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Call to ensure academic freedom

  • Published at 08:07 pm December 14th, 2019
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Speakers at a program titled ‘Framing perspective: Stand up for Academic Freedom as a Human Right', organised by Nagorik Samaj at Bishwo Shahitto Kendro on Saturday, December 14, 2019 Rajib Dhar/Dhaka Tribune

The statement was floated by Law Life Culture at a program, named ‘Framing perspective: Stand up for Academic Freedom as a Human Right’

Nagorik Samaj, a platform that includes university teachers, lawyers, students, photographers, called on the government and educational institutions to ensure academic freedom on Intellectual Martyr’s Day.

The statement was floated by Law Life Culture at a program, named ‘Framing perspective: Stand up for Academic Freedom as a Human Right’.

The speakers in the program mentioned the killing of intellectuals on 14 December 1971. The statement put forth by the speakers read: “Protecting academic freedom is in the spirit of independence of Bangladesh, but it is unfortunate that attacks on dissidents thinking continues to this day in our universities .”

About the disappearance of intellectuals, the statement read: “In recent decades we have witnessed intellectuals, university professors, and faculties are being forcibly disappeared, beaten, arrested, and thrown in jail. Students are being brutally attacked when they tried to exercise their constitutional rights. 

Urging to enact academic freedom as a right, it said: “We call upon universities to include a special provision in their charters to protect academic freedom.” 

In the program, Shahidul Alam, an international photographer, said that he was recently apprehended for allegedly expressing his opinion. 

He alleged that the government had banned entrance of any foreign students in Bangladesh who wants to get admitted into ‘Pathshala’, an international photography learning institute after he was sent to jail.

Shahidul claimed: “After I went to jail, the Bangladesh embassies have been told not to provide visas to foreign students for Pathshala. I am enduring difficulties in running ‘Pathshala’ because of that.”

He also expressed angst, as the Dhaka University Vice-chancellor removed him from the post of governing body chairman, though no charge was pressed against him at that time, and recruited someone else for three years during his time in jail.

Jahangirnagar University Prof Mirza Taslima Sultana said: “The teachers have more authority to question the system than anyone else, but the whole system has been destroyed after the liberation war, and now the silence is the best thing for us.”

Lawyer Hasnat Quaiyum said, “We are not able to get the fruits of independence as we are not taking proper responsibility. To move the country forward, all of us will have to take responsibilities.” 

“We lost our intellectuals in 1971, and still now we could not fill the void,” Quaiyum added  

About people being silent, he said, “Our silence is also distorted. We lost our ability to speak after independence.” 

Dhaka University Prof C R Abrar and Advocate Shahdeen Malik were present at the program along with others.