Two incidents in two schools in Naogaon and Munshiganj districts have been widely discussed recently. Two teachers were charged for insulting religion in the classroom. The news went viral on social media in both cases. For whatever reason, both teachers were from the minority community. I don't want to divide people based on the minority-majority theory. And for this reason, I did not feel the urge to write about the issue earlier. However, the subsequent media coverage highlighting the real motive of the incidents motivated me to write on the issue.
Teachers' job is to teach in the classroom. While offering teaching in the classroom, a teacher requires bringing a variety of topics to make students understand the subject matter. If a student disagrees with the teacher's arguments, it can be discussed with the teacher in the classroom,which is a normal process. In this way, the education system is moving forward with the combination of teachers and students in the classroom. But a closer look at Munshiganj's Hridoy Mandal incident reveals that a teacher has been accused of insulting religion by making the classroom conversations viral on social media. The first question discussed is how did the classroom conversation go viral through social media? Was this incident pre-planned? This incident suggests that one group intentionally recorded the conversation in the classroom that day and later spread it through social media.
Subsequent reports from several TV channels using the classroom audio recording highlighted that some students were repeatedly asking some embarrassing questions about religion to Mr Mandol in his science class. In response to their insistence, Mr Mandal was not found speaking on any issue that may be considered insulting to any religion. When asked by the media, Mr Mandal repeatedly said that he did not say anything about religion. Since the matter is under court trial, we should not conclude what happened on that day.
Similarly, a female school teacher in Mahadevpur, Naogaon, was accused of beating girls for wearing burqa (veil), and the news also went viral on social media. However, students of the same school and of the same year later told the media that the teacher had not beaten them to wear the burqa that day. Instead, they were scolded for not wearing school uniforms. It was later learned from the investigation committee's report through various media that the incident was also deliberate as a group of teachers wanted to stop her from getting appointed to the post of the head teacher of the school to cover up various irregularities committed by them in the school. Along with these two incidents, the conscious citizens have also condemned how a Juba League leader verbally abused and threatened Rabiul Islam, headmaster of Ichali Secondary School in Jessore Sadar Upazila.
No matter how much we try to explain the first two events in isolation, it goes without saying that an organised group actively worked behind those incidents. In the wake of this incident, various questions have been raised among the common people. The first question is how safe the teachers will feel if they are propagated for what they say in the classroom to make the students understand the lesson. We all know that people are using social media as they please due to the free flow of social media in Bangladesh. An organised group have been using social media to create instability in the country. Therefore, these issues should be considered with greater importance.
Many of us have been critical of the Digital Security Act. Many feel that the Digital Security Act is an attempt to control journalists. I am also critical about the abuse of the act if it happens. But many of us are not speaking out against those who are mentally abusing innocent people using social media. What was the fault of these teachers who were defamed recently by propaganda campaign on social media? Thus, it is time for the state to think about these issues. The continuous occurrence of such incidents in the last few years reminds us that the Ridhoy Mandal incidents should not be considered as isolated cases. The fundamentalists have remained active in creating instability in the country using social media.
Most importantly, this group has been carrying out propaganda against different individuals or organisations for tarnishing their image using social media targeting the 2023 election. If they are not controlled now, instability may arise in the country. The intensity of the occurrences of such crimes will not decrease unless the people involved in all these misdeeds are identified and punished immediately.
Conversely, when the media asked Mr Mandal what he would do with those students after being granted bail, he strongly stated, "I would pardon them as they are like my children. They do not have maturity at this stage of their life. An evil group might have influenced them. Being a teacher, I could not take action against them". This was the reflection of his morality as a teacher.
We often see a group trying to humiliate teachers. They do not respect the teaching profession in any way. It is imperative to build a social movement against this group. If social movement is not formed against them, their activities will not stop. At the same time, the state must take a strong stand against this group and take punitive action against those involved in such crimes as soon as possible.
(The writer is a Professor in the Department of Public Administration at Rajshahi University)
Source: Sun Editorial