The Ekushey Book Fair is set to begin on Feb 1 in keeping with tradition as the coronavirus pandemic that delayed the opening of the month-long programme in the past two years ebbed.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will inaugurate the fair in person and it will continue until Feb 28. The main fair venue will be on the academy premises as usual, said Muhammad Nurul Huda, director general of the academy. The book launch and meetings with writers will be at the Suhrawardy Udyan, a historic park just across from Bangla Academy.
After inspecting the preparations on Saturday, State Minister for Culture KM Khalid said a seven-member task force was formed to monitor the fair in line with a set of guidelines. “The organisations that have been allotted stalls in the fair must follow the guidelines. If they don’t, the task force will step in.”
He claimed the task force would not hamper freedom of expression. “The book fair is a place for free-thinking. Books with different ideologies will be published here, but the fair management committee will take steps in line with the guidelines against certain activities, such as disparaging someone or spreading hatred.”
As many as 609 organisations, including 12 new publishers, have been allotted 858 units. There will be 108 units for children and 34 pavilions.
The organisers have denied Adarsha Prokashoni access to the fair this year on allegations of dissent, which prompted the company’s CEO Mahbub Rahman to accuse Bangla Academy of taking a stance against the freedom of speech.
Citing a member of the fair committee, he said the academy blocked its allotment because of three books: “Oprotirodhyo Unyaner Obhabonio Kothamala” by Foyez Ahmed Toiyob, “Bangalir Mediocrityr Sondhane” by Faham Abdus Salam, and “Unyan Bivrom” by Zia Hasan. Faham is the son-in-law of BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir.
Adarsha Prokashoni was not allotted a stall because objections were raised to “some things” in their books last year, said State Minister Khalid. “If they apply again following the guidelines, the management committee will consider their allotment.”