Space For Rent
Thursday, May 19, 2016, Jaistha 5, 1423 BS, Shaban 11, 1437 Hijri

Are an MP, a school committee more powerful than Ministers?
Syed Badrul Ahsan
Published :Thursday, 19 May, 2016,  Time : 12:00 AM  View Count : 115
Narayanganj has in these past few years acquired a bad reputation. And that negative reputation has much to do with the dominance, or call it fiefdom, of the Osman family in the port city. Take a look at everything that has happened, everything that has gone into instilling in the residents of Narayanganj the fear that the place is today one where the dignity of people cannot be guaranteed.
Shamim Osman, a lawmaker from the Awami League, is infamous for the repeated run-ins he had with Kabori Sarwar when the latter served as Member of Parliament in the constituency Osman now represents in the Jatiyo Sangsad. The uncouth manner in which Shamim Osman behaved toward Kabori Sarwar remains a blot on the history of politics, both local and national, in this country.
Public disbelief at Shamim Osman's attitude toward a serving lawmaker only took on a newer and more disturbing dimension when he made his views of Selina Hayat Ivy known even before she beat him at the race for the Mayor's office in Narayanganj. It was a defeat he did not take lightly, which is a reason why in subsequent weeks and months he went into a very public denunciation of her, often below the belt. No one who has watched the television programme where Osman berated, in threatening manner, the Narayanganj Mayor, will easily forget the ugliness involved.
That said, there have been all the allegations and suspicions about the elements, indeed the men, behind the murder of the young Twaki. And of course Shamim Osman's closeness to Noor Hossain, a man accused of being behind the seven murders in the port city, has been there. There is the clear record of conversations between the two men before Noor Hossain fled across the border to India (he has been brought back since). But no one in authority has seen it necessary to inquire into Shamim Osman's possible role in the Noor Hossain story.
And now comes a fresh outrage, this time from his sibling Selim Osman. It is interesting that the brothers, as lawmakers ---one from the ruling Awami League and the other from the Jatiyo Party --- have somehow developed the brash and brazen notion that no one can touch them. There is the police administration; indeed there is an entire government machinery out there. But despite all the outrage they commit, all the fear they exercise over the people of Narayanganj, they remain beyond the pale of the law, of established authority.
Selim Osman did the unthinkable the other day. In full public view and without an iota of shame or concern, he subjected a local school head teacher, Shyamal Kanti Bhakta, to unspeakable brutality. He compelled Bhakta, on the false accusation that he had committed blasphemy against Islam while administering corporal punishment to one of his pupils, to hold his ears and sit down and stand up repeatedly as a way of demonstrating his 'atonement' for his 'sin'. The image went viral and tens of thousands of people, perhaps more, have been left reeling from the shock engendered by it. The world has had the nauseating experience of seeing how a politician in Bangladesh can so easily destroy the honour of a teacher. Our heads hang low.
So here was a lawmaker who did not care about the law. Here was a public representative to whom morality did not matter. But, of course, matters of the moral kind have never been of any consequence to the Osman clan. Neither has the authority of the State been of any importance for the family. Reports have persisted over the years of the law enforcing agencies and other government institutions in Narayanganj being under the influence of the Osman family, of things being done at their bidding. Now even the managing committee of the school Bhakta has served has shown clearly under whose patronage and with whose backing it went after the head teacher. There is a truth to that. At least, that is what emerges from the headmaster's humiliation. He was falsely accused of blasphemy. That was convenient, for he is a Hindu and his enemies needed the perfect excuse to pounce on him. A mob was let loose. It bayed for Bhakta's blood, beat him up. Now Selim Osman says had he not punished Bhakta in the way he did --- the video footage makes everything clear --- the head teacher would have been in even greater danger from the mob. Osman dissembles. He says, and really expects us to believe, that he saved Shyamal Kanti Bhakta from further public wrath. That is an unadulterated lie.
The surprise comes in the audacity, in the defiance of the State by Selim Osman and his accomplices on the management committee. Law Minister Anisul Haque has spoken of the humiliation of the head teacher as a crime which must be punished. Education Minister Nurul Islam Nahid called it a regrettable act and promised an inquiry into the entire incident. The pupil who was thrashed by the headmaster has averred that at no point during the moments of his punishment did Bhakta say anything about religion. The High Court has asked why legal measures should not be taken against MP Selim Osman and others who have humiliated the head teacher.
And yet the managing committee of the school has had the cheek to terminate Bhakta's services when it should have been worried about the consequences for itself of its disgraceful behavior, in the company of the MP, toward Bhakta.
Must the managing committee of the school get away with the outrage it has provoked against a respected head teacher? Must a lawmaker go scot-free despite his unruly behavior and must his family be permitted to remain above the law, beyond question?
If MP Selim Osman is not disciplined, if the managing committee gets away with its unscrupulous behavior, it will be Ministers Anisul Haque and Nurul Islam Nahid whose authority will be undermined. That must not happen. Selim Osman has humiliated an entire country. He must not get away with it. Neither should others in his clan who have the temerity to think Narayanganj is theirs to rule, to humiliate, to undermine, to beat to a pulp.

Editor : Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury
Published by the Editor on behalf of the Observer Ltd. from Globe Printers, 24/A, New Eskaton Road, Ramna, Dhaka. Editorial, News and Commercial Offices : Aziz Bhaban (2nd floor), 93, Motijheel C/A, Dhaka-1000. Phone :9586651-58. Fax: 9586659-60, Advertisemnet: 9513663, E-mail: [email protected], [email protected], [email protected].