Bangladeshi folk singers persecuted

This 6 February 2020 music video from Bangladesh is by singer Rita Dewan.

By Wimal Perera:

Folk singers charged for violating Bangladesh’s draconian Digital Security Act

12 February 2020

Two Bangladeshi Baul (folk) singers—Rita Dewan and Shariat Sarker—face prosecution, under the Awami League-led government’s repressive Digital Security Act (DSA), for allegedly making “derogatory comments” against religion and “hurting the religious sentiments of Muslims”.

Baul singing, which incorporates elements of Tantra, Sufism, Vaishnavism and Buddhism, originated in the Bengal region of the Indian subcontinent, including Bangladesh and the Indian states of West Bengal, Tripura and Assam.

Rita Dewan faces two accusations: one filed with the so-called Cyber Tribunal by Imrul Hasan, a member of the Dhaka Lawyers’ Association, on February 2, and another in a Dhaka court on February 3, by filmmaker Rasel Mia. The judges have directed the police to investigate these complaints.

This 2019 music video from Bangladesh is by singer Shariat Sarker.

Shariat Sarker was arrested in Mirzapur on January 11, following a protest by more than 1,000 Islamic fundamentalists and a complaint to the police by a local Muslim cleric. Sarker was denied bail, at the first hearing of his case, at the Tangail District court on January 29.

Prime Minister Sheik Hasina’s government passed its repressive DSA law in September 2018, in defiance of widespread national and international criticism. The measure is in line with its moves towards autocratic rule, in response to rising working-class opposition and slowing economic growth.

The DSA replaced the so-called Information Communication and Technology Act (ICT) and associated Cyber Tribunal, a legal body to try those accused.

Under section 57 of the ICT, police could arrest anyone accused of causing a “deterioration in law and order”, prejudicing the image of the state, or a person, or causing “any hurt to religious belief.” These offences were non-bailable and anyone found guilty could be jailed for up to 14 years.

Section 57 has been reworded and incorporated in the DSA, with the charges kept deliberately vague so they can be used against any dissenting voices, and made more punitive.

For example, anyone found guilty for “campaigning against the liberation war of the nation” or discrediting the national anthem or the national flag, can be jailed for life. Those accused of gathering information inside a state institution can be charged with “espionage”.

Dewan is alleged to have made derogatory comments against Allah during a musical competition performance with another singer. After a video recording of the song went viral on the internet, she apologized, in an interview with YouTube channel Gaan Rupali HD, on February 1.

Sarker’s alleged crime was to criticise fundamentalist Muslim clerics who oppose singing. The Baul singer, who has millions of fans, is reported to have said that the “Quran does not prohibit the practice of music.” He is also accused of declaring, during a December concert, that he opposed religion being used as a political tool.

Hundreds of people demonstrated in Mymensingh and Mirzapur after the news broke of Sarker’s arrest. The popular singer could face a ten-year prison term if found guilty.

Nikhil Das, president of the Charan Cultural Centre, a platform for folk singers, immediately demanded Sarker’s unconditional release. Sultana Kamal, a Supreme Court lawyer and rights activist, denounced the arrest as another attack on the “right to free speech” and said the government was appeasing Islamic radical elements.

The allegations against Dewan and Sarker are part of a much larger crackdown. According to Odhikar, a Bangladesh human rights group, at least 29 people were arrested for violating the DSA, including journalists and individuals who posted comments on Facebook, or even “liking” certain comments.

Internationally-acclaimed photojournalist, Shahidul Alam was arrested in August 2018 and detained for 100 days, under Section 57 of the ICT, for allegedly making “provocative” statements about student demonstrations during in an interview with Al Jazeera and Facebook. The students were demanding that the government improve road safety, after two youth were run down and killed by a bus.

Alam had told Al Jazeera that the real reasons behind the popular anger was the government’s gagging of the media and widespread “extrajudicial killings, disappearing, bribery and corruption.”

Poet Henry Sawpon was arrested last May, following claims by a Catholic priest that the writer had offended “religious sentiments”, because he criticised an Easter Sunday cultural event in a local Catholic Church. The priest opposed Sawpon’s comments, because many Catholics had been killed in the terrorist bombing attacks that day in Sri Lanka.

A prominent writer-lawyer, Imtiaz Mahmud, was also arrested in May on charges that police had filed in July 2017, under the ICT Act. Mahmud had posted a Facebook comment opposing military violence against indigenous residents in Bangladesh’s Chittagong Hill Tracts.

Human Rights Watch observed, in its 2020 World Report, that journalists in Bangladesh “face pressure to self-censor or risk arrest”. which effectively prohibited investigative journalism in the country. In 2017 alone, at least 25 journalists, several hundred bloggers and Facebook users were prosecuted.

With 28 million Facebook users in Bangladesh, the Awami League-led regime is using the DSA to censor social media, in an attempt to stop workers and youth throughout the country, like their international counterparts, using social media to organise and fight government attacks on social conditions and democratic rights.

In order to justify this surveillance, in October 2018, the government established a nine-member monitoring cell to “detect rumours” on social media.

While the Hasina government claims to stand for “secularism”, the persecution of Rita and Sarker further demonstrates how the regime rests upon and uses Islamic fundamentalist and other ultra-right groups to advance its repressive agenda.

In 2013, when four bloggers were accused of atheism and arrested, Prime Minister Hasina’s son, Sajeeb Wajed Joy and so-called ICT adviser, declared, “We don’t want to be seen as atheists.”

In 2014, a group known as “defenders of Islam” published a death list of 84 critics of Islam. Several of those named were attacked and killed. The government said nothing about the assassinations.

When Rajshahi University professor, Rezaul Karim Siddique, was killed in April 2016—one of four academics killed at the institution—Prime Minister Hasina declared that no one had the “right to write or speak against any religion.”

The state persecution of artists, intellectuals and journalists, via bogus claims of offending “religious sentiment,” is not limited to Bangladesh; it is increasing throughout South Asia.

In June 2016, famous Pakistani musician Amjad Sabri was killed by the Taliban, and last April, award-winning Sri Lankan author Shakthika Sathkumara was arrested and held in remand for four months, following bogus complaints by Buddhist extremists that he had defamed Buddhism.

The author also recommends:

Persecuted Sri Lankan writer released on bail
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Sectarian attempted murder of Irish folk musicians

This 11 June 2020 video about Ireland is called The Wolfe Tones’ rebel song Come Out Ye Black And Tans hits number one on UK iTunes charts.

This 2017 folk music video is called The Wolfe Tones – Come Out Ye Black And Tans.

This blog has noted before that German secret police targets punk rock music. And that British police targets punk rock music. And that British police bans rock band Babyshambles because some parts of their songs are slow and others are fast. And that British police ban Jamaican music.

However, ‘targeting’ sometimes goes further than spying or banning. Sometimes, it is targeting for murder.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Irish rebel musicians Wolfe Tones targeted by loyalist paramilitaries linked to British intelligence

IRISH rebel musicians the Wolfe Tones have said that they escaped a planned attack by a notorious loyalist paramilitary group backed by British intelligence services in the 1970s.

Singer Brian Warfield explained that before playing a gig in 1975 the band were told their lives were at risk from the Glenanne Gang — a group of police officers, serving British soldiers and members of the Ulster Volunteer Force responsible for about 120 deaths between 1972 and 1980.

The concert was at a Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) club outside Kileel in County Down. The band were told by the GAA committee not to go for a pre-concert drink in the pub as “the RUC and the UDR were drinking in the front bar.”

“After the gig I came out and the organisers said to me: ‘You can’t go home [by] the main road,’ Mr Warfield said on the Blindboy podcast.

“I said: ‘Why is that?’ and he said: ‘Because there is a blockade waiting for you down there’.”

The concert organisers instead took the band over the mountains of Mourne, whence they made their way back to Dublin.

“The day we got back to Dublin the [police’s] special branch said that the Wolfe Tones were not to go north again, that our lives were in danger.

“I believe that the Glenanne Gang were drinking in that front bar … getting locked out of their mind, ready to pick up the Wolfe Tones on the way home.”

In July 1975 members of the Miami Showband — one of Ireland’s biggest bands — were gunned down after a bomb attack at a bogus roadblock went wrong.

Lead singer Fran O’Toole, guitarist Tony Geraghty and trumpeter Brian McCoy were killed, along with two members of the Glenanne Gang: Harris Boyle and Wesley Somerville, who died when their bomb exploded prematurely.

MIAMI SHOWBAND bassist Stephen Travers has vowed to continue the fight for justice after British intelligence papers finally confirmed the involvement of Captain Robert Nairac in the murder of three band members in 1975: here.

Chileans sing against violent government

This 13 December 2019 live music video by Chilean folk music group Inti-Illimani says about itself, translated:

El pueblo unido jamas será vencido (The united people will never be defeated), by Sergio Ortega.

We sing … [contrary to the right-wing government] we don’t make anyone blind, we don’t rape anyone, we don’t hit or torture anyone …

We sang … and with us tens of thousands … it was very beautiful and hopeful.

In the enormous crowd, flags of Chile, of the Chilean Mapuche indigenous people, and portraits of President Allende, murdered by the 1973 CIA-Pinochet coup.

Chilean government kills people, musical commemoration

This music video from Chile says about itself, translated from Spanish:

Musicians and choirs perform El Pueblo Unido, in Sacramentinos square in the requiem event for those who are gone. The people killed during the protests of October 2019. Sunday, October 27, 2019. Santiago, Chile.

Chilean soprano singer sings against martial law

This 27 October 2019 video from Chile says about itself:

Chile: The heart-stopping moment a soprano breaks the martial law (Wait for the end)

This is the chilling moment soprano Ayleen Jovita Romero defies the silence curfew, imposed under martial law by the government of Sebastián Piñera in Chile and sings the song “El derecho de vivir en paz”, (The right to live in peace) by Victor Jara.

Such is the silence because of the martial law, that her voice echoes through the buildings, while people from their windows and balconies are “holding their breath” to the words of her song, until the moment she hits the final note and a wave of applause by dozens of people fills the night and space of a neighborhood under police siege.

The video consists of two scenes of the moment from different angles, one of them being the point of view next to the singer’s window.

The soprano is singing a song from a guitar artist called Victor Jara, he was killed by the Pinochet dictatorship (imposed by the CIA back coup). Jara was taken prisoner along with thousands of others in the Chile Stadium, where guards tortured him, smashing his hands and fingers and then told to try playing his guitar. He was then shot over 40 times and killed. The song is called “The right to live in peace”.

The first video is from “El Canto Nuevo de Chile” Facebook page and the other from the soprano’s Instagram account (@ayleenjovita.soprano).

A Chilean Opera Singer Sang In Peaceful Protest During A Curfew For Thousands Of Her Neighbors. Soprano Ayleen Romero performed the Chilean protest anthem “El Derecho de Vivir en Paz,” or “The Right to Live in Peace”: here.

United States folk singer Ani DiFranco interviewed

This 20 July 2019 video from the USA says about itself:

Ani DiFranco on Trump, Her New Memoir, Defying Music Moguls & Working with Pete Seeger and Prince

Legendary Grammy-award winning songwriter, guitarist and activist Ani DiFranco has published a new memoir, No Walls and the Recurring Dream, and joins us for an extended conversation about refusing to bow to the power of record companies, and founding her own music label at age 19 in 1990, called Righteous Babe.

She has gone on to release 20 studio albums, and sell over 5 million records. Over the years her music has woven together styles ranging from folk to funk, soul to jazz to R and B. She sings of the personal and political, of love, sexuality and loneliness, of sexual abuse and police brutality, and about the perversion of democracy in America.

One of the many musicians she worked with, Pete Seeger, once described DiFranco as “the torch bearer for the next generation.” She also discusses Trump, abortion rights and reads a poem she wrote after 9/11.