It was March 30 when two students, Kazi Mahburur Rahman Raihan and Ullash Das, arrived at their school to prepare the documents for the Higher Secondary Certificate exams. It was also March 30 when a mob waiting for them outside the school doors cornered the students beatening them. The dénouement of the story: both of them were jailed under Article 57.
According to the Bangladesh’s English daily Dhaka Tribune and the national police “derogatory comments against Islam and Prophet Mohammad were post on their Facebook accounts”. However, it seems that there is something hidden in this story.
Fellow bloggers claim that the attack was organized by activists from the Islami Chhatra Shibir, a student organization aligned with the country’s largest Islamist party. The perpetrators of the crime supposedly shared false propoganda of 5 to 6 pages through the streets, a propaganda with the “capacity to hurt the religious sentiments of the people and ignite the rage”, Sumit Chowdhury-blogger- said on the Istishon blog. “When they arrived at the police station there was already a written complaint of thirty pages against them with several screenshots of comments by Rahi on the Jamaat-shibir Facebook page as well as from the other boy”, he stated on his post.
Apparently, the two boys were only complaining against Islamic activism online.
I think it is necessary to provide an insight on Article 57. This article belongs to the Information and Communication Technology Act (ITC) which the Ministry of Law passed last August without any parliamentary vote, a series of amendments including increased repression against protests of the citizens.
These understand the increase of criminal penalties for violations of the law, unfair arrests and detentions of suspected offenders (without looking for a real proof). It was first passed in 2006 by the previous regime criminalizing any hack, obtention of data, and interference with computer systems as well as the expression of any thought against the system or the values of Bangladesh’s culture.
What is the result of these admendments? The fear of the population. Fear and control blocks the people’s minds and set an imposed way of thinking which does not result as a threat to the government.
It was ironical to find that the nation had a Right to Information Act which was passed in 2009 which recognized free speech as one of the basic rights of citizens and promotes an open government, that’s to say, the institution showing all its expenditures in order to work against corruption. Where has this act being left?
To sum up, Bangladesh is the witness of the power sphere applying justice as it likes (no warrants are given to the jailed, no judicial permission are needed to enter the inhabitants’ houses, no opportunites to speak are given to the detainees…). And no justice is a justice until it harmonizes with the people’s dignity.