Its been a year since the the Bangladesh Government committed probably its most devastating acts of brutality in its 43 year life, upon its own people. They were committed against protesters who supported Hefazot e Islam's May 5th Dhaka Siege protest programme.
The government of the time was in its final year and had presided over a series of bloody disasters and was at the time leading the country to an ultranationalist frenzy in which fascistic practices and patterns had reached a historical peak. Russian and Indian backing for the government, and weak suppressed opposition meant that this kind of outrage could be carried out and nobody outside the country would to anything. The Awami League had filled the security agencies with loyalists, often from the PM's home district of Gopalganj, loyalists of simplistic brutalism, aided by party cadres of a more psychotic character.
We saw their violence on the people, and the opposition, perceived or real, for months. The Hindu tailor mistaken for a Jamaat activist, or the kid shot point blank in the head by the police. The officers of the border guards cut to pieces and buried in their own compound. We saw all the violence and subterfuge earlier, helplessly. We knew a little about the crossdressing attack tactics of burn and blame, used against jamaatis, and human rights make up artists at Ain o Salish Kendra too
The massacre of the protesters on the 5th and 6th May brought these tools of power to a focus, and innovated new means and scales of disposal and cover up. After all, if there was a proper reaction by the people, imagine....
A massacre had many parts. It began as protesters were attacked during the day as they streamed into Dhaka from 6 directions, by Awami League cadres working in close collaboration with the Dhaka Metropolitan Police. People seeking shelter in the national mosque were attacked by gunmen on motorcycles, a signature many will recognise from over the past 5 years.
Police-cadre violence continued upon the protesters at various points of the city well into the night. However the main killing is believed to have occurred as joint forces 'evicted' tens of thousands of men sleeping and praying in darkness around the Shapla Chottor monument in Motijheel, the focal point of the demonstration. Some of the video eyewitness testimony, analysis, reports, imagery and critical social media are collated here.
The next day the state violence took on a more distributed form as the government suppression went nationwide. The deeper truths will take years to emerge, as social and intellectual conditions change.
Why did the government do it?
Its hard to get inside such minds but we have to try. Perhaps they did it because they could get away with it? Perhaps they believed their own paranoid bullshit and rhetoric and thought they were saving Sonar Secular Bangla? Perhaps the they aren't a singular but a variegated assemblage, but the Sonar Bangla self image is the key.
The Awami League isn't composed of a majority of people who hate the islamic traditions, this has been an act of profound self harm which will have generational impacts on supporters trying to reconcile their pro islam sensibilities with their massacre of Hefazot.
So I was doing some sums.
(Sonar Bangla Narrative + Weakened oppositions + state power + War on terror industry + Islamophobic tendancy of Bengal Reinassaince + Hasinas Son Joy is thick + Information Minister Inu is evil + Home Minister Mokha Alamgir is a known psychopath + PM is crazy + infiltration of security services) * General Sycophancy + irresponsible opposition plaster boarding of the demonstration as a statebreaker .... = Events
How many died?
Hard to know as sustained research and coordination are suppressed. Preliminary work found 61 and 51 protesters dead from Odhikar and HRW respectively. Unofficial image analysis based estimates suggest hundreds, however the demand for lists of names and numbers from the government is pretty sick considering that these murders were state perpetrated. This will take years. We haven't even been able to hear from BUET student Rehan Ahsan's parents, yet. They must be very much in a bad way, and all the families of the wounded, detained and murdered.
Why didn't I hear more about it?
It was covered up by Bangladeshis of an establishment bent who either found it easy to dismiss and were complicit in its production and justification. This was in turn supported by development partners and strategic allies. Not a conspiracy, just a by product of how the chips are aligned. Underlying this is that life is worthless in Bangladesh, especially if the cumulative white power of the victims is low. If somebody had had the foresight to teach English to the protesters, or make them gay, or white, we would not be having this conversation. Human rights organisations only record for their own purposes of position play and blackmail. This is what I learn this year.
What can we do about this?
To prevent this kind of thing happening in future its important to keep raising awkward questions and finding out more thoroughly about the massacre. We must avoid messing things up like the Nirmuls and the Shahbag. This isnt about Islam loving people, but citizens of the country as a whole. This isnt about worshipping a naff statue or particular ideology, but creatively transforming our society so it can thrive and bring the best out of itself.
At present Bangladeshi Inc. is turning into a submergable NGO, with gundas with machetes on the decks.
See #may5massacre and The Motijheel Massacre Archives for more.
Pray for the sincerity of His servants intentions to be accepted and for them to be guided with best wisdom and courage.