Socrates, the great philosopher-teacher of ancient Greece, was sentenced to death on charge of corrupting youths. This happened in 399 B.C.---only five years after the fall of Attica that began a brutal and humiliating decline of the Golden Age of Athens. No doubt, there were wise men at the time Socrates was living but none wiser than him. So his execution makes a bold statement of the socio-political system's utter failure to respect a teacher whose teachings would subsequently change the philosophy of the Western world.
None of the teachers like Hriday Chandra Mondol, Utpal Kumar Sarker and Swapan Kumar Biswas can even remotely be compared with Socrates but because their avowed vocation is teaching, the relations between it and society demand a critical appraisal. Traditionally, teaching in this part of the world has remained a less-paying but a highly respectable profession. Of late though, like practitioners of other trades and occupations, teaching has also degenerated into a highly commercial venture for those whose craft is in high demand in a distorted education market.
Of the three teachers who fell victim to intrigues, false accusations and personal wrath, Hriday Mondal in an unscheduled science class was deliberately asked questions that have nothing to do with science. Obviously, there was an ulterior motive to trap him. But Hriday did at no point make any comment that comes under the purview of defamation. Still, a case was filed against him and he was sent to jail.
In the case of Utpal Sarker, an enraged student, because he was disciplined for wayward behaviour, brutally assaulted his teacher with cricket stumps which led to his untimely death. Even such a tragic end will not earn him a martyr's death for the cause of education.
So far as Swapan Biswas, acting principal of Narail Mirzapur United College, is concerned, he did not die at the hands of his adversaries but the ultimate humiliation he was subjected to was deader than physical death. And all this for no fault of his own! He did what a man in his position ought to do in circumstances like the one involving a Facebook post of a student of his college. Now that the person --- another teacher of the college and a local leader of the ruling party --- has been relieved from the party, it is becoming clear how the turmoil was brewed and local people incited.
Meanwhile, a teacher of the Rajshahi University's law department was harassed by a student and following this the authorities promptly suspended the culprit. Does this make any difference in the prevailing equation between students/society and teachers? Perhaps not. A university is the highest seat of learning and considered a cradle of enlightenment. It was so until fanatics laid claim to the souls of a section of unsuspecting students to lead them astray. Even the environment of universities in some cases has been vitiated so much that liberal and progressive ideals have often become under attacks. A few highly respected university teachers were physically attacked and murdered.
Whether physical decapitation or humiliation of teachers by what is called garland of shoes, any such incident is a national shame. A disgraceful act like humiliating, perhaps a most vicious invention of this part of the world, a teacher with shoe-garland would have raised a storm of protest anywhere in the world. This is moreover in presence of a contingent of law enforcement agency! Even the deputy commissioner of the district was present on the college campus at the time. Why did they go there if this ultimate act of human-rights violation could take place?
If a nation fails to fathom the depth of shame and sacrilege associated with the frenzied act of heaping scorn and retribution by bringing false charge against teachers who are in charge of the young generation's education, it is destined to embrace tragic consequences. Teachers may no longer be what they once were but all the three teachers under review did not commit any crime to deserve what they were meted out.
True, a section of teachers commit unpardonable offences and this does not necessarily give any pretext for harassing, humiliating and even physically assaulting, least of killing innocent ones. If they are belittled, the nation itself finds itself shorn of dignity.
If some intriguing elements were behind all such incidents, who incited people to mindlessly act, why did the saner segment of society not come forward with counter arguments in order to pacify the rabble rousers? More importantly, the kind of national outrage and protests such incidents should invite have been missing so far. This kind of apathy towards a cause of this order only indicates that this nation is getting dislodged from its mooring. Its value system, ethical judgment and the spirit that prompted the nation to fight injustice and exploitation have become rudderless and lost steam.
Without proper social equation, orders in all other areas of life get out of order. The danger lies there. Let the nation realise how important it is to restore a balanced social equation, giving teachers a place of preeminence.