Bangladesh: Hindu girl sentenced to 5 years in jail over accusation of ‘blasphemy’

Four years after a Bangladeshi Hindu girl named Tithy Sarkar was accused of insulting Prophet Muhammad and committing ‘blasphemy’ on social media, a court in Dhaka sentenced her to 5 years in prison.

Justice AM Zulfikar Hayat of the Dhaka Cyber Tribunal announced the disturbing verdict on Monday (13th May) under the Digital Security Act (DSA). He also sentenced Tithy Sarkar to one year of probation on eight conditions.

Tithy Sarkar was directed to appear before law enforcement authorities when summoned by them during her probation period.

According to Bench Assistant Jewel Miha, a probation officer would monitor the activities of the Hindu woman. The verdict against her may be re-considered if the said probation officer gave a satisfactory report.

The victim had been languishing in jail for the past 21 months. A total of 6 witnesses testified against her in court.

A former student of Jagannath University, Tithy Sarkar was booked by the police on 2nd November 2020. She was also the convenor of World Hindu Struggle Council and office secretary of the Students Protection Council of Jagannath University.

Tithy Sarkar filed police complaint, told police that her Facebook account was hacked

OpIndia reported in 2020 that the Hindu woman had gone missing after being accused of ‘hurting religious sentiments.’ Islamists had alleged that Sarkar made derogatory remarks against Islam and the Prophet Muhammad.

Tithy Sarkar met the officials at the Pallabi police station and filed a complaint about her Facebook account being hacked. She had made it clear to the police that the alleged ‘blasphemous comments were’ made by an unidentified hacker using her Facebook handle.

The development was confirmed by Kazi Wazed Ali, the station-in-charge of the Pallabi police station. After filing the police complaint, the Hindu woman went missing and her phone remained untraceable.

“We do not blame anyone behind my sister’s missing. We are requesting the government and the authorities concerned for my sister’s safe return,” her sister Smriti had stated at that time.

University suspended Tithy Sarkar, police claimed she faked her kidnapping

On 23rd October 2020, Tithy Sarkar was suspended by her university for 10 days following large-scale protests by student organisations. She was also given a show-cause notice about permanent suspension from Jagannath University.

The CID officials investigating the case claimed that Tithy Sakrar ‘faked’ her own abduction and went into hiding with her boyfriend-turned-husband Shiplu Mallik. She was arrested on 11th November 2020.

“After leaving her Pallabi home on October 25, Tithy contacted her boyfriend Shiplu Mallik and went to Bagerhat where they got married. They came back to Dhaka on November 9. Tithy later went to an in-law’s house in Narsingdi,” Deputy Inspector General Jamil Ahmed had said.

In May 2021, the CID filed a chargesheet against the Hindu woman and her husband Shiplu Malik. On 4th November 4, 2021, the Dhaka Cyber Tribunal ruled charges against Tithy Sakrar.

In the meantime, the police arrested another Hindu man named Niranjan Baral for allegedly spreading rumours about the disappearance of the Hindu woman.

Blasphemy in Pakistan and growing intolerance in Bangladesh

Although Bangladesh claims to be a ‘secular nation’, its blasphemy laws are often weaponised by Islamists to target religious minorities including the Hindu community.

This is reminiscent of the situation in Pakistan where mere allegations of blasphemy can trigger mob lynching and even death sentences by courts. A classic case in point was the Asia Bibi case, which led to the killing of a Pakistani legislator named Salman Taseer.

Although the Christian woman was acquitted by the court, she had to leave Pakistan to avoid religious persecution.

Unfortunately, Bangladesh is treading the dangerous path of Pakistan where the overwhelming Muslim majority gets away by encroaching upon Hindu lands and temples.

They are somehow immune against blasphemy laws, despite hurting religious sentiments and committing acts of desecration.

Source: OpIndia

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