Dhaka Central Jail, Keraniganj.
Photo: Prison.gov.bd
Dhaka Central Jail, Keraniganj. Photo: Prison.gov.bd

Jail time in Bangladesh

Shahidul Alam and snapshots from Dhaka Central Jail.

14 August 2018

Breakfast at the jail canteen is parathas, egg mamlet and veggie daal. It takes me back to my university cricketing days, grabbing lunches at the Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH) canteen across the road from the cricket ground, amid the scalding black humour of med students fresh in from their cadaver classes.

I, Rahnuma and Rini have come to the Dhaka Central Jail in Keraniganj to visit photojournalist and activist Shahidul Alam. He was sent here on 12 August, after a scrambled court hearing where his legal counsel could not be present. Keraniganj, across the river Buriganga, is out in the boonies. The jail is a new one, shifted in July 2016 from the old building, a centuries-old, dank, colonial-era structure in the tightly wound alleyways of old Dhaka. Here, in contrast, is space, air and empty fields. We buy visitor passes at an open air shed, across from the modern-looking grey concrete jail complex. A high perimeter wall encloses multistoried buildings that look like student dorms. They house the inmates. The building for meeting with the inmates is embedded in the perimeter separated from the main building; further down are the main gate and the administration block, with a circular driveway and branded signage. The overall effect is vaguely Low Rent Corporate, where, unlike the old one, traditional reckonings of sinners and gallows seem out of place.

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Himal Southasian