According to reports from the Drik photo agency, last Saturday a young man stormed into their gallery in Dhaka and made death threats against Shahidul Alam, creator of the controversial ‘Crossfire’ exhibition. The incident was reported to the local police. For a transcript of the conversation between the man making the threats and the gallery security guard see Media Helping Media.
‘Crossfire’ is an allegorical look, through photos and video, into the alleged extra-judicial killings by the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB). For more info on the exhibition check out Shahidul’s blog. The exhibition remains forcibly closed by the police, despite protests by art students, human rights organisations and a writ petition filed by Drik with the police on 29 March.
Following legal action by Drik the police stationed in front of the gallery blocking entrance to the ‘Crossfire’ exhibition have been withdrawn. The high court hearing the case did not pass any order due to the withdrawal but stated the petitioner would be at liberty to seek such orders if the obstruction continued. Below is the press release from Drik.
GOVERNMENT CONFIRMS WITHDRAWAL OF POLICE FROM DRIK’S EXHIBITION ON ‘CROSSFIRE’
31 March 2010
Government lawyers confirmed to the Vacation Bench of the High Court today that the police deployed in front of the DRIK Gallery had been withdrawn and that there would be no obstruction to the exhibition from now on.
Dr. Alam’s lawyer submitted that police had continued to block visitors even uptil 4.30pm on 30 March and sought an assurance from the Government that there would be no further interference with visitors attending the Gallery.
Additional Attorney General MK Rahman referred to information received from the Dhaka Metropolitan Police Commissioner and the Ministry of Home Affairs, that there was no need for a police presence.
In view of these statement, the Court observed that it would not pass any order at this time but that if further obstruction to the exhibition took place before the re-opening of the High Court on 3rd April, the petitioner would be at liberty to seek necessary orders from the Vacation Bench.
The Vacation Bench of the High Court for the second day heard a writ petition challenging the continuing police action preventing the entry of viewers to the exhibition by Dr. Shahidul Alam at the DRIK Gallery entitled ‘Cross-fire”, which consists of interpretive photographs and an interactive google map which shows locations where the bodies of persons allegedly killed in ‘cross-fire’ by security forces were reportedly found.
Dr. Alam challenged the actions of the police, including Special Branch and RAB in directing him to close down the exhibition hours prior to its scheduled inauguration on 22nd March, and then the continuing police deployment in front of the DRIK Gallery in Dhanmondi from the afternoon of 22nd March onwards. As widely reported in the media, the police had prevented noted author Mahasweta Devi and other invited guests from entering the exhibition for the inauguration, and subsequently prevented other visitors to the exhibition from entering the premises. The police stated that DRIK needed ‘prior permission’ to hold the exhibition and that going ahead with it would ‘cause unrest’.
The writ was filed by Dr. Shahidul Alam, photojournalist and MD of DRIK. The respondents to the writ petition were the Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, the IG of Police, the DG of RAB, the Dhaka Metropolitan Police Commissioner and the Officer in Charge of Dhanmondi Police Station.