Bangladesh: Court Orders Report Into Beating, Public Humiliation of Hindu Teacher

Kamran Reza Chowdhury
2016.05.18
Dhaka
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School-Teache-Humiliated620.jpg Students at Shahjahal Science and Technology University in Sylhet, Bangladesh, take part in a protest against the public humiliation of a Hindu teacher, May 17, 2016.
FocusBangla

Bangladesh’s High Court on Wednesday gave authorities three days to explain why they took no action against an MP and others who humiliated a Hindu teacher in public after a mob attacked him for allegedly defaming Islam.

Shymal Kanti Bhakta, a member of the Hindu minority and headmaster at Piyar Sattar Latif High School in central Narayanganj district, was assaulted and made to sit in front of the MP and the crowd on Friday, holding his ears as punishment for alleged comments against Bangladesh’s main religion.

The scene was filmed on someone’s mobile phone. The video has caused widespread outrage after going viral on social media.

“The court has taken [the case] seriously and asked the home secretary, the law secretary, deputy commissioner [of Narayanganj], superintendent of police [of Narayanganj], administrator of Bandar [sub-district] and the Bandar police why legal actions would not follow against the MP and other persons” who were responsible, former Deputy Attorney-General M.K. Rahman told reporters outside the courthouse, according to local media.

The police superintendent in Narayangaj had three days to submit the report, or else the court would hear the case, Rahman said.

On Wednesday, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal told local media that his ministry would abide by the court’s order. He called the assault on Bhakta unacceptable.

‘#wearesorrysir’

A local Member of Parliament, Selim Osman, rescued Bhakta from the attack but allegedly forced him to sit and hold his ears while seeking an apology in public. In Bangladeshi society, making someone sit and hold his or her ears is viewed as an act of public humiliation.

The video of the incident that was uploaded on Facebook showed police officers standing by idly and acting as spectators.

When the footage went viral scores of people condemned the incident and demanded punishment for Osman and others. Protestors launched a campaign on social media using hashtags #sorrysir and #wearesorrysir, and where people posted pictures of themselves holding their ears.

The protest prompted Education Minister Nurul Islam Nahid and Law Minister Anisul Huq to condemn the incident.

Nahid on Wednesday said that his ministry was investigating the incident, according to local reports.

“We will take action against the persons responsible as soon as we get the probe report,” Nahid said.

“Physically assaulting and humiliating the teacher is a punishable offense. Nobody can take the law in their own hands,” Law Minister Anisul Huq told BenarNews.

Rally planned

Elsewhere, the general secretary of the Hindu-Christian-Buddhist Association said that it planned to stage a rally in Dhaka on Friday to protest the actions against the Hindu teacher.

“Nobody could testify that Bhakta defamed Islam. He was physically assaulted, humiliated and finally terminated from service without any fault. If the government does not take action against the MP and the culprits, we will assume that the state is in favor of the offenders,” Rana Dasgupta told BenarNews.

The high court’s action on Wednesday followed an April 28 ruling in southwestern Bagerhat district court where two Hindu teachers, Krishnapada Mouli and Ashok Kumar, were sentenced to six months in jail for making blasphemous comments about Islam.

Under Bangladeshi law, hurting religious sentiment can be treated as a criminal offense.

‘Based on rumor’

The allegations against Bhakta stem from an incident on May 8, when he punished a 10th grade student at his school, local media reports quoted the headmaster as saying.

The student complained about the punishment to the school’s management committee, which met with Bhakta on Friday and later suspended him.

However, the student did not claim that Bhakta had made a blasphemous comment about Islam, committee member Syed Borhanul Islam told BenarNews.

“As the meeting went on, some people announced from the nearby mosque’s loudspeaker that Bhakta had defamed Islam. Hundreds of people gathered at the school compound and attacked Bhakta. He was beaten up mercilessly,” resident Mohiuddin Ahmed told BenarNews.

“The whole incident happened based on a rumor. This is very unfortunate for Bandar people and the country,” said Ahmed, who witnessed the attack.

Osman told reporters that he forced Bhakta to sit holding his ears to stave off the tension among the people, according to local media accounts.

Shahriar Sharif contributed to this report.

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