A number of writers, publishers, and readers staged a protest rally in the capital yesterday demanding immediate reopening of Rodela Prokashani’s stall at Amar Ekushey Boi Mela 2015, shut down by the book fair authorities on Monday.
Speaking at the protest rally in front of the fair entrance at TSC in Dhaka University, they said the step was a blow on the freedom of speech and expression, and the country’s progressive and free thinkers would not accept it.
The book fair authorities shut down the stall of Rodela Prokashani for selling and displaying the book “Nabi Muhammder 23 Bachhar,” the Bangla translation of “Twenty-Three Years: A Study of Prophetic Career of Muhammad” by famous Iranian writer Ali Dashti, published in 1985.
The fair committee’s Member Secretary Dr Jalal Ahmed said the stall was closed following the fair guideline, which stated that books with contents that could hurt religious sentiments are not allowed to be showcased and sold at the fair.
“This step by the Bangla Academy is a clear threat to the practice of free thinking,” said young writer Parvez Alam.
Robin Ahsan, owner of Srabon Prakashoni, said: “The stall was closed on Hefazat-e-Islam’s demand. Where was the concern for religious sentiment when they set fire to copies of the Holy Qur’an at Baitul Mukarram in 2013?”
Meanwhile, Hefazat activists allegedly shut down Rodela Prokashoni’s office in the capital’s Banglabazar area.
Zubair Hossain, employee at Rodela Prokashoni, told the Dhaka Tribune: “They came here, shouting slogans against us, and locked up our storage. They even threatened us when we were at the book fair.”
Zubair further said Rodela owner Riaz Chowdhury issued a statement on Monday night, saying the book had been withdrawn and apologising if it hurt anyone’s religious sentiments.