Human rights activists, academics, political analysts and lawyers on Monday slammed Dhaka South City Corporation mayor Sheikh Fazle Noor Taposh for his remark that civil society members would be thrown into the river Buriganga in sacks.
They termed the remark as a manifestation of muscle power, intolerance, arrogance and to be malicious as they did not expect such words from an educated politician like Taposh. At a discussion at the Shahid Shafiur Rahman auditorium of the Supreme Court Bar Association on Sunday marking the sixth founding anniversary of Bangabandhu Awami Ainjibi Parishad, Taposh said, ‘Those civil society representatives who want to teach us will be thrown into the black water of the river Buriganga in sacks.’
He also said that he, along with the prime minister, did not require any lesson.
Dhaka University professor emeritus Serajul Islam Choudhury said, ‘It’s unbelievable and unexpected that a mayor pass such comments.’
Referring to the current movement of protecting trees on Satmasjid Road in Dhanmondi, Serajul said that he also took part in many movements as a civil society representative for ensuring civic rights.
‘Raising voices against various social and civic ills is the right of a citizen. Any individual citizen can also raise their voice on any social issue,’ he added.Former law minister, also a former Supreme Court Bar Association president, Shafique Ahmed called the remark ‘indecent’, ‘disrespectful’ and ‘malicious’.
‘As everybody has freedom of speech and thought, he should have spoken with due respect,’ Shafique added.
Taposh, also a Supreme Court lawyer, said that the Awami League did not need such kind of society members, who want to teach it, even after getting all advantages from the party in the past.
Addressing the event, Tapsoh also said, ‘We have taken enough lessons. We have been learning since the Pakistan period and the Bangladesh Awami League has brought independence.’
He also posed a question as to who would teach them-those who stole democracy, undermined the constitution, rigged vote and elected president though ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote where 103 per cent of the votes were cast.
Taposh further said, ‘If any civil society tries to teach us, we will think that they belong to their [the opposition’s] side.’
Taposh’s comment coincided with the barring of demonstrators by the police from cordoning off the DSCC office in protest against the DSCC move to fell trees in the name of development in the city.
‘Such remarks are devoid of conscience and etiquette,’ said the association’s former secretary and retired High Court judge Nozrul Islam Chowdhury.Justice Nozrul Islam observed that Taposh made such remarks as a manifestation of muscle power.
Political analyst professor Dilara Choudhury remarked that ‘ants take to flying only to die’.
‘A person delivers such remarks when he starts considering himself invincible. The mayor appears to be highly arrogant,’ she said.
Freedom fighter and activist Nasiruddin Yousuff Bachchu said that he thought a city mayor should not make such remarks.
‘I know him as a gentle and educated person. It is sad that he made such a comment. He made the comment in a part of his speech.’
He said that though it was a political speech, he should have refrain from uttering such controversial words.
Former DU professor Mahbub Ullah said that the remarks of the mayor proved that how intolerant he was.
‘We never expect such statements from a responsible political leader,’ he added.
Rights activist Khushi Kabir said that a person who was holding a high public office could not make such illegal comments.
‘Threatening to throw civil society people into the black water of the Buriganga, putting them in sacks is a criminal offence,’ she said though, she pointed out, she was yet to hear the mayor’s speech.‘A criminal offence by a barrister like him is unbecoming of him. It is an outburst of his weakness, inability, incompetency and inadequacy,’ she said.
However, Taposh’s comment doesn’t mean that they will stop speaking as it is their constitutional and legal right, she further said.
Cultural activist and thespian Ramendu Majumdar said, ‘If he really said this, it is a shocking matter. We don’t expect such remarks from a highly educated politician like him.’
Ekattorer Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Committee president Shahriar Kabir said that no government or political party could be sustainable if it avoided its civil society and civil society must criticise them.
Leaders in a democratic system, he said, must give importance to the views of the civil society people.
‘The mayor’s comment expressed his negligence to civil society and personal arrogance,’ he said, adding that it was against democratic values.
Asked about the mayor’s remark that they would not to learn from civil society, he said that there was no age of learning.
Lawyer Mohsen Rashid said that Taposh being a mayor, and a nephew of the prime minister, should not have made such remarks against distinguished citizens of the country.
He said that Taposh in his speech hinted at senior lawyer and former SCBA president M Amirul Islam, who has now raised voice against the recent unilateral election to the association in which pro-AL candidates bagged all of executive posts after nine years.
Mohsen said that making such a statement was a criminal offence.
Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association chief executive Syeda Rizwana Hasan said that the background of Taposh’s statement was not clear to her. But such statements from a former lawmaker and a present mayor were not acceptable, she added.
‘I will wait to see whether the law enforcement agency takes punitive actions against him for this speech as happens in case of common people,’ she said.
DU law professor Asif Nazrul said that the remark of the mayor was very indecent and arrogant.
‘There are many civil society representatives who are more educated in terms of knowledge and experience than him,’ he said.
Architect and urban planner Iqbal Habib, former Bangladesh Bank governor Salehuddin Ahmed, Senior lawyer Shahdeen Malik, renowned historian Muntassir Mamoon and Jahangirnagar University’s urban and regional planning department professor Adil Mohammed Khan refused to comment on the mayor’s remark.