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Unpardonable Views

December 5, 2014

A journalist has been sentenced to10 minutes imprisonment and fined BDT 5,000 by a Bangladeshi court for the contempt of court. David Bergman, a British by birth and a Bangladeshi by his deeds and commitment to this country, expressed his frank views on the ongoing war crimes trials on his blog.

In the social and electronic media, he is being criticized for his objective blog posts; he has gradually become a persona non grata in the creamy part of society that does not like and is not prepared for any serious debate on our history of liberation war.

However, none ever thought to sue him. Even he got some mild scolding from the court for his views when he was executing his professional duties at the court. But one lawyer of the High Court named Abul Kalam Azad brought the matter to court.

Post verdict reactions of some party pets are more shocking than the verdict itself.

Judging David with only his few blog posts, I think , would be unfair. His laudable work ‘War Crimes Files’ has not yet been faded away from our memory.

That groundbreaking documentary not only revealed the whereabouts of two war criminals but also renewed the interest of international communities on the atrocities committed here during the liberation war. Many of us are not aware of his humanitarian effort in Bhopal after the gas tragedy.

He does not have any political affiliation. Nor has he become unofficial spokesperson of any political party. Yet we came down hard on him.

And the worrying sign is that we brought to fore his family, his nationality and his religion while criticizing him for his objective journalistic views.

Upstart professionals longing for future political perks or career heaped opprobrium on him often overstepping the Lakshman Rekha of decency.

He has been accused of distorting the death figure of the liberation war. Bergman has made it clear that he quoted the number from other sources to underpin the need of serious research on the official death toll.

With growing concern, we observe that like the rigid and less tolerant religious clergy who set some criteria for being a good Muslim, some liberal section has recently taken on a dogmatic stand and set some standards to distinguish between those who own the spirit of liberation war and those who do not.

Just take off the ideological label you can see they fall into the same class.

Barrister Sara Hossain raised a serious question: “Why has Bergman been singled out and punished?”

The Economist, the Guardian ran reports that expressed views similar to Bergman posts. More importantly, Sarmila Bose, author of controversial “Dead Reckoning”, who deliberately penned a counter narrative of liberation war did not face Bergman’s fate.

Several scholarly articles were published to prove the emptiness of her work.

It is not a dispute that can be settled at court or on street. Rather, it is a debate that needs to be addressed in the intellectual field. Compared to Sarmila’s work , David’s ‘offences’ are microscopic.

Has David been punished for his apolitical views on our history?

Has he been harassed for being critical to govt and law enforcing agencies?

Has he been targeted for embarrassing the govt?

Has he been made an example to other outspoken critics of the govt?

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