A book fair does not need police surveillance over the contents of books being sold there.
The role of the police in such an event should be to maintain security of the grounds, and stay vigilant against harassment, violence, and other untoward incidents.
It is concerning that the DMP has asked Bangla Academy to take the lead in looking for books on sale that might hurt religious sentiments or instigate violence.
But cracking down on literature is not the way of a free, progressive, democratic society.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has urged the country to read more, saying it is books that will help us broaden our horizons, and keep the youth on track and away from straying to undesirable paths.
We must take heed of the PM’s message, and give our literary culture the respect it deserves.
This means encouraging lively debate, and disagreement, which is vital to the intellectual culture of a nation.
The best kind of literature challenges, provokes, and invites multiple interpretations.
Law enforcement personnel will certainly not do justice to any piece of literature by making hasty and uninformed judgments -- the only people who should judge the merit of a book are its readers.
We need to make assurances to writers and publishers, who have been threatened by religious extremists, that they will be kept safe in the book fair grounds.
A police crackdown on books sends the opposite message.
The solemn Amar Ekushey book fair is not the place to appease extremists who would, in the long run, like to shut down the book fair altogether.
Let us not give in to arbitrary demands, let us uphold the true spirit of Ekushey by celebrating the diversity of our literature.