People from different walks of life including teachers, political leaders and activists yesterday demanded judicial probe into the death of writer Mushtaq Ahmed in custody and abolition of the Digital Security Act.
They also demanded that those members of the law enforcement agencies accused of torturing Mushtaq and cartoonist Ahmed Kishore, be tried under law.
At a rally in Shahbagh, protesters under the banner of Pragatisheel Chhatra Jote demanded release of student leaders and a worker leader who were detained recently following protests over Mushtaq's death.
"These seven students are actually representing a generation and introducing Bangladesh in a new way. Previously, people in power formed Rab and enacted the ICT Act. Now it is Digital Security Act. This law is there to take away freedom of speech, but not everyone's -- it only targets those who are critical of the government," said Dhaka University International Relations Professor Tanzimuddin Khan.
They can oppress the political opposition but cannot stop creative people like Mushtaq and Kishore who speak for the people, he said, adding that those who are in power want to gag people's voice, he said.
"We live in a country where we see Haji Salim's son being cleared of charges in an arms case. We see a member of parliament -- MP Papul -- indicted as human trafficker. We see bank looters like PK Halder remain scot-free… This has become a mafia state," said Tanzimuddin.
"We saw Kishore got out in bail and read the horrific description of torture on him and Mushtaq," he said.
Terming DSA an "oppressive law", speakers said reforming the existing and old laws can protect women and children in cyberspace and prevent financial corruption. There is no need to have digital security laws for this. This black law, which violates human rights and oppresses free speech, must be repealed, they said.
Dr Harunur Rashid, coordinator of Doctors for People's Health, writer and researcher Maha Mirza and Ovinu Kibria Islam of Jashore University of Science and Technology, among others, spoke at the event.
At a separate rally in Shahbagh organised by Bangladesh Sramik Adhikar Parishad and led by former Ducsu VP Nurul Haq Nur, protesters demanded abolition of DSA and release of all arrestees under it.
At another rally in front of Jatiya Press Club, Communist Party of Bangladesh demanded the same.
CPB president Mujahidul Islam Selim said the Awami League government does not tolerate criticism from the opposition and it's using the DSA to squash their voices.