When photojournalist Jibon Ahmed posted a photo of a couple kissing on his Facebook account, he had not been expecting the veritable hailstorm of resistance that he was about to face.
The following photo Ahmed in front of Dhaka University's Teachers and Students' Centre:
Despite several positive reactions, Ahmed and his image were soon slammed by the self-proclaimed social media moral police for spreading 'obscenity'.
"An image is subjective and anyone can interpret it the way they want. I cannot really help it. Everyone has a different way of looking at things. To some it's love to some it's obscene," Ahmed told News18.
Following the image, an enraged microblogger wrote, "Lovers are getting more audacious by the day. Earlier these things were done in secret. Now they are doing it in broad daylight. The day is not far when they will be making love in public."
দিন দিন প্রেমিক প্রমিকারা সাহসী হয়ে যাচ্ছে! আগে হত চিপাচাপায়! এখন হয় প্রকাশ্যে! তবে সেই দিন বেশি দূরে নয় যেদিন তারা প্রকাশ্যে জৈবিক কাজ সম্পন্ন করবেন!#Kissing#Open_kissing_in_tsc#TSC#dhakauniversity pic.twitter.com/uXZzFkBFJP
— Tariqul Islam (@tariqul_du) July 23, 2018
Many criticized the image claiming it encouraged harassment of women and rape culture and that it would lead women to unnaturally explore their sexuality and thus leave home.
Social media outrage was not all.
Soon after the photo appeared, Ahmed, who worked with a news platform called Purbapashchim, was attacked by his fellow journalists and photographers.
"They gave me no reason for the assault. I have not taken any legal action because these are my colleagues and I have to work with the same people in future," the photographer said, adding that in Bangladesh, a protracted and public legal battle against a case of moral policing would only hurt his work.
As if social media censuring and assault weren't enough, the seemingly innocent photograph also cost Ahmed his job.
"In this case too, the office gave me no exact reason for firing me. I was just told that I can't work here anymore," Ahmed said.
The photographer also came under attack for the recent image after several people raised questions on the matter of consent, claiming that the image amounted to a breach in the couple's privacy.
Defending the image, the photographer had earlier said that the couple was aware of the photo being taken and did not object to it. He also added that after the image went viral, the couple was contacted and that they ensured that they were okay with it.
According to Ahmed, timing is key.
A few days ago, members of the ruling cadre beat up seniors in Dhaka University allegedly for holding hands, reported The Express Tribune. The photo coincides with an unpopular decision to make Dhaka University off-limits to outsiders. But, Ahmed is no stranger to the right-wing resistance.
In 2015, the photojournalist had been fired from his job after he helped murdered free-thinking blogger Avijit Roy and his wife Rafida Bonya get to the hospital. The couple had been attacked in a book fair allegedly by Islamist militants for Roy's blog which critiqued the problem of religious orthodoxy in Islam. Ahmed had then faced criticism from colleagues and was subjected to endless questioning by the police.
The incident of moral policing once again raised questions about free speech in Dhaka University, once known as a bastion of progressive thought and rebellion as well as in Bangladesh as a whole.
The country has seen a spate of secularist journalists and free-thinking bloggers like Avijit Roy and most recently the Leftist publisher Shahzahan Bachchu to be assassinated by extremist forces.
But Jibon Ahmed remained undeterred.
"Every job will have its own problems. But that does not mean that we quit. A lot needs to change in the world, including people's point of view. A twisted sense of morality cannot dictate an artist's work," Ahmed said.