Just as one was trying to recover from the cricket test bashing in South Africa, one was hit with a bouncer in the form of teep showing that the social cricket match is just beginning. A policeman reportedly ran over the feet of a lady after abusing her for wearing a teep. Worse, she happened to be a ph.d educated teacher in a higher education institution in the media department. As if that wasn't enough, she happened to be a Hindu woman making the incident tick all the boxes where conflicts are on.
The alleged attacker provided the rest of the song. Not only was he a policeman, always in the news for doing all kinds of stuff, many not legal and some downright criminal but he was one with a lush beard of the Islamic variety. He didn't hesitate to abuse the lady concerned on a cultural issue with religious connotation that is for wearing her teep. After the news went into social media, Bangladesh's middle class space also known as Facebook burst into chatter, abuse and accusations coming from all sides.
The shushil and naribadi position
The shushil side and their allies were up in arms not just for the particular incident but the state of general hostility towards anything the conservative camp doesn't like. This group was presented as the ultimate practitioners of intolerance who will not hesitate to attack women they consider straying off the "Islamic" path. In a way, this was a low end jihadi attack if one will to them.
Naribadis naturally stepped in and proclaimed that this was the great example of patriarchy and anti-women sentiment and that this was an invasion of the body space. This became the major narrative on the FB. In fact the tone was strengthened by many women and many men also wearing the Teep and posting their faces on the FP in solidarity. It was similar to the "rater rani" campaign and showed there was considerable agreement amongst the shushils.
A sub-narrative however was on. It described the attack on a Hindu person as religious persecution. However, one is not sure if it was known to the attacker before the attack that the person was a Hindu or not. The general feeling of the Hindu community is that it was against a minority faith group and made them feel even more excluded from the mainstream. It was seen by them as an attack on Hindus in general.
The "Islamic" contest
The contest of the "shushil" and FB community however was not without a challenge. In fact, the contesters are huge and the Islamic faith based community has reacted sharply. Some are saying the lady was a provocateur and she deliberately misled the police. One post said that the policeman was on the bike with his wife in the back seat and apparently there was a collision with the teep lady concerned before the abuse. This led to an altercation and ended with whatever. The claim was that when the complaint was lodged the pregnant wife was not mentioned though if that justifies the attack is not known.
Another post was more specifically anti-Hindu and it accused the community of taking advantage of the pro-Hindu policies of the GOB and so on. It said Hindus were always complaining against Muslims and causing trouble. That most temple attacks were self-attacks and so on.
Many of course were plainly anti-women and any-Hindu as a matter of principle and dubbed teep and other practices as anti-Islamic and signed off with Allah Hafez.
What the government did
The Government moved swiftly and should be complimented for that. They identified and interned the person accused immediately and have started questioning him. Officials have also said that the person was not such a religious "fanatic" before and was a singer etc. But in the last 2 years, hehad undergone a change of heart and became the person who ran over the leg of the lady.
Meanwhile, another policeman from Sylhet took to the FB and criticized the men who put the teep as a sign of solidarity. He was promptly transferred to Rangpur and scolded by the authorities. Clearly, the GOB was concerned that it could be seen as taking sides which it wants to avoid. . But it also showed that the fissures in society were many and ready to cause damage.
What happens now?
Nothing will change much. Going by the reactions, the furor is high but as the responses have shown many times, the GOB will not act on issues which are perceived as religious ones. The number of people who think that the Teep is anti-Islamic are many more than all others and the GOB will be cautious. While the GOB will not promote "Islamic fundamentalism "it will probably not do much to anger the villages from where the constable also comes. Unless of course the state is threatened as it was by the Jongis and later by Hefazot, the government doesn't move on religion linked cases. It did significantly act against hefazat but it also stopped the statue building porgramme of Sk. Mujib. So GOB uses tact as a tool for survival.
The lack of organizational support for the constable is a sign that its potential as a cause builder is less so for the conservatives, it's a time to do FB abuse more. For the shushils, it's more of the same as always. However, the potential for violence arising out of such conflicts has been made clear again.
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