What Bangla Academy will do if police have to decide which books are to be in Book Fair02 February 2017 Editorial Desk
Book Publishers have however expressed concern over the polices' announced priority to scrutinise books to be released in this year's Ekushey Book Fair. News report on Wednesday said they have the instruction to keep watch on new books and verify if any of the newly released books contain provocative religious inputs and anything that hurt 'religious sentiments'.
The questions, however, is that police's foremost duty is to give security to visitors, but with the limited knowledge and ability whether they are capable to inspect radical or sacrilegious elements of our books is the big question. Many believe it must be left to a committee of learned people if so needed. Don't the police already have enough professional duties to execute? Or will the police from now on judge and impose rules on what to write and not? For our writers, poets and publishers this newly created police censorship is a major impediment to freedom of writing and expression.
We can clearly smell the government's political agenda of policing books and written materials. Anything written in Arabic in a book is now branded as a fundamentalist publication. It is not so easy to give opinion about a book. On the other hand two of our popular writers were knifed during Ekushey Book Fair and it goes without saying that the threat to safety of many others is high and real. Women visiting the fair face undue crowd and sexual harassment of unruly elements and in our view their security must come first. There must be check posts at every corner equipped with high-resolution camera. The repeat of the Pahela Baisakh must be avoided also when women were sexually assaulted at Suhrawardy Uddayan.
According to an executive of a renowned publisher they have many problems now. Just last December, Bangla Academy had banned five publishing houses from participating in the fair for the next two years while prohibiting stalls for fifteen more for selling books purportedly critical of religion. However, the question in this regard is - critical of which religion? If the books were critical of the major religions practiced in the land then there is a valid point, but if they were only critical of Islam then their banning is markedly biased and a clear sign of bias against Islam. This must not happen for peace and stability.
We don't want to enter into a debate while focusing on police priority for duty during the Ekushy Book Fair. We don't exclude anything from their purview to make the occasion free from threats, indiscipline and violence. If police want to keep themselves busy examining books to be allowed and not allowed such activity will not be helpful for the safety of the place. We must say the highest priority for police should be to ensure security to the visitors.
The basic question is if police have to do everything including the assigned role of Bangla Academy then what other authorities will do? There should be a convincing answer. One thing is clear is that the government cannot ensure anything and its dependence on police is not a sign of strength.