Bangladesh court bans Bollywood movie on 2016 Dhaka cafe attack

DHAKA, 21 Feb 2023:

The Bangladesh high court yesterday banned the screening of the Indian film Faraa, which fictionalised the 2016 extremist attack in Dhaka cafe, on online platforms in the country.

The high court bench of justices Md Khasruzzaman and Md Iqbal Kabir issued the order on the petition filed by Ruba Ahmed – mother of Abinta Kabir, who was among those killed in the attack in Dhaka’s Holey Artisan cafe.

On 1 July 2016, five armed men laid siege to the Holey Artisan Bakery for 12 hours in an upscale neighbourhood in Dhaka – frequented by foreigners – and killed 22 people, including nine Italian and seven Japanese nationals.

“The court directed the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission not to allow this movie on any online platform,” said Ahmed’s lawyer Ahsanul Karim.

Bangladesh does not allow Indian films in its movie halls.

In her petition, Ruba claimed her daughter was portrayed inappropriately, in a manner that assassinated her character and scandalised her, said the lawyer Karim.

“Also, this movie has portrayed Bangladesh in a way it has degraded the image of the country as sovereign state,” said the attorney.

Earlier on Jan 19, Ruba had made similar claims at a press conference in Dhaka, saying the film would damage the reputation of Bangladesh.

The Hindi-language film Faraaz, named after one of the victims of the attack and directed by Hansal Mehta, premiered at a film festival in London in October and was expected to be released in India on Feb 3.

The Islamic State had claimed responsibility for the attack on the Dhaka cafe, although the Bangladesh government maintained the attack was masterminded by the homegrown jihadist group Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh.

After the incident, the media reported that Faraaz Hossain, one of the hostages, was given the option to leave since he was a Bangladeshi national – but he refused to go without his two friends, among them Abinta, and died with them.

This is the story that Indian filmmaker Mehta appears to have brought to life in his movie, causing outrage among several of the families of the victims.

Abinta’s family, in January, had accused filmmakers of not showing any empathy towards the family members, and not even apologising for their insensitivity.

This is not the first film about this attack to be embroiled in controversy in Bangladesh.

The Asian country had blocked the release of another thriller Shonibar Bikel, by popular Bangladeshi director Mostofa Sarwar Farooki, in 2019.

The Bangladesh Film Sensor Board cleared the movie for release in January on condition that it would give a disclaimer that the movie is not linked to the attack.

The film is yet to be released in Bangladesh.

Between 2013 and 2016, Bangladesh witnessed a series of Islamist attacks against religious minorities, foreigners, gay activists, intellectuals and bloggers critical of fundamentalism.