E-Bangladesh is a News/Headlines service and a group blog aimed at bringing the news and analysis from Bangladesh to its readers.

[Mashuqur Rahman, USA.]

Aparajito: The word cannot be properly translated into English. Those who have seen Satyajit Ray’s 1956 film “Aparajito” may translate the word as “unvanquished”. Undefeated. Unbowed. Uncowed. Unbeaten. It is much more than any of those words.

Today, four Bangladeshi prisoners of conscience — Moloy Bhowmik, Selim Reza Newton, Abdullah Al Mamun and Dulal Chandra Biswas — walked out from the Rajshahi Central Jail as free men — aparajito. These four Rajshahi University professors were sentenced last week to two years rigorous imprisonment by a Bangladeshi kangaroo court for taking part in a silent procession in August of this year. Today they were released when Bangladesh’s civilian puppet president, Iajuddin Ahmed, “pardon”ed them of their “crimes”.

The military government claimed that the professors were released following a petition for mercy to the president from the professors. However, the professors rejected the military government’s claim saying they had not asked for mercy:

Later at the grave of Shamsuzzoha, Bhoumik told journalists, “We heard the media is saying that we had sought presidential clemency.”

“I want to make it clear that we never sought any mercy from anyone. If anybody claims so, he should show the proof. If the claim comes from the government then it is an insult to the teaching community.”

“If the government claims that we sought mercy, they must prove it. We are ready to go to jail again if necessary. It is a matter of the teaching community’s prestige.”

Talking on the matter of presidential clemency, Sayed Selim Reza Newton also expressed his astonishment. Rejecting the government’s claim he said, “There was no question of mercy petitions. Neither we nor our wives submitted any petition to the government for mercy.”

“We are disappointed at the government’s claim. We suffered in jail long enough because we didn’t want to seek mercy. We could have been freed much earlier if we had sought mercy.”

Dulal Chandra Biswas thanked the president for his ‘voluntary initiative’. “We thank him for his voluntary move of ordering the mercy. It was possible only for the efforts of all the people including our colleagues and students.”

The release comes after growing public outrage over the sentencing of these professors for a non-violent and silent protest. In support of the prisoners of conscience few days ago over 40 Dhaka University professors held a silent protest in front Aparajeyo Bangla (unvanquished Bengal). The Dhaka University Teachers Association (DUTA) issued an ultimatum to the military government demanding the release of the prisoners of conscience by December 12th. In response, a three member team from the army – reportedly Brigadier General ATM Amin, Colonel Abu Saleh and Colonel Almas Raisul Ghani of the DGFI (Directorate General of Forces Intelligence) – met with DUTA and the Dhaka University Vice Chancellor to dissuade (threaten) them into cancelling their planned protests. The Dhaka University professors refused and began their protests as previously planned. It was clear that battle lines had been drawn between the brute force of the military and the moral authority of the Bangladeshi academic community.

Today the military government buckled. The military had nothing more to gain by holding these professors. They had already gotten their point across – dissent is punishable by torture and/or imprisonment. Confrontation would have led to nothing more than bad press.

However, the detention and subsequent release of these prisoners of conscience also exposes the modus operandi of this military government. The rule of law, or the flouting of it, lies at the whims of the generals in charge and at the mercy of military intelligence officers of the DGFI. It was notable and illuminating that it was the DGFI that was negotiating with DUTA. It was also notable that only under threat of what was likely to be mass protests did the military government release these men. This does not bode well for the future of Bangladesh. If force, or the threat of force, are the only checks on this military government’s behavior its exit – an inevitability – is likely to be bloody.

Meanwhile up to 250,000 other prisoners are being held by this military government without due process. Among them are Dhaka University professors also being held for protesting against army brutality last August. Today, the civilian water carrier for the military government, Mainul Hosein, declared that the Dhaka University professors “could also be freed if they apologise for their actions.”

Last August the BBC pointed out that the army’s wrath against students and professors was unleashed in part because it felt insulted. It appears that the “rule of law” in Bangladesh is now not much more than insult and apology. An unaccountable military force rules by fiat. And only the politics of confrontation appears to be on the horizon. These are dangerous times.

Nonetheless, four prisoners of conscience are free today. Unapologetic. Aparajito.

Mashuqur Rahman [http://www.docstrangelove.com] is one of the highest read Bangladeshi-American bloggers. Critically acclaimed for his incisive analysis on Bangladesh, US foreign policy and dedicated advocacy of human rights.

[Read posts by Mashuqur Rahman]


E-Bangladesh is a News/Headlines service and a group blog aimed at bringing the news and analysis from Bangladesh to its readers.

14 Responses to “Aparajito”

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    I have seen the letter written to the authorities. Four wives jointly wrote it.

    This two line letter demands their release for the sake of academic freedome.
    There was no mention of any apology anywhere.
    Now the government owes an apology for lying to the nation.

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    So the Powerful Gov scared about the Power of students, i mean young people of Bangladesh. Now its clear. Government knows that if they avoid DUITA then the students of DU will raise their voice. And already they know what will be the aftereffect of that raising voice.

    One thing I cant understand why teachers are not claiming to CTG to withdraw state of emergency ?

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    Suman Matin

    It is a historical moment in our country. It never happened before. Its good example for the both parties, teachers and general people and also from the government. We must be happy that our beloved teachers are free and CTG did not play wrong.

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    Salam Dhaka

    This event should put to rest once and for all the misplaced notion of our bootlicking crowd that there is a “caretaker government”.

    Our 11 civilian stooges can jump up and down as much as they want, but it’s the men in green and their intelligence unit that decides who goes to jail and who gets out.

    Unfortunately, for the other 250,000 people rotting in jail, it may be a long wait.

  5. Author Image

    Journey To Infinitive

    Rumi Bhai,

    Thanks to share the informations. I am surprised to see how one is commenting such lie seating on the highest chair.

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    If the professors cannot do politics, why is the army doing politics? Why is the DGFI outfit at the university? Has anyone noticed that Saudi Prince Bandar “Bigbag” wrote to the army chief regarding the purchase of Rupali Bank, and not to the sleeping beauty CA? If this is not a proof of military rule with the facade of civilianism then what is? We are clearly under a clever military clique.

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    Sob Janta Noi

    Amar hasi pay… amidst all these anti-HR events, government launches Human Rights Commission.

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    What Gov will have holding teachers ?
    Nothing except protests. leaving teachers may be a trick. first i thought that Gov realizing its fault but after processing the Niko case it seems that Gov is going to attack teachers & also students.

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    Human Rights Commission? For what? Kono dorkar ache? 😛 It feels good to hear that the teachers are finally out, and Mr. Mash’s inclusion of Satyajit Ray’s film makes it just brilliant!

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    Bourne, this government creating a Human Rights Commission is like the Burmese Junta calling themselves the “State Peace and Development Council.” As for the title of this post, the professors themselves wrote the title. I merely typed it. The Satyajit Ray reference also tugs at our heartstrings — all of us who have left our mothers at an early age to new worlds away from home.

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    So the teachers will be released and the students are to be kept behind bars! Ten RU students are jailed for 3 years. God knows what will happen to the students of DU who are still behind bars. The university will be closed for 3 weeks starting from tomorrow. If the DU students are jailed when they raise their voices this time, will our teachers come forward… this time…?

  12. Author Image


    Prince Bandar does look like a bit of a bandar 🙂 If the Arabs could get away with it, they’d likely try to buy us all for their hareems.

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