If notoriety was your claim to fame in childhood, holding ears was surely a frequent activity. Most of us have had to go through the much dreaded punishment.
“Gotcha!” The teacher would shout ruthlessly. “Now hold your ears and say sorry”. “Sorry Sir” the teary eyed culprit would whisper. For the fortunate among us mercy would follow.
For the less fortunate the punishment would often extend to doing sit ups and counting to fifty or squatting on our haunches and playing “The Murga”.
As children we would consider ourselves lucky to escape these ignominious episodes. Our hearts would bleed for peers who wouldn’t. And right now somewhere in our world the heart of an entire nation is bleeding for a compatriot who was less fortunate.
Who is this unlucky soul?
His name is Shyamal Kanti Bhakta, the head teacher of a school in the Narayanganj district of Bangladesh.
Poor fellow. What was his crime?
Well, that is not quite clear yet. But he messed with the big ‘R’. He allegedly voiced his unbiased opinion on Religion. In countries like Bangladesh and Pakistan you should refrain from making ‘R’-rated comments, especially if you are a Hindu or a Christian. And those comments were quickly construed as “Anti-Islam”. Now in a country as secular as Bangladesh that is a heinous crime!
So was his punishment limited to holding ears?
No. He was of the less fortunate kind, remember. A certain MP made him do sit ups while holding his ears and that too in public! And this is only the corporal part. After the public shaming he was sacked from his job adding insult to injury!
Ghastly! But what’s this “Sorry Sir” Campaign?
It is a campaign started by a section of sane people in the country. The center stage of this campaign has been assumed by students. The public humiliation of a teacher has infuriated the student community in Bangladesh and they are responding in the most fitting manner.
What is so special that they are doing?
Bengalis are updating their profile pictures on Facebook, Twitter and all other social media with themselves holding ears, as if saying “Sorry Sir”. It is an apology to a teacher by the people on behalf of the nation. And it is a befitting reply to the state machinery. The protest has grown into a domino effect that has taken social media by storm.
Some of the tweets are really hard hitting:
Eminent personalities from all fields have joined the protest. Images have the power to disarm and Bangladesh is proving it.
Bangladesh is holding ears and this is driving home the right message: that the people will protest against all forms of injustice by rising above religion.
One must marvel at the spirit of these people who are fighting for Mr. Bhakta’s justice. At the same time one must appreciate the conceptualization of a mode of protest which is both peaceful and incisive.