Intro : The Bangladesh Government must take urgent steps to ensure the security of critical bloggers in the country.
Bangladesh remains in international media headlines, most of the time for wrong reasons. Lately the South-East Asian nation has attracted the media attention for repeated slaughtering of bloggers and subsequent protests against the cruel exercise in the name of religion. The media reports from Bangladesh reveal that the miscreants killed the third blogger named Ananta Bijoy Das at Subid Bazar locality in Sylhet on May 12. A banker by profession, Das (33) was killed as he was going to his office in the morning hours. The Sylhet based talented blogger used to edit a Bengali periodical titled Jukti (means logic) and also wrote for Mukto-Mona, an internet blog developed and moderated by late atheist blogger Dr Avijit Roy, who too faced a similar end three months back in Dhaka. Das, who also campaigned for banning the Islamist parties, was lately threatened by some religious extremists for his activities.
Prior to Das, the religious fanatics killed the US based blogger Dr Roy (43) on February 26 and another Bangladeshi activist-writer Washiqur Rahman Babu (27) on March 30 this year in their National capital city. The only visible reason for their brutal murder was that they were humanists and wanted peace and prosperity for everyone including those who follow Islamism.
Born to a Hindu Bangladeshi family in 1972, Dr Roy completed his education in Bangladesh and later migrated to America. An engineer by profession and blogger by passion Dr Roy was a rational thinker and a popular science writer. He started Mukto-Mona, a Bengali language blog (meaning free thinker) to propagate rationalism and promote secular writings. A prolific writer Dr Roy, who used to receive death-threats from Islamist radicals for his activities, left behind his bedridden mother, aged father (Dr Ajoy Roy), a daughter and his wife Bonya Rafida Ahmed, who also faced attacks with him on the fateful evening, but survived with severe injuries.
On the other hand, Washiqur Rahman used to write science and religion. Blogged under pen-name Kutchit Haser Chana (meaning ugly duckling), Rahman often criticised irrational religious belief and practices, those of Islam too. He also advocated for reforms in various Islamic laws across the globe. India’s immediate neighbour Bangladesh is Muslim dominated country with over 15 crore population. Though claimed as a secular democratic nation, its legal system is partially based on Islamic laws.
Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who led a bloody freedom struggle against (West) Pakistan in 1971, promised a secular Parliamentary democratic government in Dhaka, but successive military regimes had almost converted Bangladesh into an Islamised nation.
Meanwhile, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova, in a statement from Paris, voiced grave concern about the safety of citizen journalists in Bangladesh following the killing of bloggers. “I condemn the murder of Ananta Bijoy Das and call on the authorities to ensure that those responsible for this killing are brought to justice,” said Ms Bokova adding that the punishing of such attackers is indispensable to maintain free public debate and free expression by the media professionals and committed citizens alike.
In India, over 500 Kolkata based citizens with authors and bloggers demonstrated their angers against the regular killing of free thinkers in Bangladesh. The May 19 demonstration also demanded ‘exemplary punishment to the killers and adequate protection to those who are exercising their rights to freedom of expression, be it a blogger, author or anybody’. The Journalists’ forum Assam (JFA), in a statement issued by its president Rupam Barua, urged the Bangladesh authorities to take visible actions against the religious fanatics and also extended its moral support to the secular and democratic forces in their relentless fights against the intolerance shown to the free thinkers in the poverty stricken populous country.
NJ Thakuria (The writer is Guwahati based senior journalist)