I know AKM Wahidizzuman, Apollo bhai, reasonably well. He used to be involved in the Chhatra Dal politics. During the Shahbag Awakening, multiple voices from the young generation of BNP, Jamaat, Awami League and left organisations sprung up in the internet. Thousands tuned into the net to hear these voices. No one forced anyone to do so. People befriended or followed these voices because of their own curiosity or interest. Among the nationalist voices, Apollo bhai is the most popular (in terms of readership count).
Professionally he teaches at a public university. There is a youtube video of Apollo bhai where, as a geography teacher, he correctly predicted on TV the path of a recent cyclone. At that time, other experts failed to correctly predict that path. As far as I know, he is the author of the most popular and best-informed online article protesting the Rampal power plant project. He was also vocal about the Tipaimukh project. He used to participate in some TV talk shows as well. But his popularity was mainly due to his razor sharp facebook statuses on daily political events. He could say in hundred words what many others couldn’t manage in a thousand.
The process that has led to the issue of arrest warrant against Apollo bhai, and if he is indeed arrested as a result —the whole thing will be extremely shameful for online activists of all ideologies, whether they are nationalists, secularists, Islamists, Awamis, Shahbagis or leftists. For everyone, this development will give birth to many worries.
There are many types of criminals in the country relying on IT, including the ATM card fraudsters, makers and distributors of porn who often force women into it, writers of vulgar stories, sellers of MMS video or pirated software, music and movies. While there are so many IT-related law breakers, if a facebook status writer is arrested as soon as the new ICT related act is passed, then it will obviously raise questions in many minds about the intention and likely abuse of the new law.
Mr Sajeeb Wazed Joy, the grandson of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu, now writes regularly in facebook. He even has a verified facebook account —a rarity in our country. Hopefully he will not allow during his presence in the country such a guillotine on the status writer from his political opposition. Old aged ministers might misunderstand the role of a status writer, but IT specialist Mr Joy hopefully will understand. Particularly, since he has himself spent so many days in the American environment, surely he will understand how surprised the Americans will be to hear about the arrest of a university teacher for writing a mere facebook status! Just imagine one of his American friends asking him cheekily,
“So, Sajeeb, I hear you arrest people in your country for saying shit about you and your sister on Facebook? Is it for real?” I know, as the son of renowned scientist and a mass politician who himself has grown up in the developed world, how embarrassed he will be to answer this question to any foreigner.
There is a lot the youth of all political and ideological stripes can do about the arrest warrant on Apollo bhai. Let me elaborate. For forty years since independence, a dirty image of politics had formed in the minds of the youth. Politically involved youth meant extortionists, corrupt rent seekers, sexual predators, or even worse. In the past, meritorious youth would think ten times about the political path, fearing lathi and fire, even when there were many offers to join politics. Against that backdrop, through the online activism of the past few years, many meritorious people got to become involved in politics. This online activism
has allowed a number of genuinely meritorious guys and girls who are not involved in thuggery and hooliganism to establish them by presenting their political opinions before thousands. This reality applies to all parties and ideologies. This is undoubtedly a great progress for the future of our overall politics.
And it’s easy to understand who has the most to lose if this extraordinary progress continues. Perhaps that’s why someone is trying to teach this young generation how to stab the opponent with dagger. Once used to dagger, this generation will also be finished, just like the previous lost generation. The legal dagger that haunts Apollo bhai today in the form of the ICT Act will someday in future ricochet and strike some online activist who believes in Awami philosophy. And the suicidal conflict in the virtual world will hurt that young generation most which at least learnt to speak to their opponents because of the online activism. In the country where leaders refuse to see each other, this is a major achievement —and now it’s everyone’s responsibility to defend this progress.
Hopefully online activists of all parties, ideologies and paths will protest the arrest warrant on Apollo bhai. If not for Apollo bhai, protest for your own future, for the future of online activism, and for the collective interest of the youth. Together, we must convince the government that if people are prisoned for sarcastic facebook comments, then the state ceases to exist and becomes jungle.