From the Editor-in-Chief: Bhakta’s humiliation is our humiliation

Enayetullah Khan
Thursday, May 19th, 2016
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The public humiliation of Shyamal Kanti Bhakta, head teacher of Piyar Sattar Latif High School in Narayanganj, was subjected to a few days ago was fundamentally a humiliation of the people of Bangladesh. The incident has provoked a furious reaction among citizens, which is a powerful sign of the outrage all of us feel at Bhakta’s treatment by Selim Osman, the local lawmaker from the Jatiya Party, and the managing committee of the school. There is little question that like an ideal headmaster, Bhakta was unwilling to go accede to some of the questionable demands of the committee. The committee struck back. It found the perfect excuse in the incident of Bhakta physically punishing a pupil over some classroom infraction or the other. Bhakta is a Hindu. It was therefore convenient to slap on him the false charge that he had used objectionable language against Islam while punishing the pupil. In other words, he was simply cast to the wolves baying for his blood.

 

The irony is that the very pupil who was punished by the headmaster has made it clear that at no point did Bhakta speak against religion. That means the managing committee was lying and on the basis of this lie, it instigated the local population into a frenzy, of the sort one has observed in various parts of the world every time the matter of religious sentiments has been dragged in. Bhakta was beaten up. And then happened something even more horrendous. Selim Osman, a lawmaker who obviously has no respect for either the law or morality, had Bhakta hold his ears and sit up and down before the mob as ‘atonement’ for behaviour he had not resorted to. It was an outrageous scene. A respected teacher, with years of dedicated service behind him, was being humiliated before his students and colleagues and before an entire country. Selim Osman now says he ordered the headmaster to go through the ‘punishment’ in order to save him from further wrath of the mob. That explanation does not hold water. The MP is trying to save himself.

 

We thank Law Minister Anisul Huq for his clear view that those who humiliated Bhakta cannot escape punishment. But we are disappointed with the rather weak statement coming from Education Minister Nurul Islam Nahid, for whom the entire incident was regrettable. Why could the education minister not take swift action against the offending MP and his cohorts? And will an inquiry committee he has promised result in anything when things are already crystal clear? Narayanganj Superintendent of Police Mahid Uddin has come forth with an amusing explanation of the incident. In his view, Bhakta’s public humiliation was not a criminal act.  What was it then? Must we now begin to think that in future anyone can be humiliated in the way Bhakta was by people like Selim Osman and the members of the managing committee, that mob rule will be the new order? To make matters worse, the committee has dismissed the headmaster from his position.

 

We have a simple demand to make of the government: let those who humiliated the head teacher be made to pay the price for their criminality, swiftly and publicly. Let them feel that there are laws in this country, that it is suicidal to make light of citizens’ concerns.

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