[Photo/Banglar Chokh: Selim Reza Newton, Moloy Bhoumik, Dulal Chandra Biswas, Abdullah Al Mamun.]
[Tasneem Khalil, Sweden.]
Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison.
— Henry David Thoreau
In Bangladesh, mouths are not moving these days, it seems. Well, there are exceptions: tongues busy licking military boots stained with blood, tongues moving fast singing hymns for monsters in khaki. For the rest, 160 million men and women, putting a plaster over the lips is the fashion statement of the day, silence has become the best policy. Smartest policy, some say.
It all started on January 11, one eventful evening that saw messiahs coming out of the cantonments, trucks after trucks, clad in olive, armed to their teeth. Bangladesh saw the birth of a new religion: “reform,” with a stylish birthday: “1/11,” with a ear-splitting mantra: “keep your mouths shut,” and one supreme law: “who dares, pays.” Barracks became prayer-halls and “Emergency Power Rules,” the holy book.
Yet, they dared and now have to pay the price. Four professors of Rajshahi University have been sentenced with two years of rigorous imprisonment for bringing out a silent procession on the campus on August 21 violating the “Emergency Power Rules.” Silence, in this case, apparently proved lethal to the military-led interim government.
The Daily Star, one of the leading pro-government newspapers in Dhaka, has published an account of the verdict. Slightly off topic but may prove interesting to readers: two editorials in the newspaper Wednesday are “Upbeat on revenue collection” and “Recovering siphoned off money.”
A speedy trial court of Rajshahi yesterday sentenced four Rajshahi University (RU) teachers to two years’ rigorous imprisonment for violating Emergency Power Rules (EPR) 2007 by bringing out a silent procession on the campus on August 21. The court also fined the teachers — Moloy Bhoumik of management department, Dulal Chandra Biswas, Sayed Selim Reza Newton and Abdullah Al Mamun of mass communication department — Tk 1,000 each, in default of which they will have to suffer one month more in jail. Two other accused in the case — former RU vice chancellor Prof M Saidur Rahman Khan and syndicate member and convener of RU Progressive Teachers’ Society Prof M Abdus Sobhan — were acquitted. Both the teachers were released from Rajshahi Central Jail at 1:30 pm following the verdict. Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Ruhul Amin, who was the judge of the speedy trial court, pronounced the verdict at 11:35 am in a packed courtroom.
Judge Ruhul Amin said the accused had three charges for EPR violation against them — taking leave en masse on July 26 to protest Awami League chief Sheikh Hasina’s arrest, bringing out a silent procession on the campus on August 21, and holding a secret meeting to instigate violence the next day. The judge said photos published in a Bangla daily prove that the accused four teachers were involved in the silent procession on August 21. “As there was a state of emergency in the country, bringing out of the procession violated [the EPR] rules,” he said.
He added that the prosecution could not prove the charges of observing a strike in the name of leave en masse and holding a secret meeting to instigate students to attack law enforcers. “There is no law against taking leave en masse and there was no evidence that these teachers took such leave… The photos of the secret meeting was taken from behind. The investigation officer could not identify anyone except Prof M Abdus Sobhan in the photo, nor could he say what was told in the meeting,” the judge said.
On August 21 this year, a few RU teachers brought out a silent procession on the campus, protesting the previous day’s police attack on Dhaka University students. RU students called a strike the next day. A rickshaw puller was killed on that day, around 200 including police and journalists were injured, vehicles were torched and properties including the vice chancellor’s residence were damaged during day long clashes between the police and students on and around the RU campus. The student demonstrations also demanded withdrawal of the state of emergency and removal of the police from the campus.
On August 23 night, members of the Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) arrested Prof Saidur Rahman and Prof Abdus Sobhan, and Moloy Bhowmik the next day. The then officer-in-charge of Motihar Police Station Khondoker Ferdous Ahmed filed the case against the three teachers on August 26. The teachers were placed on remand and taken to the Joint Interrogation Cell in the capital on August 28. The charge sheet of the case, including the names of Dulal Biswas, Selim Reza Newton and Abdullah Al Mamun, was submitted on September 1. The three teachers surrendered before the court four days later.
Meanwhile, another newspaper, New Age has presented us with the latest gem from the chief clown in General Moeen U Ahmed’s facade cabinet, Mainul Hosein: “In building a just and orderly society, law and its application are more important than anything else. A just society is built by just laws enforced justly.” Alright, Hiru, coming to you later.
A few clicks away from this blog, Rumi Ahmed has posted a translated letter from one of the sentenced professors: