NEW DELHI — Police and demonstrators in Bangladesh clashed for a second day Friday as the death toll rose to at least 37 in violence sparked by a controversial death sentence handed down against the head of an Islamic party for war crimes committed during the country's 1971 war of independence...
At least four of the dead were reportedly law enforcement officials. Hundreds more were injured.
Bangladesh observers ay the country was having its Occupy or Tahrir Square moment—a longstanding peaceful sit-in at Shahbag intersection in Dhaka. What do they want? Death sentences for alleged war criminals who now lead political parties, and removing religious fundamentalism from politics.
The Shahbag demonstrators have, reportedly, refused to let standing politicians benefit from their movement (not allowing them to give speeches or grandstand at Shahbag, for example), but Islamic political leaders say the Shahbag crowds are being manipulated by Bangladesh's current ruling party—now things have taken a violent turn.
And in the fourth most populous Muslim country in the world, the peaceful movement is also trying to achieve something remarkable: a ban on extreme fundamentalist parties.
"It's a revolution. A social revolution," says Dhaka resident Shaon Tanvir. "They have been using social media very effectively. A couple of hours' notice, and hundreds and thousands of people turn up."
Parents bring their children, their faces painted red and green in the colors of the Bangladeshi flag. Housewives pack lunches for the demonstrators. Passing motorists honk their horns and flash thumbs-up signs...
As the protests grew, the parliament proposed an amendment to the law empowering the International Crimes Tribunal. Under the proposed amendment, the government can appeal any tribunal verdict, and Law Minister Shafique Ahmed said it plans to do so in Mollah's case.
Protesters hailed the proposal, but human rights groups weren't pleased.
"A government supposedly guided by the rule of law cannot simply pass retroactive laws to overrule court decisions when it doesn't like them," said Brad Adams, the Asia director of the New York-based Human Rights Watch.
In better news from Bangladesh, its experiments with fusing prawn farms with rice paddies—which increase food production, the national economy, and efforts to combat global warming—seem to be doing well.