Noted Indian photojournalist and a friend of Bangladesh Liberation War Raghu Rai today urged Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to not punish photographer Shahidul Alam in an open letter published on Facebook.
“May I humbly request and plead not to punish the honest, the truthful representative of the youth. As the spirit of democracy – the truth must survive for itself that kindles the light in heart of millions of your countrymen and many of us,” Raghu Rai said in the open letter addressed to PM Hasina.
Shahidul Alam was picked up by plainclothes men on Sunday night and was placed on a seven-day remand by a Dhaka court yesterday in a case filed against him under the controversial Section 57 of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Act. He was also “tortured in police custody.”
Saying that Shahidul is a great admirer of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and a faithful, honest patriot, Raghu expressed his grief over the “torture” inflicted upon him.
“Hon’ble Madam, Shahidul Alam, founder of DRIK and Pathshala, has been a great admirer of Sheikh Sahib, and I have had the privilege of knowing him as a close friend for the last 3 decades. I have no doubt in my mind that Shahidul is one of those rare breeds committed to truth and honesty, and can die for his country. It seems last night Shahidul was picked up by 20-30 men from detective branch of police, and was tortured and couldn’t walk on his feet. My heart bleeds for that,” the letter read.
Explaining the logic and value behind the demand of the students protesting for safe roads in Bangladesh, Raghu said that Shahidul was just stating this to media.
“All he has done is to use his photographic skill and voice to capture the truth of ongoing reality in a most committed and compassionate way,” he said in the letter.
“We have been told that the young minds of Bangladesh demand a sense of security against the malpractices in the transport department and negligence of police to respond that has resulted into several deaths. It seems what students are demanding that any citizen with a conscience would ask for and Shahidul has just stated that to Al Jazeera channel,” says the letter addressed to the prime minister.
Many others journalists and photojournalists, artists, writers in India and from all around the world vouch for him and stand by him, Raghu said.
Raghu also wrote in the letter that the government’s actions remind him of Pakistani general who tried to teach the Bangladeshis a lesson.
“So let’s not teach our boys a lesson,” he urged.
Raghu Rai was honoured by the government of Bangladesh as a friend of Bangladesh Liberation War for his photographs of the refugees from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and young freedom fighters in the 1971 war which were published in newspapers documented the nation, persecuted and dehumanised, fighting tooth and nail against Pakistan army to stay alive and be free.