A day after Bangladeshi photographer and social activist Shahidul Alam was taken from his home in Dhaka and detained for interrogation by the Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) Detective Branch, he has been remanded into police custody for seven days in a case filed under the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Act. “He has been arrested for his posts related to students’ protests,” said ASM Rezaur Rahman, general manager and curator at Drik Picture Library, a multimedia organisation founded by Alam.
Over the last week, the photographer has been recording the ongoing protests in Bangladesh that began after two students were run over and 12 others wounded in a bus accident in Dhaka on July 29. Students have been protesting to demand for better road safety conditions.
Alam was picked up hours after an interview with Al Jazeera, where he criticised the government’s role in the ongoing protest. “Shahidul was abducted from his house. It was a bit after 10 pm. I was not in the flat but I heard a scream and ran down to find out (what had happened). We heard from the security guards and our landlord that he had been forced into a car, a ‘Hi-Ace’ car, they said. There may have been around 30-35 men in plain dress.
They forcefully took away the CCTV camera footage. They put scotch-tape on the CCTV camera,” recalled Alam’s partner Rahnuma Ahmed (writer and columnist) at a press conference organised in Dhaka yesterday.
The other speakers at the conference included Junayed Saki (activist), Khushi Kabir (human rights activist), Anu Muhammad (teacher and activist), Shireen Huq (women’s rights activist), Sara Hossain (lawyer) and Tahmina Rahman (director, Bangladesh and South Asia at Article 19).
The celebrated photographer is known for commenting on socio-political realities and inequalities through his work. Reckoned for having taken the last official portrait of Nelson Mandela, one of Alam’s most renowned series is “Crossfire” (2010), where he confronted the extrajudicial executions carried out by Bangladesh’s notorious Rapid Action Battalion (RAB).
Founder and managing director of Drik, he is also the founder of Patshala South Asian Media Academy, a photography school in Dhaka. “You cannot have second-class citizens in your nation. They might be quiet for a while, and perhaps easier to exploit, but at some point the public will definitely rise to overcome the obstacles. I worry that it will not be a non-violent process. There is too much money at stake,” he had stated in an interview to
The Indian Express in 2016, when his photo series “Kalpana’s Warriors” was exhibited at Gallery Art and Aesthetic in Delhi. The display included photographs of the Chittagong Hill Tracts and laser-etched portraits of people who have been seeking justice for Kalpana Chakma — a young leader of the Bangladeshi Hill Women’s Federation, who was abducted at gunpoint from her home in Rangamati in 1996.