Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today opened this year’s Amar Ekushey Book Fair in Dhaka.
Police will provide security to the month-long event, including
plainclothes agents, said Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) Commissioner
Asaduzzaman Mia said.
Their task will be to ensure that books on display do not contain insults to the religious feelings of the population.
One of the most important events in the country, the fair is held
every year at the Bangla Academy near the Suhrawardy Udyan National
It is dedicated to the martyrs who died on 21 February 1952 in a
demonstration calling for the establishment of Bengali (Bangla) as one
of the state languages in the former East Pakistan. For this reason, it
is considered the "month of the language".
The decision to vet books is due to rise of radical Islam, which led to last year’s Dhaka massacre, the bloodiest in the country's recent history, and to attacks by extremists against minority leaders, bloggers and free-thinkers.
The fair includes 663 stands given in concession to 409 publishing houses presenting thousands of new editions.
DMP Commissioner Mia said authors and publishers have a
responsibility to review their books to see if they contained insulting
The Bangla Academy, the fair’s organising authority, will
eventually scrutinise them as well.
Commenting on the danger that controls could be a barrier to
publication, Mia noted that "We believe in freedom of thought, but if
someone hurts someone else’s religious feelings and incites sectarian
violence, it is no longer freedom of thought."
Last year the authorities shut down one stall because it was selling a book containing insults to Islam.
"We are aware of controls,” said one Muslim publisher. “According to
past experience, before printing, we reread the books word for word.”
“Bangladesh is a conservative Islamic country,” he added, “and we
must obey the laws of the land and respect the religion of others."