Public humiliation of a school teacher in Narayanganj by the local Member of Parliament AKM Selim Osman last week has sparked a wave of condemnation across the country. Amid an ongoing protests against the inhuman harassment of the teacher, the lawmaker has shamed the nation further by refusing to apologise for his direct involvement in the unprecedented incident in which he himself forced the victim to squat by holding ears for several times.
Meanwhile, most of the people have come to know through the social media, video footage and the press why and how the teacher, Shyamal Kanti Bhakta, headmaster of Piyar Sattar Latif High School, was roughed up by a mob and then by the lawmaker, who punished him publicly after the school management committee had brought false allegation against the teacher of insulting the religion of Islam while chastising a rogue student of his school.
The school management committee was so rude that it used a loudspeaker of a local mosque to spread a lie that Bhakta insulted the religion of the majority with an aim to vanish him from the scene so that they can use the development fund of five million taka at their whims. Immediately after the announcement over the loudspeaker, people had thronged the school and roughed up Bhakta, before the lawmaker intervened.
But the public though misled initially by the falsehood, they restrained themselves and did not harm the teacher deadly. Meanwhile the lawmaker appeared at the scene and humiliated the helpless teacher hurting the conscience of the people. The inhuman behaviour of the lawmaker with a respectable teacher who belongs to a minority religious community has tarnished the national image internationally.
Selim Osman, after intervening into the incident, should have inquired as to why Rifat Hossain, a student of Class-X, was beaten severely by the teacher and whether the teacher had insulter the religion of Islam while chastising the student. But without doing so and without knowing the fact he himself started humiliating the teacher. He could have blamed the teacher if it was proved that he had beaten the student severely which is against the law and now out of practice in educational institutions. If the teacher was found to have beaten the student severely and insulted the religion of the majority, the lawmaker could have recommended for punitive action against him to the relevant and appropriate authorities.
But at no circumstances he should have humiliated the teacher publicly. Humiliating the teacher on the basis of unfounded public allegations Selim Osman, a renowned businessman and President of Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association, proved himself a headless bully.
Headless bullies like Selim Osman think they need not to seek apology for any of their actions, because they think that they can do no wrong and they are above the law. Similar attitudes of a handful of lawmakers, political activists and party leaders, have polluted politics and corrupted most of the political parties. They are responsible for the deterioration of law and order in every spheres of national life. These political bullies often break traffic laws on the busy street, occupy government lands and properties of helpless including religious minorities.
Meanwhile, local units of some radical Islamic organisations, like Hefajat-e-Islam, have taken to the streets in Narayanganj against the teacher and in support of the lawmaker at the instigation of the latter. But good sense has started to prevail on them and the radicals are being neutralised themselves gradually.
In the past, a number of such inhuman behaviours, crimes, corruption and actions of moral turpitude committed by this section of politicians were left unpunished, implying to the relevant politicians that the government has no power to punish them for their unlawful activities.
The relevant governments or the parties, mainly the ruling one, did not dare to chastise their bully-boys fearing backlash from them, who were believed to have strong support from the people. But in fact it was a wrong conviction of the governments or the leaderships of the relevant parties. People never support or love these bully-boys, who often push their supporters to shame and controversy by doing illegal or illogical activities.
Some major political parties are fond of activists who can use their muscle-power against their opponents during political campaigns including anti government protests. These politically blessed goons are also believed to be effective during elections, as they are capable of occupying election centres, evict agents of rival parties from the polling booths and stuff ballot boxes with ballots. The ruling parties also patronise goons to tackle opposition activists during anti government campaigns. Most of these successful goons of both the ruling and opposition parties often become political leaders and lawmakers later.
As they can amass huge wealth by bullying businesses and richer section of people, at some stage they can manage party tickets to compete in the general elections, in which some of them get through spending huge money and using their inherent terror tactic. Political careers of some lawmakers like Selim Osman perhaps are rooted in this section of politicians who emerged in politics not by dint of quality and wisdom, but on the basis of muscle-power.
However, as these bully-boys emerged helpful for certain parties including the party in power in the past decades, most of them were also responsible for fall of some governments. Bully-boys of Jatiya Party could not help the government of General Ershad to perpetuate its muscle-based state power for long. The Hawa-Bhaban-based bully-boys also failed to stage the national election in 2006 with a voter list having 12 million fake voters.
The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and the Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) are also facing political debacles now because of wrong actions of their violent leaders and activists, to whom the parties extended unlimited patronisation in the recent deadly campaigns to unseat the government in vain. In their abortive violent campaign they took a toll of huge human lives between 2013 and 2015, acting covertly and outside the purview of the jurisdiction of democratic political parties. Bully-boys of BNP and JeI were responsible for alienating their respective parties from the people.
Jatiya Party is now poised to have a huge public reprisal due to impolitic actions of its lawmaker Selim Osman. The ruling Awami League (AL) will also have the same displeasure of the people as the party have some special favour not only for Jatiya Party in the current political context, but also for the entire ancestral family of Selim Osman. Controversial political figure Shamim Osman, a lawmaker of ruling AL from Narayanganj is the brother of Selim Osman. Shamim Osman was credited in the party for an unprecedented but unlawful action in late 1990s when he blocked an opposition motorcade rally of Khaleda Zia for more than 24 hours by parking trucks and lorries on the Dhaka-Chittagong highway at an spot under his political jurisdiction.
It is believed that the AL, which has much bad names for ignoring various unlawful activities of a section of its student cadres, will take a lesson from the humiliation of Bhakta and the impolitic actions of lawmaker Selim Osman.
The ruling party must acknowledge that due to these political goons the recent phases of the Union Parishad elections were mostly marred as more than 70 people have been killed in poll related violence. Supporters of both the AL nominated candidates and the rebel candidates of the party were responsible for all these violence and rigging in the election occurred though in a small number of political centres. They overtly violated the instructions of the party and the Election Commission.
It is the high time all the political parties including ruling AL tightened the noose on the bully-boys for the sake of democracy, rule of law, peace and development.
Nizam Ahmed is Business Editor,
The Daily Observer