If you are living in Bangladesh and if you are not in Facebook, you probably have not heard about Wahiduzzaman Apollo. He is an unashamedly nationalist activist, aligned with BNP. What is different about him is, he is the part of new generation of activist, who protects their party dogma through an exercise of intellect. He is one of those new generation who does not seek financial dividend in return of their activism. Wahidujjaman Apollo is not a single person.
A new Bangladesh is emerging in the online space where constantly ideas are expressed, debated and challenged. For one Wahiduzzaman Apollo in support of nationalist movement and BNP there is another Doctor Aiju or Omi Pial in favor of Awami league and the Bengali nationalist movement , who’s name you may not have heard either. There are other, Baki Billah and Parvej Alam who challenges the narrative of both Awami League and BNP, it is unlikely that you have heard their name as well.
The mentioned few are all part of a new generation of online warriors who are trying to portray a new Bangladesh, that is trying to break out of the shackles of old, protected intellectual establishment, which is now settled in their comfort zone and unable to add value to the dynamic narrative of the new Bangladesh that is emerging.
This is a genuine fight of the generation. A new war to be free, definitely not comparable with the liberation war that was fought in 1971 when 3 million lives were lost to give birth to a new nation called Bangladesh but a fresh one to create a new emancipated, open and enlightened Bangladesh that earlier generation has failed to establish.
The new generation of online warriors operate in the space of Facebook, blogs and other online medias. They have their own followers in tens and thousands, who subscribe to their views. They are constantly debating with each other with their status updates and each of their words is tested in a space by their followers and opposition as the media allows each person to freely express their minds. So, none can get away with an outright lie as each word is validated by a huge group of people, who enjoys an absolute freedom of speech in this new medium.
In a country, where all the traditional media has been captured by political elites and their business allies – people are fed with news and debate which eventually protects the standing of the establishment only. So, facebook, blogs and the online space where the small debates take place are the only free space left for people to express their mind. The freedom to write anything is the central tenant that fuels these debates and allows new ideas to flourish.
This freedom is now allowing a new narrative of a Bangladesh which is showing the way forward or building up a space which will show the way forward for the country.
The importance of these small debates cannot be undermined. Shahbag movement, which has fundamentally changed the country for better or worse is a result of this debates on online space. Wahiduzzaman Apollo is one of the catalyst of this new wave.
Government and the current political establishment are aware of this impact. The latest ICT law which has provisions of 7 years jail term without any bail was one of the tool that has been thought out by the political establishment to control this space and curtail the freedom that is enjoyed by these new generation activists.
AKM Wahiduzzaman Apollo, is the first victim of this law. A case were filed against him few weeks back and yesterday AKM Wahiduzzaman Apollo has been put behind bars for his opinion. Wahiduzzaman Apollo is an imperfect man, he is also guilty of selective judgment. But, he is done nothing wrong other than to speak his mind. He has neither preached religious hatred or nor did anything other than saying what is being said by most people-the corruption and the ill doings of the government and the evil nature of the leadership.
It is clear, the establishment which is now headed by Awami League wants to give a signal to the online community to curtail their thoughts and limit their speech and bully them to stop criticizing government. The case filed against Wahiduzzaman Appollo is designed to mime him and other vocal activists to silent them. There is no doubt in anyones mind that, when this establishment will change its leader and BNP will come to power, similar miming of voice will be carried out, as it was done before.
This makes AKM Wahiduzzaman one of the the first victims of the new war to liberate Bangladesh. A war that is being fought to free Bangladesh from the old establishment which has captured all the power, asset, space and voice and established a narrative which does not state the real voices of people.
This is a fight between evil and the good, the establishment and not haves, the new and old, the real and fake. This is the second liberation war that Bangladesh awaits to free its people from the evil establishment that now controls everything.
We unequivocally condemn the arrest of Wahiduzzaman Apollo.
The old establishment is not aware that, their days are numbered. They are not aware that an arrest of one Wahiduzzaman will give rise to 160 million Wahiduzzaman and government cannot put them all behind bars. There is not enough seats in the jails of Bangladesh to arrest them all.
We demand, that Wahidzzaman Apollo should be freed immediately with an apology else these will snowball into something that the establishment will be totally unable to control.