College principal goes into hiding fearing mob justice after wearing garland of shoes; probe launched

The family of a Hindu college principal claimed that he has gone into hiding after a mob, comprising students of the college, had forced him to wear a garland of shoes for what Muslim locals and students said was his attempt to protect a pupil of his faith from the same mob.

Staff CorrespondentNarail Correspondent and bdnews24.com
Published : 27 June 2022, 05:48 PM
Updated : 27 June 2022, 07:44 PM

Meanwhile, the Bangladesh Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education, or DSHE, has formed a three-member probe committee to investigate the incident and asked them submit a report by Jun 30.

Prof Md Shahedul Khabir Chowdhury, director (College and Administration wing) at the directorate, said the director of the relevant regional wing has also been asked to look into the matter.

“We [DSHE] also have verbally directed a three-member committee to learn, assess and inform us [DSHE] about the incident,” he said.

bdnews24.com's Narail correspondent, quoting the district’s Education Officer SM Sayedur Rahman, reported that the members of the probe committee had visited the campus of Mirzapur United College, the ground zero of the incident, in the Sadar Upazila on Monday and spoken to several teachers and staff.

Characterising the incident as “unfortunate,” Prof Chowdhury said: “If what the protesters been claiming had some basis, we [the directorate] could have taken action against him following the code of conduct, could even have him prosecuted under the law. But making him wear a garland of shoes is very unfortunate.”

The video of the incident, which showed the locals and students putting a garland of shoes around acting Principal Swapan Kumar Biswas's neck after accusing him of belittling Islam, sparked outrage on social media in Bangladesh last week.

Many have questioned how a teacher can be assaulted in the presence of police after the incident occurred at the college campus on Jun 17. Protesters at a rally in Dhaka last week said the teacher was humiliated in this manner just “because he belongs to the religious minority group”.

HOW THE EVENTS UNFOLDED

The incident took place in the wake of a post on Facebook by a Hindu student who had shared a photo of Indian BJP leader Nupur Sharma, who has been criticised for her remarks on Prophet Muhammad.

According to locals, some Muslim students asked the Hindu student to delete the post after he had gone to the college.

Tension mounted when rumours spread that Swapan took the Hindu student's side. Angry Muslim locals and students set the motorcycles of the principal and two teachers on fire. The mob also clashed with the police.

Police have arrested the Hindu student and charged him under the Digital Security Act.

Narail Sadar Police Station chief Mohammad Shawkat Kabir denied any knowledge of the incident but claimed credit for “saving” Swapan instead.

"The college principal didn't insult any religion. He wasn't detained. We saved him that day. No question of filing a case against him arises as he didn't commit any crime,” he said.

The academic activities of the college have remained shut since the incident, confirmed the head of the college’s administrative body, Advocate Achin Chakraborty.

FAMILY DEMAND 24-HOUR PROTECTION

The family of the acting principal said he has gone into hiding fearing that the mob may target him again at his place in Borokula village under the Sadar Upazila’s Singasholpur Union.

Although Sadar Police Station chief Shawkat claimed that Swapan did not seek any police details for his protection, the Narail correspondent spotted a uniformed policeman guarding the house, where Swapan’s father, his spouse and their three children reside.

The wife, Sonali Das, said: “My husband has not come home since that day [of the incident, Jun 17]. He sometimes calls to update us about his circumstances and asks about us.”

“At the moment, we [the family] at home do not feel unsafe [with the police presence], but my husband needs round-the-clock protection.”

When asked, she did not want to delve into the details of her side of the story.

“Whatever happened, happened. I don’t want to discuss it,” she said.

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher