The Genocide of 1971 and the Politics of Justice
The ‘spirit of Shahbag’ expressed something that went beyond the execution of a few men, a hope for justice that would lead to a renewal of Bangladesh’s political culture. Shahbag exposed the dilemma of seeking justice for war crimes decades after the war ended, in a context where retributive justice became the primary demand because of decades of repressed trauma and denied justice. In the name of unity, political differences were glossed over. Certainly, this served to unite progressives despite their political differences. The window of opportunity for the emergence of a new Bangladeshi left, independent of the mainstream political parties and relying on the energy of protest and solidarity, seems to have closed. Bangladesh gained independence in 1971 from Pakistan after a nine-month war that pitted Bengali civilians and guerilla forces against the Pakistani military junta that began a military crackdown on March 25, 1971.