indian connection would have been "politically incorrect", he said. "It would have given rise to talk that the movement was being backed by Indian agencies."

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