Cartoonist Ahmed Kabir Kishore was released on bail on March 4 after serving 10 months in jail under the Digital Security Act. The first thing he had to do was go to the hospital for treatment. He alleged that he was tortured after his arrest. He has also filed a case in the court. The cartoonist now says he wants to return to his work. And with it will continue the legal battle.
Alia Iftikhar, a senior researcher on Asia at the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), recently spoke with Ahmed Kabir Kishore. The New York-based international organization works to protect the rights of journalists. The CPJ published the interview on their website on Tuesday. There, Ahmed Kabir Kishore described his work, ‘torture’ after his arrest.
The CPJ, however, said it could not independently verify the allegations. However, they have mentioned that the description of the torture incident in custody that took place earlier in Bangladesh is in the possession of CPJ, and the description of Ahmed Kabir Kishore is similar.
After his release, Ahmed Kabir Kishore had to undergo treatment for various physical problems including ear infections, foot injuries and diabetes. The court has already ordered an inquiry into the allegations of torture against him.
Ahmed Kabir Kishore was arrested in May last year. Writer-businessman Mushtaq Ahmed was also arrested then. They were later shown arrested in a case filed by the RAB under the Digital Security Act. Mushtaq Ahmed died in jail a few days before Ahmed Kabir’s release.
In the beginning of the interview given to CPJ, Ahmed Kabir Kishore highlighted the background of his tendency to draw cartoons. “My father was an artist,” he said. He taught us a lot. My older brother also taught me to draw. I have loved drawing and cartoons since I was a child. ‘
The cartoonist said, ‘I was working as a freelancer during the coronavirus epidemic. I have been inspired by the work of writers whose epidemics or famines have arisen. I have tried to portray those events in the film. I was keeping an eye on national and international developments with the coronavirus. The situation was such that people were dying on the way to the hospital. I used to draw cartoons all day. I would draw until I fell asleep. ‘
Ahmed Kabir Kishore said, ‘I am one of the first political cartoonists to be arrested under the Disappearance and Digital Security Act after the independence of Bangladesh. Asked if he had received any threats before his arrest, he said, “I received some threats on the blog. That being said, my work is extremely negative. But I was only presenting the picture of reality. I have no bias. All my cartoons are realistic. ‘
Asked about the impact of the Digital Security Act on the media, Ahmed Kabir Kishore said, “When all the media were under pressure, people were looking for a taste of freedom on digital devices.” If you harass for cartoons, for art, it means that you are violating people, human rights. ‘
“If you look at digital security law cases, you see the difference,” he said. Government people are benefiting from this law. If you want to exercise freedom of speech, you have to be attacked under this law, you have to be punished. It has been formulated to help the corrupt people of the government. If you speak out against it, or even post a post on Facebook, you must suffer. ‘
Regarding the incident at the time of detention, Kishore said, “Last May 2, it was quarter to six in the afternoon. I was asleep. About six people in white came to my house. They broke down the door and forced their way inside. They took my digital device and told me to get dressed to go out. I want to know their identity and the reason for coming to my house. They got angry and started shouting. People gathered outside the house. I realized they had come to arrest me. I want to know if they have a warrant for my arrest. This made them even more angry. Humiliates me. He ordered them to follow his instructions. ‘
The cartoonist said, ‘They blindfolded me. I was handcuffed and taken to a car. After about 42-43 minutes, the car stopped. They took me to a wet, damp room. There was a strong smell of petrol in that room. I was kept there for six hours. Whenever I went to take off my blindfold, a few people came and started beating me. They threatened me that if I did it again, I would be severely punished. They turned their backs on me and handcuffed me. ‘
Cartoonist Ahmed Kabir Kishore filed the case in the Dhaka Metropolitan Sessions Judge’s Court
File photo of cartoonist Ahmed Kabir Kishore in Dhaka Metropolitan Sessions Judge’s Court to file a case
“Six hours later, they took me to another room,” he said. It was air-conditioned. There I smelled cigarette smoke. After a while my eyes were opened. At that time my cartoons were shown one by one. The question is, why did I draw these? Shows a corrupt character in the cartoon, who is it? Then the physical torture started again. ‘
Ahmed Kabir Kishore said that at one stage of the torture, he was hit in the head and right ear. I understand, something hot is rolling down my ears. But I could not touch him as he was wearing handcuffs. I start crying. I scream helplessly. Even then their minds did not melt. Physical abuse did not stop. When I was given a chance to go to the bathroom, I went there and saw blood on my shirt. There was also fresh blood on the bathroom floor. That means someone else has been tortured there before me. At that time they asked me one question after another about expatriate journalists Tasnim Khalil and David Bergman. I was asked how they became my friends on Facebook, what kind of conversations I had with them online. ‘
Ahmed Kabir Kishore said that he met Mushtaq on May 5. “By the afternoon of May 5, I saw Mushtaq Bhai,” he said. Then the two of us were handed over to the RAB in Khilgaon. At that time I was in a lot of pain due to physical and mental pain. Brother Mushtaq told me to keep smiling. “We have done nothing wrong,” he said. Then why should I be so disappointed? ” Later, Mushtaq Bhai told me that he had been tortured with electric shock. At that time we could hear the screams of more people from the next room. As we left, we saw blood and dirty water on the floor. ‘
“Brother Mushtaq and I were sent to Keraniganj Central Jail,” the cartoonist said of prison life. There we had to stay in quarantine for 15 days in a room of six by eight feet. Although there were five other people in the room besides us. One of them was suffering from bronchitis. We thought we were going to die. We were not allowed out of the room while in quarantine. At that time I used to draw cartoons on cigarette packets. I used to sketch. Then my sketchbook was taken away. I was hoping to get it back one day. That will be a reminder of my imprisonment. At the end of the quarantine, Mushtaq Bhai and I were kept separate. Although we were in the same ward. Sometimes we had the opportunity to talk. ‘
Regarding the death of writer Mushtaq Ahmed, Ahmed Kabir Kishore said, ‘Then I was admitted to the hospital. I was sleeping. A patient there had a newspaper. He called me to show me the news of Mushtaq Bhai’s death. Seeing that news, I lost control of myself. I cried. ‘
“I want to get back to work,” the cartoonist said in an interview about his future plans. At the same time the case is going on. We have to continue fighting it. ”
Ahmed Kabir Kishore was arrested in a case filed by RAB. For this reason, the CPJ tried to contact the RAB to know its statement. The CPJ said they had not received any response. The CPJ said e-mails were also sent to other concerned government departments seeking comments, but they did not receive any response.