Revisited: Dhaka’s Shapla Massacre, Unprecedented Mass Murder and Media Savagery
On 13 April 1919, a rally of about 20,000 colonized Indian men, women and children was underway in the British Indian city of Amritsar. The British army general Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer sensed the beginning of a major, impending anti-colonial movement which might overthrow the colonial administration.
Dyer went there with fifty Gurkha riflemen and stationed them on a raised bank and ordered them to fire upon the crowd. Shooting continued for about 10 minutes until Dyer and his force ran out of ammunition. According to the colonial source, 379 people were confirmed dead, while the people of India estimated the death toll as over a thousand with many more injured.
A similar massacre but on a larger scale happened in Dhaka’s Shapla intersection on 5 May 2013 late night. The striking similarity between the two tragedies is that the killing ‘operation’ in both incidents lasted for only 10 minutes. However, the differences are: in the Shapla massacre fifteen thousand government forces and three thousand ruling party men took part.
Hence the number of the casualties was much higher; it occurred around 3am in complete darkness; the estimated death toll of the Shapla massacre is between two thousand and three thousand; the government ministers completely deny any casualties; while after the Amritsar massacre Dyer was removed from duty, nobody anticipates that anyone will lose their job in Dhaka because of the massacre as it was a government decision; since the casualties of the Shapla massacre are known as ‘Islamists’ the world has remained silent about it.
A newly-formed Islamic group called Hefazat-e-Islam organized a grand rally in Dhaka on 5 May 2013 to protest against some obscene and blasphemous remarks against God, the Prophet Muhammad and Islam made by pro-government activists. The rally started in the afternoon and the protesters decided to sit in until their several demands were made. After midnight most of them were sleeping in the venue of the rally which is an important intersection in Dhaka. Around midnight the government forces and ruling party people cut off electricity, suspended all mobile phone services, closed down opposition television channels to render the ‘Islamists’ totally helpless and to keep the country and the world unaware of what was going to happen.
Around 2.30am, about 15 thousand heavily-armed police men and three thousand Awami League killers attacked and started firing upon the entire crowd of the peaceful rally most of whom were asleep at that time.
The police and ruling party men did another thing.
They brought many empty garbage trucks (lorries) with them to steal dead bodies after the killing. Around 3am, the police and Awami party hooligans started firing upon the entire rally. The actual death toll is, according to various sources, from two thousand to three thousand. According to a press release issued by the organizers of the rally, the number of their activists killed was three thousands and many more injured and missing in an operation of only 10 minutes. The police and ruling party hooligans massacred the entire rally and removed the dead bodies from the scene through the trucks they brought, and threw them in different places.
Ministers are in denial of the massacre; the pro-government media outlets keep mum about the number of the casualties while the international media estimate it at only a dozen or so. All the opposition television channels that were broadcasting the rally live were closed down by force in the run up to the operation. Most of the opposition media outlets (print and electronic) in Bangladesh are now closed down by the government illegally.
Unfortunately, in today’s Bangladesh, most media outlets which are allowed to function smoothly are pro-Indian and pro-government, so what the outside world gets is a very distorted version of what is happening in the country.
Because thousands of Hefazat-e-Islam activists were killed in the Shapla mass murder, the local media has glorified the brutality.
The dominant Bangladesh media has been involved in concocting stories to accuse Hefazat men of arson and robbery. Now unrest has spread to other parts of Bangladesh and dozens are being killed by the police and by the ruling party men. Along with the media savagery, the police and ruling party brutality continue and is claiming more and more deaths. The world largely remains silent, as most of the victims are known as ‘Islamists’. People of Bangladesh are traumatized and are trying to negotiate with an uncertain future.
Interested readers may wish to view and watch images and video clips in these links. The images are unbearable.