'Sorry Sir' - show of support for headmaster goes viral

Bangladeshis show support for teacher Image copyright Facebook

When images emerged of a headmaster being publicly humiliated by an angry mob many Bangladeshis were disgusted and wanted to show their support for the school official. Some have now posted pictures of themselves in the same embarrassing position that Shyamal Kanti Bhakta was made to adopt by his tormenters.

Video and photographs showed Bhakta, a school principal in Narayanganj District near Dhaka, squatting and holding his ears in front of a crowd that included a local MP. In the footage, which soon went viral on Facebook and YouTube, the crowd can be heard cheering as the headmaster squats repeatedly and folds his hands. The pose - which indicates shame and apology - is associated with punishments meted out to students in primary schools in South Asia.

Bhakta was allegedly also beaten up by a mob in the presence of local lawmaker AKM Selim Osman last Friday.

The motive behind what happened are murky. Local reports say Bhakta, who is Hindu, was accused of punishing a student and making a comment critical of Islam - an accusation he denies. He told local media he was a "victim of a conspiracy by the management committee". The school committee has since suspended Bhakta.

In a show of solidarity with Bhakta, hundreds of of Bangladeshis have posted photos of themselves imitating his squatting pose whilst holding their ears.

Image copyright Facebook/Iresh Zaker
Image caption Bangladeshi actor Iresh Zaker posted a picture on himself squatting and holding his ears

On social media in Bangladesh, where teachers hold a revered position in society, it led to an outpouring of support and solidarity. On Facebook, users, mostly students, posted pictures of themselves holding their ears to apologise to Bhakta with hashtags #SorrySir, #WeAreSorrySir and a Bengali hashtag which means - "Let's hold our ears and protest".

Image copyright Facebook

"This attack is not on an individual but an attack on the backbone of the nation," said one social media user in Bengali, while another post read: "We are not just sad, we are disgusted."

"As a fellow teacher, I am ashamed. My demonstration is not only a protest; it is a token of apology to all my fellow teachers in Bangladesh, who face humiliation in the face of the government," read a post by a US-based teacher which has been liked more than 2,000 times.

The incident comes in the wake of a series of attacks on secular writers and bloggers, professors and members of religious minorities in the country.

The assault on Bhakta has also been condemned by government officials, with Education Minister Nurul Islam Nahid calling it "very sad and inhumane" and that people can not take the law into their own hands. Bangladesh's High Court bench have ordered police to investigate and update them regarding the incident within three days.

Blog by Akhil Ranjan & Samiha Nettikkara, BBC Monitoring

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