Rallying cry for repeal of Digital Security Act after death of writer in jail custody

The public clamour for repeal of the Digital Security Act is growing when speakers at a rally protesting against the death of writer Mushtaq Ahmed in jail custody after his arrest under the law renewed the demand.

University teachers, students, writers, journalists and activists joined the rally at the Central Shaheed Minar premises in Dhaka on Friday as protests erupted a day after Mushtaq’s death and echoed off the walls around.

Professor Anu Muhammad of Jahangirnagar University’s economics department said the government wants to violate the right to freedom of speech because it is afraid of criticisms.

“It fears that it won’t be possible to continue plundering assets with the help of goons while retaining power if citizens continue speaking out."

He also alleged that the judiciary is working in tandem with the government to stifle dissent. Mushtaq was denied bail in court six times after his arrest in the case started nearly 10 months ago.

“Murder accused are getting bail, but someone arrested only for speaking out cannot get bail,” continued Prof Muhammad.

“If the court and the government blur the boundary, the country won’t belong to the people anymore. We must take back this country. The government doesn’t want it and so it wants to create panic among the people,” he said.

Tanzimuddin Khan, a professor at Dhaka University’s international relations department, said the government is identifying those who it thinks as its rivals.

Photographer Shahidul Alam urged all to stand for those who are speaking out. People will not forget those who are silent now, he said.

Nurul Haque Nur, former vice-president of Dhaka University Central Students’ Union, said the Act is being used to harass everyone from women to the elderly to those who remain away from politics.

He demanded that the government revoke the Digital Security Act and release those arrested on charges under the law.