No amendment, DSA has to go
A group of eminent citizens yesterday demanded justice over the custodial death of writer Mushtaq Ahmed and abolition of the Digital Security Act, not any amendments to the controversial law.
They gathered in front of the Jatiya Press Club around 11:00am and held a protest rally under the banner of "Nagarik Somabesh".
"It's loud and clear… We don't want any amendments... This black law has to be abolished for good," Gonoshasthaya Kendra founder Dr Zafrullah Chowdhury told the rally.
He said Mushtaq gave his life to protect the citizens' freedom of speech.
The freedom fighter demanded repeal of the DSA by March 26, justice for Mushtaq and the release of all those detained under the controversial law.
The protesters, led by Dr Zafrullah in a wheelchair, started marching towards the Prime Minister's Office around 1:15pm. They were obstructed by police in front of Hotel InterContinental in Shahbagh area.
They gave an ultimatum to the government for abolishing the DSA by March 26, otherwise they will go for tougher protests.
The demands came a day after the law minister said the government is taking measures to ensure that no one is arrested under the DSA before investigation.
Nagorik Oikya Convener Mahmudur Rahman Manna, Sushashoner Jonno Nagorik Secretary Badiul Alam Majumdar and photographer Shahidul Alam, among others, spoke at the rally.
Gonoforum President Dr Kamal Hossain and Dhaka University Professor Emeritus Serajul Islam Choudhury expressed solidarity with them. They, however, didn't attend the rally. Their written statements were read out there.
The speakers called for proper investigation into Mushtaq's death in custody and the highest punishment to those responsible.
Dr Zafrullah said he wanted to remind the prime minister of the famous words of her father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman: "Keu Dabaye Rakhte Parba Na [No one can hold us down].
"Kishore got bail today [yesterday]. It's a bit of relief. However, the court's take on the matter is not satisfactory. The court didn't give any directive to file a case against Rab, police and the government who have violated the constitution. It's court's jurisdiction," he noted.
Manna said, "Mushtaq, who had no ailments, died in custody. We want to know from the prime minister -- why would he die in custody?
"Our law minister is saying that they would whiten the black parts of the Digital Security Act. I am saying -- come out of this hypocrisy."
Badiul Alam said, "Criminalisation of people's rights has taken place through this law [DSA]. This law is undermining civil rights. It is a betrayal of blood of our liberators.
"I want this law to be abolished."
Shahidul said the government has a lot of strength and power. Police and the bureaucrats are at its disposal.
"But their main strength is that they are shameless. They want to stop people even from sneezing. The Digital Security Act is there because this government is oppressive. There is no alternative for the people but to take to the streets to demand its abolition," he said.
Syeda Rizwana Hasan, chief executive of Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association, said the DSA is against the spirit of independence. It must be repealed to ensure true freedom. New law needs to be enacted after taking opinions from experts on digital security.
"Our friends often appear before courts, limping. No one cares to give an explanation. Our friends are now dying…
"In the USA, we saw a Black man get killed at the hands of police. The entire police department bowed down to the nation and apologised. Mushtaq died in custody. Won't anyone offer an apology?" she asked.
Chief Coordinator of Gana Samhati Andolon Zonayed Saki said, "Why didn't Mushtaq Ahmed get bail? Constitutionally, the court is the last resort of people for seeking justice when the government turns autocratic. Your duty is to protect people's life and honour."
About the case against Mushtaq and cartoonist Kishore, he said, "It was Rab that filed the case against them? Why did Rab file it?
"The prime minister must take the responsibility. We want to see who are behind the case against Mushtaq and Kishore."
Saki said they would besiege the PMO if the DSA is not abolished by March 26.
Former Ducsu vice-president Nurul Haque Nur said most of the cases filed by the police under the DSA are baseless.
Questioning police's role, he asked whether the police have become an affiliate organisation of the ruling party.
On May 6 last year, Rab arrested Mushtaq, 53, from his house in the capital for "spreading rumours and carrying out anti-government activities". He took to social media to write about the government's handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Sued under the DSA, he had been in Kashimpur High-Security Jail-3 in Gazipur since August 20 last year.
On February 25 evening, he lost consciousness and was taken to Shaheed Tajuddin Ahmad Medical College and Hospital where doctors declared him dead.