Baffling case against road safety campaigner
Fighting for public interest can't be a crime
A person rooting for public interest was arrested, ostensibly on charges of “extortion” on Thursday. The extraordinary circumstances surrounding the case against Mozammel Hoque, the road safety campaigner and general secretary of a passenger welfare organisation, raise lots of questions.
Firstly, it is highly unusual for police to arrest a person at 3am regarding a case of extortion. According to Hoque's colleagues, police officers who arrested him admitted to acting upon instructions of the high-ups. Secondly, and most astonishingly, reports in this newspaper and a few others revealed that the “accuser” did not have any knowledge of filing the case. He is a mere lineman at a local bus stop, not a leader of a labour organisation, as the case referred him to be. He told reporters that he couldn't read or write and that he had signed on the dotted line as asked by local labour leaders without knowing its contents. Thus the merit of the case is seriously questioned.
The Jatri Kalyan Samity, Hoque's organisation, may have earned the wrath of powerful quarters by releasing periodical basic data on road accidents, that too based on media reports. Given the public mood about the ever-deteriorating road safety in the country, the Samity's accident compilation report may have embarrassed a few. But to trump up a case and snub a person, whose work may not go down well with some, is a gross violation of the law. What the Samity is doing is a public good, and rather than seeing it as an adversary, it should be utilised to make the roads safer. Isn't that the government's objective?