Tens of thousands of Bangladeshi youngsters today staged a nationwide protest demanding death penalty to 1971 war criminals and a ban on fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami
(JI) party as their mass sit-in continued for the fourth consecutive day in the national capital.
Leading 1971 Liberation War veterans and civil society figures expressed their solidarity with the protestors as thousands of people cutting across age, political and professional lines rallied at Shahbagh Avenue and took an oath to keep up the campaign until their demands were met.
The protesters shouted slogans like 'Made in Pakistan - Jamaat-e-Islam; Go back to Pakistan', 'The evil souls; the coffin awaits bodies of hanged
razakars' and 'Joy Bangla'.
Several women and elderly people joined the protests with their children while 1971 war-time commanders like General K M Shafiullah and representatives of leading intelligentsia including Dhaka University vice chancellor Professor Arefin Siddiqui and Prof Zafar Iqbal addressed the rally.
"This is not a political campaign ... This aims to free the country from the stigmas of 1971," read a statement by a spokesman of the organisers at the Grand Rally, which began with the national anthem.
It said the verdict sentencing JI stalwart Abdul Quader Mollah to life instead of the capital punishment was "contrary to the principles of justice" even after the International Crimes Tribunal convicted him on five out of six charges of "crimes against humanity" like mass killings and rapes.
A large number of police personnel were deployed in the area to prevent any untoward incident. The police blocked nearby streets and diverted traffic near the areas surrounding Shahbag Avenue, the centre of protests and sit-in.
The crowd sang patriotic songs, beat drums and burned effigies of the leaders of
JI, which opposed Bangladesh's 1971 independence from Pakistan and carried out atrocities siding with Pakistani troops.