It was someday in 2004, I got to know the name of Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury – a radical journalist from Bangladesh – arrested a year back in 2003 at Dhaka International Airport after he returned from Tel Aviv. By that time I was in Print Media Journalism and had curiosity over the news about Shoaib Choudhury.
Going through many Bangladeshi newspapers and some International newspaper, I got the headline about Shoaib Choudhury’s arrest as “Mossad agent arrested in Bangladesh Airport”. I had inspected the photographs of Shoaib Choudhury with handcuffs – he had a mysterious smile on his face which gave many hints. After checking his several photos under arrest, I came to the point – this person is not an easy nut.
In 2010, we, some youths started Times of Assam after several years of planning, strategies, and discussion. (Late) Mukul Mahant was the pioneer planner of the news portal. As per committee decision, initially I had to take charge of Editor and Priyankan Goswami was selected as Assistant Editor.
Though Priyankan was junior to me by age he was the most creative planner of context in Times of Assam. Days continued and soon we got the approval of Google News.
Surprisingly – after the launching of the news portal – we received some articles from one Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury from Bangladesh. I checked his Email Signature and talked to Priyankan about it. I told details about Shoaib Choudhury to Priyankan and Priyankan to became curious about Mr. Choudhury. We started publishing reports and articles of Mr. Choudhury in Times of Assam. Each of his reports and articles pulled huge readership from all over the world.
I used to collect as much detail about Shoaib Choudhury I can and sent to Priyankan to analyze. Priyankan had knowledge about the awards those Mr. Choudhury received.
The journey of Times of Assam with Mr. Choudhury suddenly got a break when Mr. Choudhury was re-arrested 2012. Priyankan asked me, “What’s going on Dhruba da? Why he is being arrested again and again?”
By then, almost all Bangladeshi newspaper started badmouthing about Shoaib Choudhury and started publishing news against Mr. Choudhury without maintaining any journalism ethics. Bangladeshi Court announced conviction of Mr. Choudhury and campaign to release Mr. Choudhury reached to White House, US Congress. As Mr. Choudhury was a part of Times of Assam, it was our duty to defend him and we too took part in the campaign and published demand of his release.
Observing worldwide campaign on behest of Mr. Choudhury, I told Priyankan, “Wait and watch the game. Yes, we will miss him always. But I know, one day he will walk out of the prison like a Tiger. The Bangladesh Govt accused him being a Mossad agent – but the fact is Bangladeshi Passport prohibits its citizen visiting Israel and that was the offense by Mr. Choudhury. You be assured Priyankan, someday soon Bangladesh Govt will have to pay for playing with a country like Israel.”
Years past – but Mr. Choudhury wasn’t being able to come out of Bangladeshi Prison. Some of our ex-member of Times of Assam committee asked to remove Mr. Choudhury’s name for Times of Assam’s Editorial Staff. Me and Priyankan had to take the strong stand on it and committee were re-formed after expelling most members over the issue of Mr. Choudhury. I told the committee before the reformation, “Mr. Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury served Times of Assam with several great reports which need courage and how many of you have that courage? Look at Indian journalists. Look at Journalists of Assam. Who had suffered decade-long Govt harassment like him and still maintaining his radical character in journalism??”
Priyankan supported my decision without a second of hesitation and decision was taken strictly. “We, the Times of Assam won’t ever remove Mr. Choudhury’s name from our Editorial panel. At his bad time, all we can do is giving him this honor by keeping his name and designation as it is in Times of Assam. Even if he failed to come out of jail in this life, we will always honor him this way. And this is our final decision. Whoever is not agreed, can withdraw membership and leave the committee.”
On August 3, 2018, I got to know about the release of Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury from the prison after 5 years and 8 months. Immediately I told Priyankan, “See, he is back. I told you, his smile with the handcuff in his hands meant lots.” Priyankan Goswami smiled and expressed and happiness hearing this. It was was like a victory of Times of Assam and Weekly Blitz(which Mr. Choudhury operated as Editor).
So far I know Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury as an anti-jihadist journalist and the Editor of the bold newspaper “Blitz”- but I never knew he is also into the Musical field. On August 11, 2018, I came to know about his interest in music and I listened to a few of his songs. That is a pleasant individual Mr. Choudhury is! It was more surprising to know that Mr. Shoaib Choudhury’s ancestors are from Karimganj district of Assam who got separated in British regime. Shoaib Choudhury expressed his ambition of promoting new artists from Assam through his folk songs. Hopefully, in the nearest future, people in Assam will know him as a good lyricist with some deep thought lyrics and some heart touching tunes.
Just after his release, I asked Shoaib Choudhury, what he thinks about Jerusalem. His response was spontaneous and straight. He said, “The word Jerusalem is in Hebrew. It is the eternal and undivided capital of Israel and I am thankful to the US President Donald Trump for taking the right decision of moving their US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.”
I asked, what he thinks about the two-state formula and the Palestinians. He said, “Their two-state formula is lifeless. How can a terrorist group like Hamas even be allowed to run a country to use it as the launch-pad of global terrorism! It can’t be done. Arabs need to now realize and appreciate the reality and abandon their false statehood. That’s the only solution.”
After going through the US resolution titled – H.Res.64 – “Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the Government of Bangladesh should immediately drop all pending charges against Bangladeshi journalist Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury” in the weblink https://www.congress.gov/bill/110th-congress/house-resolution/64, me and Priyankan Goswami become more confident that we did the right by honoring Mr. Choudhury in our Editorial Panel even in those 5 years and 8 months of his jail period.