THE acting editor of Amar Desh Mahmudur Rahman made a public statement at a seminar in Dhaka in December 2017 which leaders of the Chhatra League, the student organisation of the ruling Awami League, thought to be derogatory for Bangladesh’s founding president Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the current prime minister Sheikh Hasina, Sheikh Mujib’s daughter. The statement prompted a ruling party student wing leader to file a defamation case with a court in Kushtia against Mahmudur Rahman 20 days after the statement had been made. This is lawful and legal as anyone aggrieved at the statement or action of another can seek legal redress. Mahmudur Rahman, like a law-abiding citizen, accordingly, responded to the court’s call and appeared in the court in Kusthia on Sunday. The court remanded him on bail. But someone accused in a defamation case filed by someone else coming to be attacked, after being confined to the courtroom, by the person who filed the case and his people while the accused was responding to the call of court is worrying on more than a couple of counts. While we have no reasons to support the political and intellectual position that the victim in question pursues, we believe that it is important to raise the question in the first place that whether the political opponents of the political party that presides over the government would respond to the call of the law without fears of being attacked in court premises by the ruling party musclemen.
Incidents such as this now would, however, set bad precedents for the future as people now sitting on or loyal to the government could face similar attacks with a change of guards some other time. Similar incidents in the future might befall the people now engaged in or rejoicing at the attack in question. What remains further worrying is the way a section of the media and some intellectuals keep justifying the attack on a political opponent, Mahmudur Rahman in the present case, without considering the fact that their position on the issue amounts to vigilante justice. While the Awami League’s general secretary Obaidul Quader says that the party does not condone the attack on Mahmudur Rahman, the section of the media and intellectuals justifying the attack appears to be more Catholic than the Pope. Obaidul Quader said that the attack was ‘unexpected and undesirable’ and the Awami League does not support the attack as there can be differences of opinions in politics. The section of the media and the intellectuals, in apparent efforts to please the ruling political party, coming to justify the attack only further shrinks the democratic space and creates obstacles to democratic dispensation.
Be that as it many, the Awami League, which claims that it is opposed to such attacks, now should take action against the attackers, reported to be Chhatra League leaders and activists, to prove that its action matches its words. Society, political parties, in and outside the government, the media and intellectuals at large, meanwhile, need to ponder over the issue and do some soul-searching for the greater good.
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