The grilling of Hero Alam

The police grilling of the social media influencer has been featured by many international media outlets, including Agence France Presse, BBC, India Times, WION and many others

The recent police detention and questioning of social media influencer Ashraful Alam, popularly known as Hero Alam, related to “cyber allegations’, including sharing of "offensive, defamatory, illegal videos" and other content on his official social media channels, have led to an outcry among netizens.

The Detective Branch of Dhaka Metropolitan Police on July 27 questioned Hero Alam about his “controversial” video content shared on social media, including versions of songs composed by Rabindranath Tagore and Nazrul Islam.

Police officials claimed he was invited to the DB office for questioning following a few cyber allegations against him. In addition to the allegations, he was also questioned about his appearance in a police uniform in videos without permission, police told the media.

He was only released from detention after he agreed not to distort songs written and composed by Rabindranath Tagore and Nazrul Islam, not to wear police uniforms for acting without permission and not to create anything that can create controversy.

The police grilling of the social media influencer has been featured by many international media outlets, including Agence France Presse, BBC, India Times, WION and many others.

Too ugly to be a hero?

While police claimed that this was just a questioning, Hero Alam alleged he was not invited to the DB office but picked up in the early morning from his office by plainclothes police.

“If they had any allegation against me, they could have invited me instead of picking me up from my office at 6am in the morning,” Alam told the media.

“I am not a criminal and neither a black marketeer that they needed to pick me up without notice,” he said.

According to him, police questioned him on why he sang Nazrul and Rabindra Sangeets, and also about whether he considered himself a star.

“Have you ever seen your face in the mirror? Why do you consider yourself a hero?” Alam quoted the police as telling him.

Police apparently ordered him to drop ‘Hero’ from his name, not to wear a police uniform, and not to sing Nazrul or Rabindra Sangeets, he said. He was ordered to sign an undertaking agreeing to all these conditions.

When asked why Alam had been asked not to sing Nazrul or Rabindra songs, Chief of DMP’s Detective Branch (DB) Harun-Ur-Rashid said: “Every person has the right to sing, but not to distort songs. This is why Hero Alam was invited to the DB office.”

Abuse of power?

As soon as the police grilling of Hero Alam became viral on social media, many netizens vented their anger at the police for practising moral policing and abusing their powers.

Barrister Miti Sanjana, in a social media post on her Facebook account on August 3, said police measures against the singing of songs out of tune and rhythmic patterns was an abuse of power.

“No one can lodge complaints against poor singing and the police have no power to entertain such complaints. Freedom of expression is one of the most sacred constitutional rights of citizens which must be exercised without interruption, harassment, discrimination, hatred and violence,” she said.

Who is Hero Alam?

Born as Ashraful Alom Saeed in Bogra to an impoverished family in the village of Erulia in Bogra, Alam was raised by an adoptive family.

During his teenage years, he sold CDs in the village to make ends meet. He provided TV cables from his company called Sokal Sondha Cable Network. He did whatever it took to make a decent living in a time of staggering unemployment rates.

Ashraful, like millions around the world, aspired to be a star, a hero. He found a platform on Facebook and YouTube. With the simplest of tools, he produced music videos that went on to become viral.

He became a sensation on the internet in 2015.

Alam contested union parishad chairman elections in 2011 and 2016, but lost. He also contested the 11th parliamentary elections as an independent candidate from Bogura-4 and boycotted the elections midway, alleging voting irregularities.

He was among the top 10 most searched topics in Google from Bangladesh in 2018.

In March 2019, he was arrested and sent to jail in a case filed against him for allegedly assaulting his wife Sadia Begum Sumi for dowry.

Currently, he has 2 million followers on his official Facebook channel, and 1.46 million subscribers to his YouTube account.