Digital Security Act: A farmer, far from internet, on the run
A rural farmer, who does not have access to the internet, let alone have a Facebook account, has been on the run since he was sued under the Digital Security Act five months ago over a post on the social media platform.
The farmer, Abu Zaman, of Gazaria village of Kishoreganj's Bajitpur upazila, cannot even read or write. He also does not own a smartphone.
The Facebook post was made by someone else, and Abu, 45, is accused of influencing that person to come up with the post, according to the complainant.
Mizanur Rahman Shikder Shamim, a teacher of Katiadi Adarsha Bidya Niketan, filed the case on October 20 last year with Katiadi Police Station. Abu has been living away from home since then to avoid arrest.
The other accused in the case is Md Al Amin, a resident of the adjacent Beelpar village. He is the prime accused, said police.
Mizan in the case alleged that Al Amin defamed Mizan's father Gias Uddin Shikder, a former principal of Gazaria Shikder Model Academy, through a Facebook post. No specific allegation was mentioned in the case.
"Al Amin made the post and he shared it via messenger [App] with some of his [Facebook] friends," Mizan told The Daily Star.
Asked what farmer Abu had done, he said his family members had earlier lodged several cases against the farmer over a land dispute.
He said since his father's death last year, Abu had been badmouthing the deceased in the locality and many people heard that. "Al Amin made the post after being influenced by the farmer, and so he [Abu] was accused in the case as well," said Mizan.
The charges against Abu were brought under sections 25, 29 and 31 of the DSA. The sections are used to prosecute those who spread or publish false information electronically and those who "abet" the execution of the "offence".
The families of Mizan and Abu have a long history of legal tussles concerning land.
Abu's wife Rehana Khatun said the DSA was being used against her husband as a tool of harassment over the dispute.
She demanded a proper investigation into the incident.
Mizan confirmed that he had indeed filed five cases against Abu and his family members with Bajitpur Police Station around seven years ago. He claimed that the farmer's family had also lodged retaliatory cases.
"But the cases filed from both sides were withdrawn following a local arbitration," Mizan added.
Contacted, Katiadi Police Station Sub-inspector Tofael Ahmed, also the investigation officer of the DSA case, said they were investigating the allegations very carefully.
Replying to a question, he said Abu does not use any digital devices and he has no presence on any digital platform.
If the allegation that Abu badmouthed Mizan's father is proved, he might be sued in another case through proper investigation, said the investigation officer.
Talking on the issue, Barrister Jyotirmoy Barua, a Supreme Court lawyer who dealt with several DSA cases, said there was no scope for prosecuting anyone who has not authored the digital content to begin with. "This is harassment, and it's a misconception of the law," he said.
Meanwhile, two more cases were filed in Thakurgaon under the DSA over the last two days.
Two people were arrested. Both of them are still in school, and one is a minor.
On Thursday, an 18-year-old high-school student was arrested for sharing a caricature of the prime minister. The case was initiated by OC Tanvirul Islam of Thakurgaon Sadar Police Station.
Sub-inspector of the police station Sajedul Islam Sarkar, who filed the case, said the student of a vocational institute shared a caricature of the prime minister on his Facebook "story". "Our OC saw the photo and thought that this can be considered disrespectful. So, he asked us to take action."
Facebook stories only last for 24 hours.
Barrister Jyotirmoy criticised the filing of the case, saying that only the aggrieved party can file a case. "If this is a case of defamation, then the person being defamed needs to file the case. The aggrieved person in this case could be the prime minister," he said.
Yesterday, a 17-year-old student of class-XII was arrested in Thakurgaon for sharing a video clip criticising Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Bangladesh.
"The student studies at Eco Pathshala and College, and lives in a dormitory. We received the video clip from a source and it is already gaining some traction, so we promptly moved to arrest the student. When we went to raid his dormitory around 5:00pm, he went to the bathroom and deleted the clip," said OC Tanvirul.
The student was arrested later.
The video clip was doctored and edited by the student himself, claimed the OC, adding that the content was aimed at "inciting hatred against Modi".