Internationally famed Indian photographer Raghu Rai who was honoured as a Friend of Bangladesh by the government in 2012 for his depiction of the War of Liberation advised prime minister Sheikh Hasina ‘not to teach’ the boys a lesson, as Pakistani generals tried to teach Bangladeshis a lesson.
But Bangladesh rose against the repressive and oppressive Pakistani regime, he wrote in an open letter to Sheikh Hasina.
Copy of the letter made available to the media on Tuesday says Raghu Rai’s heart bleeds over the arrest and torturing of acclaimed photographer Shahidul Alam whom he described as a great admirer of country’s founder president Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and one of those rare breeds committed to truth and honesty, who can die for Bangladesh.
‘Madam Prime minister, you are the daughter of great revolutionary Sheikh Mujibur Rahman who rose against the repressive and torturous regime of Pakistani generals—and in return the generals decided to teach Bangladeshis a lesson. Thus the nation rose against Pakistan under the leadership of Sheikh Sahib and this is how Bangladesh came into being. So let’s not teach our boys a lesson,’ Raghu Rai wrote in the letter.
‘Honorable Madam, Shahidul Alam founder of DRIK and Pathshala has been a great admirer of Sheikh Sahib, and I have had the privilege of knowing him as a close friend for the last 3 decades. I have no doubt in my mind that Shahidul is one of those rare breeds committed to truth and honesty, and can die for his country. It seems last night Shahidul was picked up by 20-30 men from detective branch of police, and was tortured and couldn’t walk on his feet. My heart bleeds for that’, he wrote.
‘We have been told that the young minds of Bangladesh demand a sense of security against the malpractices in the transport department and negligence of police to respond that has resulted into several deaths. It seems what students are demanding that any citizen with a conscience would ask for and Shahidul has just stated that to Al Jazeera channel,’ he wrote in the letter.
‘If any opposition and political party is using or manipulating these young minds, they are the ones to be dealt with. But faithful honest patriots like my dear and close friend Shahidul who I would call the eyes and ears of the common masses that can provide an insight into the ground reality of how the spirit of majority of the youth is feeling now, being punished for this,’ he wrote.
‘It reminds me of Pakistani generals trying to teach a lesson to the faithful. It’s not only me in India but many others journalists and photo journalists, artists, writers from all around the world who vouch for him and stand by him,’ he said.
‘We are deeply hurt by the news of Shahidul being detained and tortured. All he has done is to use his photographic skill and voice to capture the truth of ongoing reality in a most committed and compassionate way,’ Raghu Rai wrote.
‘May I humbly request and plead not to punish the honest, the truthful representative of the youth. As the spirit of democracy – the truth must survive for itself that kindles the light in heart of millions of your countrymen and many of us,’ he wrote.
‘Honorable Prime Minister, I hope you shall honour the humbling of the hearts, for a Shahidul Alam,’ he concluded, identifying him as ‘Friend of Bangladesh’.
Raghu Rai was honoured by the government of Bangladesh as a friend of Bangladesh for his photographs of the refugees from the then East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, and the young freedom fighters in the 1971 Liberation War.
Want stories like this in your inbox?
Sign up to exclusive daily email
More Stories from Country