Bangladesh-origin blogger-activist Asaduzzaman Noor is at the needle of a storm that may adversely impact India-Bangladesh relations.
As his attacking social media messages against the Hasina government multiply from his present not-so-secret location in Calcutta, Dhaka is pushing hard for his arrest and Indian authorities are caught between their desire to payback Dhaka for handing over ethnic separatists like ULFA leaders Arabinda Rakjkhowa and Noor’s ‘political patrons’ here that include a powerful BJP minister in the Modi government.
An attempt by Bangladesh government to get him arrested and repatriated to stand trial in Dhaka failed last week because Noor is said to be enjoying patronage of powerful quarters, including atleast one senior minister in the Modi government. Indian security agencies were upbeat about tracking him down and pushing him back into Bangladesh until ‘political intervention’ scuttled it.
Immediately after, Noor started attacking Bangladesh politicians of ruling Awami League and the country’s Deputy High Commission in Kolkata, blaming them for pushing India to get him nabbed and send back to Dhaka.
“His blogs are unusually harsh on the current government, which raises doubts about his real intentions and who is behind him. We suspect he is enjoying support in India but his real masters are in Pakistan,” said a senior diplomat in the Bangladesh Deputy High Commission , but he was unwilling to be named.
Similar allegations have been levelled against an adviser of PM Sheikh Hasina whose company struck two huge business deals with India in recent months — Trinamul MP Mohua Moitra and two Congress MPs from Northeast ripped apart the BJP government, during a parliament debate on PM Cares Fund, for allegedly handing over big business deals to someone they felt was “too close to Pakistan.”
“The BJP-RSS sees Noor as a new Taslima Nasreen, a strong critical voice questioning the undermining of the secular fabric of Bangladesh as it celebrates the centenary of founding father ‘Bangabandhu’ Sheikh Mujibur Rahman this year and Golden Jubilee of the country’s independence next year. But the way the BJP-RSS is trying to directly interfere in Bangladesh’s minority politics and now sheltering anti-Awami bloggers like Noor will only complicate relations with Bangladesh at a time we need Dhaka,” said Sukhranjan Dasgupta, a veteran Bangladesh-watcher and author of ‘Midnight Massacre’ on the bloody 1975 coup.
Police in Bangladesh have been seeking to arrest Asaduzzaman Noor after new criminal charges were brought against him on July 14 this year for ‘spreading rumours’ and ‘defaming Islam’ via a Facebook video.
In the video in question, Noor speaks in support of a Buddhist monk who has been critical of the government for its decision to illegally appropriate a Buddhist temple in Chittagong. He also defends a pro-LGBTI educational platform, in a country where it remains illegal to be LGBTI.
The Digital Security Act 2018 (DSA) under which Noor was charged acts as a de facto blasphemy law.
Human Rights activists blame the Bangladeshi government for using DSA as a draconian tool to curb freedom of expression and silence its critics– a charge the Hasina government stoutly denies.