BANGLADESH

School students made to form ‘human bridge’ for politician to walk on

A screengrab from a video of Patwary walking over the backs of students.
A screengrab from a video of Patwary walking over the backs of students.

Advertising

A school in Bangladesh hit the headlines last week after they laid out an unusual welcome mat for their esteemed guest… Photos showing a politician walking over the backs of students went viral and caused an uproar on social media.

Nur Hossain Patwary is an elected official for a county in the Chandpur region (South of Dhaka) and member of Bangladesh’s main governing political party. He was invited to celebrate an annual sports event at Nilkomal Osmania High School on January 30. As part of the celebrations, students linked arms to support the bodies of other students and form a human chain, which the politician walked on. Parents lodged complaints with the school after the event.

Patwary has since been sued by Ali Ahmed, a guardian of one of the students involved. Ahmed also sued the school’s principal and the president and two committee members of the school’s managing body. In the aftermath of the scandal, the prime minister’s political party Awami League confirmed that Patwary had been sacked from his position in the party.

But this is not the only episode of children being walked all over, as another photo emerged only a day afterwards showing a similar scene: a wealthy businessman walking on the shoulders of a row of school students. Dildar Hossain Prince had just donated land to a school in the district of Jamalpur, and was participating in the school’s celebration of the gift.

Bangladesh authorities have ordered an investigation into the two incidents.

“The students’ parents said they did not send their kids to school to be part of this kind of thing which has a negative impact,” Shahabuddin Khan, chief government administrator of Jamalpur, told AFP.

Patwary published an apology on Facebook. He also republished the incriminating photo of himself in the process of walking over the 'human bridge', juxtaposed with another image showing the practice.

While some Bangladeshis on social media support the maligned politician, saying that human bridges are a traditional practice used to thank or honour someone, he has been harshly criticised by others.

“He should be punished for his uncivilized barbarian behavior!”, said Ahsan Habib on Facebook. Another user called it “the height of savagery”.