Sentencing of RU teachers
WE are shocked and surprised at the sentencing of four teachers of Rajshahi University (RU) to two-year rigorous imprisonment. It is beyond our comprehension how university teachers can be treated with such triviality, and marched off to serve their term like some petty criminals, particularly when the so-called 'proof of the crimes' does not meet rigorous standards of our own laws It is unprecedented, unfortunate and uncalled for. With full respect to the judicial system, we are compelled to ask the question -- what was the gravity of their crime? Was awarding rigorous imprisonment truly compatible with charges brought against them? Regrettably, this is for the first time in Bangladesh that university teachers have been given such harsh sentence for ventilating their grievance in a peaceful manner.
The facts on hand suggest that three charges were brought against the four teachers. But after four months of investigation the authorities failed to substantiate two of the charges. And now the judgment has been dispensed evidently on the basis of only one charge, that of bringing out a silent procession on the campus. A large number of teachers had taken part in the procession in which the accused happened to be present. But ultimately a few of them got picked up by the law enforcing authorities. Technically speaking, they might have overstepped the emergency rule but given the fact that they did not resort to any violence and that they were respectable teachers having no criminal record, a more liberal approach to the case would have been justified. Moreover, was not their being in custody for four months punishment enough?
University teachers in their role of conscience keepers are known to raise their voice of sanity and express solidarity with students in pursuit of righteous causes. This is at the root of the legacy of teachers and students being in the forefront of all major national movements, be that for the establishment of Bangla as the state language or defying the curfews and bullets of the autocratic regimes in this country. The creation of Bangladesh is the manifest result of such valour and legacy. Therefore the punishment meted out to the four RU teachers has been very unfortunate.
We would like to say once again that the honourable judge could have taken the social standing of the senior teachers of RU into cognisance and taken a more lenient view. Such stance would have gone a long way towards settling the issue and upholding the respect and regards we show to our teachers. The punishment meted out deepens a wound that would have better healed.