At 4:00pm on Tuesday, Bangladesh took a pause.
Cars and buses stopped in their paths. People in thousands streamed into the streets and stood in silence.
A silence that was more overpowering than the strongest of slogans, a silence stronger than the high-tempered steel. A silence that cried in the loudest of voices: We want just trial of the war criminals. We want justice for the genocide committed 42 years ago.
It was a scene, a transformation of the nation never witnessed before.
People held hands to form human chains. Passengers in buses left their seats and stood in silence. They all showed solidarity with the Shahbagh protesters who, for the last eight days, are holding non-stop protests for justice for the crimes committed against humanity during the 1971 Liberation War.
For three minutes from 4:00pm, the afternoon was no longer an afternoon. It became a part of history.
It was also a show of hatred for the handful few led by Jamaat-e-Islami and its leaders including Ghulam Azam, Motiur Rahman Nizami, Abdul Quader Mollah, Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed, Muhammad Kamaruzzaman and others, who tried to defend Pakistan and committed heinous crimes like genocide, rape and plunder against Bangalees.
For the first time since the protesters started demonstration at the Shahbagh intersection eight days ago, the entire place came to a standstill at 4:00pm, resonating with the silent appeal of the whole country for justice. They had called on the whole nation to observe the three-minute silence today.
“60…59…58…” cried thousands of voices in unison in a countdown to the three-minute silence to press home their demands for capital punishment to all war criminals.
“3…2…1…” suddenly, the otherwise roaring crowd at Shahbagh lapsed into complete silence, as the protesters raised their hands at 4:00pm, and solemnly and silently pledged their support for the movement for justice.
The surrounding areas were also quiet during the three minutes — there were no slogans, no honks, no shouts or chatters of hawkers or bystanders.
A thunderous chorus of “Joy Bangla” broke the three-minute silence, followed by the animated slogans that have been going on at Shahbagh since the protesters took to the streets eight days ago.