A professor at the University of Dhaka has been suspended for criticising the man who was Bangladesh’s first post-independence president and the father of current prime minister Sheikh Hasina.
Morshed Hasan Khan, who teaches in the university’s marketing department, is accused of “distorting liberation war history” and defaming Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who died in 1975, in an article for Bangladesh’s Daily Naya Diganta.
In the article, Professor Khan claimed that Ziaur Rahman, the founder of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, had declared independence during the Liberation War. He also suggested that most of the leadership of Bangladesh’s ruling party the Awami League – including Sheikh Mujibur Rahman – fled the country when the war broke out in 1971.
“Most of the Awami League leaders and their families went to India, leaving the people of the country leaderless in a death trap; even Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who was at the centre of their dreams, did the same,” he wrote, according to reports.
In a statement, the University of Dhaka’s vice-chancellor, Mohammad Akhtaruzzaman, said that Professor Khan had been suspended until further notice.
“He has been temporarily suspended from all academic and administrative activities for distorting the history of the Liberation War and making offensive remarks about Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in his article titled ‘Jyotirmoy Zia’ published in a national daily on March 26,” the vice-chancellor was quoted as saying by the Dhaka Tribune.
The decision to suspend the professor follows a series of angry rallies on campus from the student wing of the Awami League, the Bangladesh Chhatra League.
Last week, activists declared the professor persona non grata on campus and burned an effigy of the professor and a copy of the newspaper.
The Dhaka University Teachers’ Association had also demanded his resignation.
Professor Khan has since apologised for his comments, describing the situation as a “misunderstanding”.
“I have already withdrawn the article, and had no intention to humiliate him [Sheikh Mujibur Rahman],” he said.
Earlier this year, prime minister Mr Hasina jailed Bangladesh Nationalist Party leader and two-time former prime minister Khaleda Zia for five years, sparking clashes between police and supporters.
It is not the first time that a teacher has been jailed for criticising Mr Hasina’s father. Last August, 13 high school teachers were detained after being accused of sedition for remarks about Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, AFP reported.