Munshiganj teacher Hriday Mondal’s family living in fear

Wife says the school teacher was attacked a month and half before his arrest for ‘hurting religious sentiments’

The family of Hriday Chandra Mondal, the Munshiganj school teacher arrested on charges of demeaning religion, has been spending their days in fear and insecurity while his children are being forced to remain home. 

Speaking to the Dhaka Tribune, Mondal’s wife Babita Howlader said on Saturday: “He was attacked just one-and-half-month before this incident.”

She said that even before the allegations were leveled against her husband, he was harassed and weeks ago, some people hurled brick chips at him.

Babita said that since his arrest, people have been continuously harassing them, kicking the door to their residents and catcalling them. 

Before the pandemic, Mondal used to rent three rooms to provide private tuition to students. After the number of students declined during the pandemic, he started teaching at home. 

“A lot of teachers did not like it that he had so many students. Some students too,” she said. 

Undated photo obtained from the internet shows a general view of the Binodpur Ramkumar High School in Munshiganj

Babita said that they moved into the school quarters in 2020 during the pandemic even though she was staying in Dhaka due to her job.

“He had been living here for the last 20 years. After we [Babita and her children] moved in, we realized that not a lot of people like it,” she said. 

“They have now started calling my mother the ‘mother-in-law of criminal Mondal’,” she added. 

She said that locals are always asking her when they will leave and their children are not being able to go out. 

Also Read- Amnesty wants immediate release of Munshiganj teacher Hridoy Mondal

Meanwhile, Mondal’s brother-in-law Babul Howlader said: “School teachers have advised us to not let his son go to the school until he gets bail.”

He reiterated that they are bound to stay home, living in fear with the doors and windows always closed. 

Babita claims that someone from the outside instigated the students to do this. 

“The day he was arrested, I went to the police station. I saw Headteacher Alauddin Ahmed and another boy there. I left after that,” she said. 

She added that no one from the school’s managing committee got in touch with them after the incident and Alauddin is the only one who checks in on them every now and then. 

Hridoy Chandra Mondal Collected

On Thursday, Alauddin told Dhaka Tribune that an office assistant had already started the case while he was speaking to the management committee members. 

On March 20, students of Mondal’s tenth-grade science class, recorded a class conversation regarding science and religion where he reportedly disrespected Islam.

On March 22, students demonstrated, joined by some locals, after submitting a memorandum to the head teacher against Hriday.

Police then moved the protesters away and detained the teacher from his home. He was also suspended. Later the same day, he was formally arrested in the case started by the school’s office assistant Md Asad.

Hriday was produced in court the next day, when he was denied bail and sent to jail.

He has since been in custody since after being denied bail twice. The next bail hearing is scheduled for April 10 at the district and sessions judge’s court.

Rights activists and legal experts have stood by Hriday, questioning the recording of the conversation, its circulation on social media, his arrest after the demonstration, and the denial of bail.

Several organizations have demonstrated across Bangladesh demanding the release of Hriday while netizens condemned his arrest on social media.

On Saturday, Amnesty International called for immediate and unconditional release of the school teacher.

In a statement, the international rights body raised concerns about the “arbitrary detention” and “growing criminalization” of the right to freedom of expression in Bangladesh.

“Hriday Chandra Mondal’s detention is emblematic of a disturbing trend in Bangladesh, where the space for free expression is rapidly shrinking. Detaining a teacher for simply discussing ideas in class sets a dangerous precedent where even challenging students to think critically can now land someone in jail,” it said.