Staff correspondent, Dhaka: Authorities in Bangladesh have taken two freethinkers into custody in less than 48 hours for their writings on social media under a controversial law drawing widespread protest by civic groups in the capital Dhaka and elsewhere on Wednesday.
The protesters demanded immediate release of poet Henry Swapan, who was arrested in Barisal on Tuesday as his writings on Facebook apparently irked the local Church, and lawyer Imtiaz Mahmud, picked up in Dhaka Wednesday for his two years old comments favoring ethic minority groups in Chittagong Hill Tracts.
Born in a Christian family, Henry was made accused under Digital Security Act by the head of local Catholic Church in Barisal as he criticized a cultural function a day after more than 250 people were killed in blasts in Sri Lanka last month.
Imtiaz was arrested in a case filed nearly two years ago under Section 57 of the controversial Information Communication Technology Act (later it was amended as Digital Security Act) for his ‘provocative’ comments on Facebook.
Several hundred people gathered in Dhaka’s Shahbagh square to demand release of the two asking the government not to detain the conscience. The protesters stood hand in hand on the wayside holding placards that also demanded scrapping of the controversial laws.
They gathered under the banner of “Shahbagh Against the Oppression and the Poet-writer-artist Oikya Parishad. The protesters warned the government that the writers, litterateurs, journalists, poets, columnists and other professionals will be forced to take to the streets unless the two are released in next 24 hours.
“The arrest of the writers and the poets are clearly against the spirit of constitutional provision of right to freedom of expression that Bangladesh achieved through a bloody war in 1971,” Khan Asaduzzaman Masum, one of the organizers of Ganajagarn Moncho said.
The black laws are still in force in Bangladesh despite that fact that the country is being governed by the pro-liberation forces, he regretted.
“We heard people are being attacked by Muslim communalism, we saw people becoming victims of Hindu communalism. This time round, we see Christian communalism active too in Bangladesh,” Publisher Robin Ahsan told newsnextbd.com referring to the arrest of Henry.
He (Henry) had to go to jail for his humanitarian writings posted on Facebook after the recent terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka, he said criticizing the law enforcement agencies for taking the case against the poet.
Poet and Journalist Saif Ibne Rafiq questioned why the freethinkers are being taken into custody one after another.
“These are not any isolated incident,” said poet Sardar Faruque.
People from different strata have registered protests on Facebook after the arrests of the poet and the writer. They also demanded unconditional release of the two.
newsnextbd.com/reporting by Sharif Khiam Ahmed/n