POST TIME: 18 October, 2019 11:27:00 PM
Graffiti stages a comeback over Abrar murder
Rifat Islam, Dhaka

Graffiti stages a
comeback over Abrar murder

(Left) A graffiti on DU campus shows a picture of father of slain BUET student Abrar Fahad with a question asking “Can you bring back my son?”, (right) another graffiti on BUET campus reads "Justice for Abrar" with his portrait, as the number of graffiti goes up recently on the campuses in the capital to protest against all sorts of criminal activities and injustice. Independent Photos

Graffiti, including those sprayed on walls in the wake of ever-shrinking space for freedom of expression, has long been a tool of protest. It has staged a vigorous comeback on the walls of DU and BUET. In Bangladesh, graffiti has been used to raise concern since the time of the Liberation War. In recent times, students of the Bangladesh University and Engineering Technology (BUET) and Dhaka University (DU) have resorted to this form of art again to protest against the gruesome murder of Abrar Fahad.

A walk around BUET and DU campuses reveals signs of a protest against the university authorities: a painting of Fahad’s dead body here, a slogan there, a poster on a police barricade, streamers hanging between buildings and trees. These are all testimony to the anger that some of the students feel against the authorities and against the government.

“This graffiti is our way of protesting against this gruesome culture of ragging and torture inflicted by activists of the Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL) in the residential halls of BUET,” said Faizah Rafsan, an architecture student.

“If Abrar hadn’t died, this brutal and unwanted culture might not have come into the limelight,” he added.

Rafsan was among about 20 students from the BUET architecture department who had been designing and painting these murals on the campus for the past six days. “We let our emotions talk through graffiti,” said Rafsan.

Mashruba Islam, another architecture student, said that people around the world have often used walls as canvases for graffiti and sometimes used art to express slogans they could not shout publicly for fear of incurring the wrath of the authorities.

“We are very angry now. We have found painting graffiti as a way of letting out our anger,” said Mashruba, who had painted a mural showing a dead body with a morgue tag. The tag had the number 1706098, Fahad’s student ID number.  “We are angry at the university authorities that they didn’t do much to stop this culture of ragging inside the universities,” said Mashruba.

On a wall outside Sher-e-Bangla Hall, the student dormitory where Fahad was murdered, Tasrifa Binte Farazi, a first-year architecture student, was writing a slogan with words “Hok Protibad” (let there be protest). “Had we not raised our voices in unison, silence would have prevailed. “Things would have remained the same,” she said. Next to her, a few walls apart, another mural was being painted of a blindfolded person facing a pistol. “Nirapod Achhis,” said the slogan. “You are safe”.

Mumu Chakma, the artist, said: “It’s a satire of the situation we are in. We are left at the mercy of the gun.” Inside neighbouring Dhaka University, students of the Institute of Fine Arts have also been at work, voicing their support for the campaign to secure justice for Fahad. They also painted wall art about Dhaka University students Abu Bakr, Hafiz and Ehsan, who were victims of the Chhatra League. Graffiti and slogans saying “Boidha seat amar odhikar” (“Hall seat is my right”), “Rukho Sontrash” (“Protest the terrorism”) and “No one killed Abu Bakr” were visible.

“We want DU to be a bastion of free knowledge practice where students can live with dignity,” said Armanul Haque, one of the organisers of the Dhaka University graffiti campaign. “These graffiti symbolise the oppression and torture general students have to face by the political parties who use their muscle power to control universities,” he added. A few months back, graffiti like  ‘Sohomot Bhai’ (“Yes Brother”) and another was ‘Helmet Bhai’. The first was aimed at mocking the flatterers while the second one condemned the people who helped in repression. These graffiti on DU walls were the talk of the campus.