Mac's Public Testimony on Jailing and Torture at Odhikar Human Right Conference
I was arrested last year on 2nd of November for reasons, which still remain a mystery to me. I have been a cultural activist in this country for a very long time and I have been a rock musician and later on, country for a very long time and I have been a rock musician and later on, I became jazz-rock fusion musician. My political views have always been questioned, because I never supported any particular political party. I never believed in anything more than speaking for the rights of the people of this country and with my experience as a musician I have always thought that perhaps this is the best way I can reach the young people of Bangladesh to share my ideas and views which have always not been the liking of the powers that may be on this part of the world.
I became jazz-rock fusion musician. My political views have always been questioned, because I never supported any particular political party. I never believed in anything more than speaking for the rights of the people of this country and with my experience as a musician I have always thought that perhaps this is the best way I can reach the young people of Bangladesh to share my ideas and views which have always not been the liking of the powers that may be on this part of the world.
My alleged crime if I am allowed to say that was a crime, I apparently made on last year. I came up with an album, the first jazz rock fusion album in the history of Bangladesh in the Bengali language and one of the experiments I did was I did render a jazz rock fusion version of a song made famous by Rabindranath Tagore, the nobel laureate and immediately I was punched upon by the cultural elite of this country.
Eleven odd Pro government, pro Awami League organization went public to ask for my punishment, to be banned from public performance and television performance and this was specified by the fact that actually Bangladesh Television allowed that song to be taped and put on air in June of last year. And the controversy started just after the song was aired by Bangladesh Television , the state run Television Center and it was a very malicious attack on me and this continued and thanks to lot of enlightened people of this country it was a debate which was very interesting to a certain stage when every body participated including Mr. Enayetullah Khan who had very kind words to say about my approach to the whole attitude.
This went on and I was very much honored that no one less then the biggest Tagore pandit of this part of the world Justice Habibur Rahman, actually wrote an article in the Prothom Alo. Which supported the fact that an artist actually has a right to interpret his dream and there was no way legally that act could be stopped.
But the tragedy followed that I was given show cause notice by the Government of Bangladesh basically Bangladesh Television by Mr. Nawazish Ali Khan the General manager and that punitive action will be taken against us in the first few days.
Consequently I refused to reply to the show cause notice because the notice showed nowhere the crime I had committed. It did not mention anywhere what particular guideline in The Bangladesh Cultural Code, if there is any such thing, I have violated.
So after the first two months of this debate, which was also carried on the internet and lot of people participated from all over the world it was a vary academic debate, it got very ugly towards the end when suggestions were made that I have done that with communal intent and that my intention was to demean the religious sentiment of the Hindu Minority of this country and it all got very, very malicious.
So I knew things were not very good on the other side. I started to get threats, telephone calls, letters and my movement was being monitored. The cultural activists have really proved that their fascist culture, their fascist character. 11 organizations some of them are not even closely connected with culture at all. Like the Awami League backed the pro government so called cultural activists.
This went on and there came a time when I realized that I was being watched, I was being hounded and I decided to go underground.
I disappeared for about 4 days and I went across to Bikrampur outside of Dhaka. Unfortunately I could not share all these with my wife and when I went underground she made a General Diary with the Pallabi Police Station in the Mirpur that I have gone missing with my car. So when I returned on the 2nd November morning of last year I was stopped half a kilometer away from my house by the police and they checked my identity. When I reached home I had a friend with me who accompanied me because I went to his village. When I reached home the police came back checked with my wife, they asked her is this your husband she said yes he is back home thank God.
It was morning about 7 o'clock my wife went back to the police station and took the GD back. She said my husband is back I don't need to pursue with the GD any more. However, at 8.30 in the morning three policemen came to us and they in very abusive terms wanted me to get out of the house. And I wanted to know from them exactly what the specific charges against me were and they said not to ask questions 'you will be in trouble, you will be more trouble then you know'. Therefore, I said I am not coming out and they went away.
In about 45 minutes time, another police force of about 40 police officers in uniform and some in plain clothes encircled my house and kept on ringing the bell and banging the gates. I refused to come out of the house. I was fearful because it was our young friends, my wife and I in our house. We were fearful of our security and I played on silence for about 20 minutes. Then my wife and me came out to say 'look if there is any warrant against me then please tell me then I will very gladly come out'.
Then they said, 'no you come out, you have to come out right now'. We again shut the door, then we heard the gates been broken. I wrote a note in Bangla to say 'entering somebody's house, to break into somebody's house without a warrant is illegal and I threw it out the window. That sustained the police for a while but again it all started. Consequently about ten minute's time they broke 2 steel gates, my main gate and they came into my bedroom and handcuffed me. They dragged me and on the way as I was been dragged out in the full view of my neighbors more than hundred neighbors were then standing there to find out what was going on. All the time, I was kicked and punched on my face, in my back, in front of my neighbors.
Then I was being taken to the Pallabi police station. Again I was in the full view of many people and I was beaten up. I was locked up in the custody and it was a very harrowing experience. All my friends my wife, her friends everybody showed up. But the police gave absolutely no reason why I had been arrested. Inside the lock up I was being denied food and water. Till 9 o'clock of the next morning, almost for 24 hours, I was being denied food or water.
All the while I was fearful of my security because all the criminal elements being put in there and I could see some of them are very violent. It was probably asked by the police to beaten me up while I was inside. It was making my life hell. While I was inside the custody and worst if not the least police's behavior towards me was very much in a 'tui tui" basis which is like the lowest form of address you can get to any class of people in this country calling 'tui' which is the worst derogatory form of address to anybody.
When I was taken to the court, in the court custody where I was for a while, there we eventually realized that I have been arrested under section 54. And the alleged suspicion was that, I am a leader of a well planned terrorist organization of the city there could be possibility I may recourse to illegal arms and that they wanted a 4 day remand which of course the honorable Court rejected but none the less the damage is done. I had a worst time in jail.
The first 24 hours in the thana custody and the next 2 days because the bail application came a little late because of some holiday so I was incarcerated in the Central jail for three days and one day and four days of my life had been taken away from me. Is this not enough?
The pro government press planted a story in all the newspaper of the country that I have actually been arrested for beating up my wife. In addition, with my photograph, me being handcuffed and roped on my waist and story of me beating my wife had been played up in different media in different way.
The tragedy of the whole situation is that till today that I am speaking of my experience, nowhere in the press, no one has come up actually to find out whether I have actually beaten my wife. No one has taken my wife's interview. I am pretty surprised with one thing that, how could the press suggest that I could beaten up my wife.
Even if I have beaten up my wife, the case would have began by my wife, and I believe that there is such a thing as wife abuse or child abuse which is a non-bailable offence. So how could I be bailed out in three days? So I wonder why the press of our country never came to me. This is a conspiracy. This may be called fascism. This is something we all have got to be aware of . This can happen to me it can happen to anybody of the society no matter from what social strata you come to and the worst abuse is of course the psychological abuse.
Psychologically I was devastated. I had to go underground after my release about for 15 days and then the physical abuse the forced sitting which have resulted in my back having a very acute low back stress. I am still under treatment of my doctors. It is going to be a long-term thing. Part of my spine have actually been curved I have got my x-rays to prove that all because of these 18 hours of forced sitting. So, I think I am not the sort of a person who goes around for sympathy. But I think I demand sympathy on behalf of the people of Bangladesh because if I am one victim, then I think there could be hundreds and thousands out there who still haven't been heard and thank you for giving me this opportunity.