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Apr 03

4 ‘atheist bloggers’ arrested upto now: Everchanging drama in light of April 6 long march

Something seems fishy. Everybody knows by now that the government has arrested 3 atheist ‘bloggers’ in the name of arresting defamers of Allah, Mohammad (S.A.W) and Islam. However, few in the online realm know of them and the initial lukewarm response that the arrest of these ‘bloggers’ managed to get out from Shahbag speaks a lot. It is mentionable that previously 2 cases against eight bloggers filed at Chittagong and Barishal have been dismissed and rejected by the courts. None of the 8 bloggers mentioned in the above cases had been subject to arrests on that day. 
That seems to have changed today. Asif Mohiuddin, a well known Islam defaming atheist blogger, was arrested today at Segunbagicha in the capital. Daily Star reports that,”A team of Detective Branch (DB) of police picked up Mohiuddin around 2:00pm, said Masudur Rahman, deputy commissioner (public relation) of Dhaka Metropolitan Police.” Asif Mohiuddin is a blogger well known for his derogatory remarks against Islam and has received threats for his status and blog posts. It was not clear whether Asif was arrested for his blog posts or for the purpose of protective custody.
All these actions have come up on the eve of the long march program called by Hefazat-e-Islam in order to push for death penalty for Islam defaming atheist bloggers along with other demands in their 13 points demand declared a few days ago. Hefazat have dismissed these steps as ‘puny’ and not amounting to punishment of the real culprits.  
That may or may not change with the arrest of Asif Mohiuddin. Charges by the government against Asif Mohiuddin have yet to be brought up, but the situation has already become clear in the sense that these selective arrests are widely seen as political moves. The main opposition BNP has already iterated so. The Daily Star makes that clear when it says, “The arrests, however, could not appease Hefajat-e Islam which, together with other radical Islamist groups, has been campaigning against the Shahbagh protests.”
What I am worried of is the other side of the story. The side which the pro-government newspapers are relatively quiet about. The Daily Star, at the last part of its report on the arrests of the 3 ‘bloggers’, quotes Law Minister Shafique Ahmed while reporting that,”He added that the government had taken steps to try the newspapers that had misled people by publishing distorted pictures of the Gilaf (cover) of Holy Kaba.” These remarks are an indirect reference to reports allegedly published by pro-opposition news agencies. The Daily had earlier reported on the matter too, saying, “The news item was posted in a Facebook page purported to be of a Bangla daily. Similar stories were found in three newspapers known to be supporters or mouthpieces of the BNP, Jamaat and other Islamist groups. One of the dailies after publishing this news in its print edition removed the item from its website without running a correction. The website of another daily used the news item only to remove it later with apology to its readers. Another newspaper took no step after running it in its print and web versions.” 
Although the report mentions that the news agencies had either withdrawn or apologized for the report, the Law minister’s remarks foretell of a probable twist that may even see the curbing of press freedom by leading to a clampdown on opposition newspapers. Only time will tell what will happen, but the previous records of the Awami League using Shahbag to whimsically change laws to ‘reflect’ the ‘public opinion’ do not bode well for near future in light of this rapidly changing political drama.

After all, mean-minded consipracy and conniving is what Sheikh Hasina and her government has proved to be excellent at.