On 15th of July, Bangla bloggers were disconcerted to find that they could not access Sachalayatan , a popular Bangla blogging platform that focuses on literature and contemporary issues, from within Bangladesh. Those living outside Bangladesh, however, had no problems with accessing the site.
In the beginning, people thought it was a server problem. However, gradually it became clear that it was not so. The blog administrators, after thorough checks announced that there were no technical errors at their end. The host too stated that there were no problems with the server.
Then why was the site not accessible? Soon it was established that the problem was the result of the IP and port being blocked by the ISP BTCL (Bangladesh Telecommunications Company Limited). As BTCL almost single-handedly covered the total internet connectivity in Bangladesh, this block was thereby preventing hundreds of bloggers from accessing the popular site from within Bangladesh.
By the 16th, when the site continued to remain elusive from within the country, bloggers began to get worried. Their worries got compounded after the head of the internet division of BTCL refused to comment when questioned about the issue. The site continued to remain blocked.
On 18th July, the site was accessible for a short while from Bangladesh when, instead of BTCL, the internet connectivity was provided by V-Sat. Bloggers rejoiced and heaved a sigh of relief only to see the blog platform disappear as soon as the BTCL gateway resumed service.
In the absence of clear facts, the blogosphere was soon rife with rumors, apprehensions, accusations and protests. Some bloggers blamed the site administrators for the lapse. Others hypothesized that perhaps certain recent posts pertaining to war-criminals and more specifically some articles protesting the assault of a war veteran by Jamaat-e-Islami activists,(a group that is alleged to have played a questionable role in the country's fight for freedom in 1971), could have brought on the wrath of the powers that be who, as a result had ordered an unofficial ban. (The article being talked about, written by Faruk Wasif , has been translated by Unheard Voices, Drishtipat's blog ).
As more time passed, the apprehension of a ‘ban’ began to spread and bloggers started protesting against what they felt was a slur on freedom of expression. Arronnyok Sourov wrote that trying to muffle free speech in this manner will not be successful as there will be strong voices of protest everywhere. Muktangan, a group blog also added their voice to the protest. Also, a group was promptly created on Facebook – Unban Sachalayatan which started keeping bloggers updated on the status as well as tried to create awareness and raise a voice against the inaccessibility of the blog platform. Others like Pralap were already helping bloggers access the blocked site through proxies.
Finally, the blog administrators published a post clarifying their stand and spoke of 2 possibilities for the block:
১. সচলের ওপর কোন ধরনের নিষেধাজ্ঞা আরোপিত হয়েছে।
২. বিটিসিএল প্রান্তে কোন কারিগরি ত্রুটি ঘটেছে।
যদি কোন ত্বরিৎ নিষেধাজ্ঞার কারণে এমনটি ঘটে থাকে, তাহলে সচলায়তনের সদস্য ও পাঠকরা মর্মাহত ও বিস্মিত, এবং তারা বাংলা ব্লগোমন্ডলের অন্যতম জনপ্রিয় এই অনলাইন লেখক কমিউনিটির ওপর থেকে নিষেধাজ্ঞা প্রত্যাহারের দাবি জানায়।
যদি বিটিসিএল প্রান্তে কোন কারিগরি ত্রুটির কারণে এমনটি হয়ে থাকে, অতি সত্বর এই ত্রুটি নির্দেশ ও নিরসন করার অনুরোধ রইলো সংশ্লিষ্ট কর্তৃপক্ষের কাছে।
1. There is some sort of a ban/ restriction on Sachalayatan
2. There is some technical error at the BTCL end.
If the reason is a flash ban on Sachalayatan then readers and members of the site are deeply hurt and taken aback; they demand that the ban be lifted from thei beloved online writer community
If the block is due to some technical error on the part of BTCL then we request the concerned authorities to rectify the problem at the earliest.
The administrators also requested bloggers to remain calm and patient till the truth was dug out; they were to refrain from fanning rumors that could lead to unwarranted consequences.
The ‘technical error’ hypotheses gained acceptance among bloggers like Sushantaa . Mahbub Morshed too felt that it had to be a technical error since there was no reason for the authorities to ban Sachalayatan.
The stalemate however continued. Finally on 25th July, Sachalayatan went and got itself a new IP address and since then, bloggers have been able to access the site without any problems. Now comes a period of wait and watch. Regular blogging however continues unabated.
We hope the scare was just a blip in the ISP radar and its finally all well at Sachalayatan.