Right and wrong

What society often fails to understand is the concept of right and wrong – which actually runs much deeper than what we see on the surface. There is always more than one side to a story. Utpal Kumar Sarkar was a teacher of Haji Yunus Ali School and College in Ashulia, Savar. He was also the head of the disciplinary committee of the school and his killer, Ashraful Islam Jitu, was a student of the school. It has been revealed that Jitu had already gained a notorious reputation in the school as a rule breaker and impertinent boy with total disregard for the regulations. For all of his actions Jitu, however, did not have to go through any serious penalty or punishment for his conduct. This is because of the fact he was related to a member of the school authority. This reason behind Jitu’s behaviour was often overlooked and will be unsurprising to many, which further emphasises on how far the standards of the country’s law and order have fallen.

Corruption has taken the root of almost everywhere along with lack of democracy and freedom of speech as well as rise of intolerance. The incident of the murder happened in the school playground when Utpal Kumar Sarkar tried to intervene and stop Jitu from doing something wrong and then Jitu – in a sudden fit of rage – violently retaliated by taking a stump to the teacher’s head. What’s more horrifying is that Jitu did not stop there but perpetuated his action by repeatedly beating the teacher to near unconsciousness. No one stepped in to stop him and the critically injured teacher was taken to hospital and reported dead not long after. Jitu has been arrested and most likely will face life imprisonment or death penalty. The disciplinary issues reinstated in the school are now tighter, or so the newspapers would have us believe.

But the question remains – are the authorities really focussing on this? Do they really care about the welfare of their students, staff, faculties and the school environment in overall instead of just trying to calm down the media? And will death penalty to the ‘Jitus’ of our society really going to solve the bigger issues lurking underneath? Capital punishment is common in Bangladesh, especially more so these days but in reality, it serves nothing other than subtracting one life in exchange for another.

Then there is the case of Swapan Kumar Biswas, the principal of United College. He attempted to protect a Hindu student of his school who wrote a post in support of Nupur Sharma, the suspended leader of India’s BJP who made derogatory comments regarding Prophet Muhammad (S.M.). He paid the price for it by being garlanded with a string of shoes in front of a crowd and a group of policemen.

Swapan Kumar said in a recent interview that he thought of committing suicide after learning of the fate that awaited him but ultimately decided not to after thinking of his three children, wife and mother. Such a statement is more than an evidence to indicate that the man cannot easily get rid of the trauma from this incident. In fact, many fear whether he would be able to teach again in future. Mental scars can be long lasting. At the same time, Swapan Kumar – being the principal – should have handled the situation in a better way instead of outright trying to defend and protect him after the student’s post went viral. He could have expelled the student for one or two weeks or arrange a meeting with his parents to warn them about their son writing sensitive content. These could have been better alternatives for him to take as initiatives.

After the Digital Security Act came to pass in 2018, freedom of press and speech has been greatly restricted. People have to think twice before writing something on social media, especially when it comes to writing in Facebook. Take a look at what happened to BUET student Abrar Fahad just because of writing a post, for instance. Other countries criticised the Bangladesh government for this Act, saying it will greatly harm the democracy of the country. In a time like this, a man in Swapan Kumar’s position should have the better sense to think before act. Moreover, the student who wrote the post in support of Nupur Sharma should not have done that – not because of the said security measurements but because of decency. Just because you are a Hindu does not mean you are obliged to defend the wrongdoings of another Hindu.

And what Nupur Sharma did was wrong, making those comments on Prophet Muhammad (S.M.) is not acceptable. The best scenario is when a person learns to see the wrongdoings of his religion over another and openly voice his dissatisfaction about it without any bias. However, what happened to the principal was a national disgrace, which MUST not be tolerated or overlooked by any means. In addition, the country should be held accountable for how it tolerates and permits injustice to happen. The footage of this incident show the police members involved in the situation, smiling and at ease while Swapan Kumar was being dragged out to the streets.

We can take a look at the developed countries of the world as examples. The road to their prosperity did not come out of autocracy, it came through human rights

Attempts to reform

The best possible solution would be the restoration of democracy in our country. Without democracy, there can be no tolerance and without tolerance, there can be no freedom for anything. People cannot be asked to suppress their emotions for an indefinite period of time because at one point or another, it is bound to explode. Much of the violence that we witness can be explained due to pent-up frustration and resentment. It has become a new ‘pandemic’ in Bangladesh and will continue to spread even more unless we do something to cure it soon. Society is brimming over up with people of different opinions, ideas and thought processes. People deserve a right to voice these openly. There is a quote “Your best friend is your critic.” If we give people an open platform to share what they think and feel, we can be aware of the shortcomings of our states and many other things. This eventually can set the ground for improvement in several ways for the country and community. Depriving people of freedom of speech is no different than tearing out people’s tongues. A famous fictional character of George RR Martin said, “When you cut out a man’s tongue, you are not proving him a liar, you are only telling the world that you fear what he might say.”

We can take a look at the developed countries of the world as examples. The road to their prosperity did not come out of autocracy, it came through human rights. The under developed and developing countries in Africa and Asia are still struggling to make their nations ideal places for living. The UN has often objected to the lack of autonomy in many of these countries and this has been seen by many analysts as the key hindrance behind their struggle to prosperity. USA and European countries – for all their faults – do allow democracy.

* Chowdhury Taoheed Al-Rabbi is a student of Bangladesh University of Professionals

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