A34 terrOr IN BANGLADesH India Abroad September 25, 2015
‘Avijit used to love birthdays, they were always big celebrations in our house. Hope we can celebrate his special day in a different way this year, with lots of writings in Muktomona’s English and Bangla blogs.
That is something he would love to see,’ Rafida Ahmed
Bonya, the late Bangladeshi-American blogger Avijit Roy’s
widow, posted on Facebook recently.
In another post, she uploaded a photograph of Avijit and
her with a heart-wrenching note: ‘Our last big trip together
to the Andes mountains. I can still see him exactly this way
with his hand on my shoulder. Will he NOT be there ever
in my life?’
September 12 was Avijit’s birthday.
February 26, he and his wife were brutally attacked near
Dhaka University by machete-wielding assailants as the
couple returned from a book fair. They were on a three-week trip to Dhaka from the US.
Grievously injured, Roy died in a Dhaka hospital. Bonya,
who was seriously injured, lost a thumb.
Roy, a scientist with a penchant for writing, promoted
free thinking and founded the blog platform Muktomona
(meaning free thinkers in English).
He was constantly threatened by religious zealots against
Roy’s remarks about fanaticism angered many, including
the militant group Ansarullah Bangla Team, that claimed
responsibility for the attack on him and his wife.
On its social networking platform, Ansarullah Bangla
Team wrote that Roy’s killing was to avenge American
airstrikes on Islamic State.
Its post read: ‘The target was an American citizen.. 2 in 1.
#America recently martyred 2 of our brothers in
#Khurasan & #Shaam. #Revenge+#Punishment.’
Khurasan means Afghanistan and Shaam stands for Syria.
On his Facebook account, self-proclaimed Islamist Farabi
Shafiur Rahman repeatedly threatened Roy with death on
his visit to Bangladesh. Rahman was arrested after the
Though Roy’s killing sparked anger and protests in
Bangladesh and elsewhere, it neither curbed the zealots
nor did it end the ‘systematic process of bloggers’ murders’
Shortly after Roy was hacked to death, blogger Washiqur
Rahman met with a similar fate in Dhaka.
In May, another blogger, Ananta Bijoy Das, was killed in
In August, blogger Neeloy Neel was killed at his home in
All four men were on a list of 84 ‘atheist bloggers’ drawn
up by Islamist groups in 2013 and circulated on every possible social networking platform.
According to Imran H Sarkar, head of the Bangladesh
Blogger and Activist Network, Neel had been an anti-extremist voice of reason.
He had filed a police report expressing fear for his life,
but his complaints were not ‘followed up’, Bangladesh
media reports said.
Why did the Bangladesh government fail to provide Neel
Before each blogger killing, threats against the ‘enemies
of Islam’ were heard.
Yet Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government failed to
In an interview to Rediff.com in April, Professor Ajoy
Roy, Avijit’s father, had said, “Bangladesh is a country of
immensely organized terror outfits. Studies indicate that
several international terrorist organizations, mostly from
Saudi Arabia, regularly send funds to ultra Islamic groups
in the country. It is very difficult to deal with these outfits
through democratic means. Hence, fanatics are finding
Bangladesh a safe haven.”
According to a recent Press Trust of India report,
Bangladeshi intellectuals suspect Pakistan’s hand behind
the brutal attacks and feel international intervention is
required to ensure their safety.
‘These attacks may be executed by radical elements here,
For the family and supporters of blogger Avijit Roy, who was
but the brain behind those is the Pakistani establishment
which has been vehemently opposing trials and sentences
of war criminals,’ blogger Imran H Sarkar was quoted by
PTI as saying.
‘Those attacks on bloggers and threats to liberal minded
intellectuals are the handiwork of the Jamaat-e-Islami and
other radical fundamentalist elements,’ Sarkar told PTI.
All four bloggers who were hacked to death were not only
critical of the rise of fundamentalism but also were stead-
fast in their demand for severe punishment for the war
criminals of the 1971 War of liberation.
‘We are living under a constant reign of fear that we
might be killed any day. The fundamentalist and their han-
dlers are very well aware of the power and the movement
that bloggers and online activists can organise. The blog-
gers are easy targets as they don’t belong to any political
party,’ Sarkar was quoted as saying by PTI.
Sarkar’s views were shared by another blogger and intel-
lectual, Kamal Pasa Chowdhury, who felt that the attacks
could only stop if there is international intervention either
by the United States or the United Nations to ensure the
safety and security of bloggers.
“Bangladesh has ceased to be a secular country. Religious
fanaticism has become the order of the day and everything
is judged by and weighed against religion,” Mohammad
Iqbal (name changed) a Dhaka-based social activist and
non-government organisation worker, told me over the
telephone. “The government of Bangladesh has miserably
failed either to preserve secularism or to provide protection
to the citizens against religious fanaticism.”
“As we live amid constant fear and insecurity,” the activist
added, “we look up to the Western world and its various
peace mechanisms to help us.”
Just as Bangladeshis voiced their concern over the coun-
try’s law and order situation, security forces arrested
Ansarullah Bangla Team chief Abul Bashar and two others
for their suspected links with the killing of bloggers Avijit
Roy and Ananta Bijoy Das.
The Bangladesh government had banned Ansarullah
Bangla Team in May over the bloggers’ killings.
On being informed of this, Iqbal, the activist, breathed a
sigh of relief. “Of course, it’s a laudable success for the secu-
rity forces. But just a handful of arrests won’t help. The
government has to take the most stringent action against
violence and fundamentalism.”
“We can’t afford to lose the well-known spirit of the coun-
try at the altar of mad fanaticism.”
ÂBANGLADESH CANÊT LOSE ITS SPIRIT AT THE ALTAR OF FANATICISMÊ
hacked to death in Dhaka in February, it is a time to reflect on
where Bangladesh is heading, says Indrani roy.
activists of hefajat-e-Islam, a radical Islamist party, demand capital punishment for a group of bloggers and for the introduction of blasphemy laws in Bangladesh, at a rally in Dhaka, april 4, 2013.