May 27, 2008

The Arif Story

At last one journalist (blogger Omi Rahman Pial) was courageous enough to interview Arif , the condemned cartoonist who was charged by the state of profanity and sedition. His fault was to use the prophet's name in a cartoon.

The interview has been published in E-Bangladesh.

Some excerpts:
So what was the idea behind the cartoon? Why did you draw it?

Well, i never thought this was going to be such a big issue. The joke I used is a common one in our locality, infact in that zone. I heard it when as a kid and even when I grew up. My idea was to highlight the faulty religious teachings by some of our elders where they advise to put the name of our holy Prophet before every name, when they should also clarify where it shouldn’t be used. What surprised me, I learnt after my release that the same joke was used in a publication of Islami Chatra Shibir name Kishorekantha.

Did they (Police) hurt you?

No, they didn’t touch me, but scolded for defaming the religion.

What happened in the jail? I mean what was your experience?

Apart from two attacks, it was not all that bad in terms of experience. I was sad though. I had to stay away two Eids from my mom. It was painful.

What attack?

When I was in, they put me in the Amdani ward, which was for the newcomers. There some people attacked me. On the first attack they beat me with bamboo pole and some beat me with bare fists. Then again after a few hours I was attacked. One of them took a stick, put it in the toilet and then brushed it in my mouth. I was fasting then.

No one stopped them! Who were these guys?

Not at the start. But after some while others intervened. They were the JMB (Jamatul Mujahedin Bangladesh).

Only two attacks and then nothing?

Well after the attacks, I was switched to Manihar ward; there they came again after me. Then I was put in the ‘Choy Cell’ (a six room cell). There I had Arafat Rahman Koko (son of ex-premier Khaleda Zia), Professor Anwar Hossain, Abdul Awal Mintoo as cellmates. Because of the security reasons, I missed the Eid Ul Fitr Jamat, which I had in my room. Then in the Eid ul Azha, I attended the Jamat with others.

So many VIP’s. Any incident there?

Nothing you can call incident. All of them were good to me. Arafat Bhai used to recite the Hadith and advised me not to draw cartoons anymore since they are haram for Muslims. Anwar Sir used to take good care of me, he even gave me pen and paper to draw whatever I like.

Did you have any visitor? How did you know about your legal proceedings?

Barrister Sara Hossain came to visit me on the eve of Eid Ul Fitr. She told me not to worry. I didn’t have any visitor till the last days of my sentence. They used to take me to the Court; it was like going and coming from there. I had no chance to talk to anybody, not even my legal advisors.

Then how things turned?

After the resignation of Barrister Mainul Hosein from the Caretaker Government, things changed abruptly. I was sent a mercy petition application from the Prothom-Alo which I signed and then suddenly my case moved real fast. And at last I was pardoned for all my offences or dismissed from all the charges against me.
Read the complete interview for more such stunning news.

Photo and excerpts courtesy E-Bangladesh and used with permission.


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