Outrage as Hindu college principal is forced to wear garland of shoes in Bangladesh

A video of a Hindu college principal being forced to wear a garland of shoes for what Muslim locals and students said was his attempt to protect a pupil of his faith from a mob has sparked outrage on social media in Bangladesh.

Staff Correspondentbdnews24.com
Published : 25 June 2022, 07:46 PM
Updated : 25 June 2022, 07:52 PM

Many have questioned how a teacher can be assaulted in the presence of police after the incident occurred at Mirzapur United College in Narail's Sadar Upazila on Jun 17.

Protesters, who say the teacher was humiliated in such a way just because he belongs to the religious minority group, have also called a rally at Shahbagh in Dhaka on Monday.

"The teacher had no role in the incident. Police took him out without protecting him. What do those who run the administration want?” said Robin Ahsan, one of the organisers of the rally.

"This happened in front of hundreds of police personnel. This is a signal for Bangladesh. Has the administration fallen into the hands of fundamentalists?" he asked.

The incident took place in the wake of a Facebook post by a Hindu student who 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 went to the college.

Tension mounted when rumours spread that acting Principal Swapan Kumar Biswas 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 police.

A video of the incident showed the locals and students putting a garland of shoes around Swapan's neck, accusing him of belittling Islam.

“What's the allegation? (It's that) He has insulted religion. How? A group of angry students went to him and informed him that a Hindu student had insulted religion with a post supporting India’s Nupur Sharma. Swapan Kumar Biswas immediately called police. He made the phone call - this was seen as his crime; making this call was [seen] as an insult to religion,” theatre artist Zulfikar Chanchal wrote on Facebook.

Sharing poet Kazi Quader Nawaz's poem "Teacher's Dignity" on Facebook, Sudipto Sujoy wrote, "Honourable Prime Minister, you are doing a great job in infrastructure development. But doesn't the human brain need a little development? My country was not this bigoted, why is it so now? Why do people try to take the law into their own hands despite having a court, while police become the spectator? Can a civilised country run this way?"

The principal is keeping a distance from everyone since the incident. He is not staying at home in fear.

Asked why Swapan was detained, Narail Sadar Police Station chief Mohammad Shawkat Kabir told bdnews24.com, "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 claimed he is not aware of the incident of putting a garland of shoes around the teacher’s neck.

Shawkat also claimed Swapan did not seek his own security from police. "We'll take security measures if he wants.”

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

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher