Considering security a major issue, Bangla Academy has taken all-out measures to prevent any untoward incident during the month-long Amar Ekushey Boi Mela beginning tomorrow.
“The fair is taking place amid a challenge [of ensuring security] this year. We know that two unwanted incidents have already happened [near the fair premises]… two of our writers were attacked,” Bangla Academy Director General Shamsuzzaman Khan said yesterday.
“We don't want any recurrence of such incidents. That's why we have to stay alert round-the-clock,” he said at a press conference at the academy.
On February 26 last year, writer-blogger Avijit Roy was hacked to death after he had just gone out of the book fair. Prof Humayun Azad was attacked in a similar incident in 2004.
At yesterday's programme, Khan said security had received their “special” attention this year. “Two Rab camps will be set up on the TSC intersection and Doyal Chattar.”
The road between the two places would remain closed to traffic and visitors would have to go through to several security points to reach the book fair. No hawker woulds be allowed in, he pointed out.
As many as 200 CCTV cameras and several watchtowers would be set up for proper monitoring of the area, he said, adding, ”We did our best for holding the programme in a festive manner.”
Khan suggested that writers and other intellectuals remain careful while moving outside the fair. He also urged publishers to refrain from all sorts of “provocative” activities.
Talking to The Daily Star yesterday, some publishers demanded that the authorities concerned make the best effort to ensure security so that the festival could not be marred by any untoward incident.
Dipak Roy, chief executive of Sanghati Publication, said despite government pledges of ensuring security, such incidents did happen in the past. “But, we don't want to see those again.”
At yesterday's briefing, Jalal Ahmed, member secretary of the Amar Ekushey Granthamela-2016 Conducting Committee, highlighted different aspects of the fair.
The diamond jubilee celebrations of Bangla Academy will add a new colour to the month-long festival, he said.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will inaugurate the fair at 3:00pm tomorrow.
She will hand over the Bangla Academy Literary Award 2015, announced on Thursday, to the winners later.
The Braille and audio version of 'Bangabandhur Birgatha' (meaning heroic tales of Bangabandhu) by Syed Shamsul Haque will be launched in the inaugural ceremony.
A total of 402 organisations are taking part in the fair this year. Last year it was 351.
Of the participants, 80 would have their stalls on the academy premises while the rest at the Suhrawardy Udyan.
Seminars on culture, literature and politics will be held every day from February 2 to 29. Like the previous years, children's painting and general knowledge competitions will be there this time as well.
Bangla Academy will launch 108 new books. The number was around 100 last year.
Chittaranjan Saha Smrity Puroskar will be awarded to the best publisher of last year and Munier Chowdhury Smrity Puroskar to three for publishing best books in the fair last year.
The fair will remain open for all from 3:00pm to 8:00pm during working days; 11:00am to 8:00pm on holidays and 8:00am to 8:00pm on February 21.
At another programme at the Rajarbagh Police Lines, Dhaka Metropolitan Police Commissioner Mohammad Asaduzzaman Miah yesterday said the killing of Avijit during the book fair last year was an “experience” for the police.
Based on that, law enforcers this year have taken additional measures to ensure adequate security in and around the fair, he said.
“According to my observations, light was inadequate on the street [near Bangla Academy] where the accident [murder of Avijit] took place,” he said.
At one point, the DMP boss urged DSCC Mayor Sayeed Khokon, who was the chief guest of the event, to ensure sufficient light on the streets near the academy before the fair began.
In reply, Khokon said he will.