By now you may have come to know that the founder and one of the moderators of Mukto-Mona blog Dr. Avijit Roy was brutally attacked and hacked to death on 26th February, 2015 in Bangladesh. His visit to Dhaka was primarily to spend time with his ailing mother. However, it was just natural that while there, he would attend Ekushey Boimela (the month-long national book fair held every year in February commemorating the 1952 Bangla language movement). He had two books published this year – “Victoria Ocampo” and “Shunno Theke Mohabissho” (From Zero to Infinity) co-authored by Dr. Mizan Rahman. Both have been well received by readers and critics. He longed for a chance to meet and greet friends and readers in a cordial atmosphere and Ekushey Boimela was indeed a unique opportunity for him. Understandably, he was enjoying a great time in the book fair.
While returning home, he and wife Rafida Ahmed Bonya (also attached to Mukto-Mona) were attacked by two unidentified assailants near the Teacher Student Centre (TSC) intersection of Dhaka University. They stopped and dragged the couple from rickshaw on to the pavement before striking them with machetes, according to witnesses. Avijit was struck and stabbed with deep wounds in the head. His wife was slashed on her shoulders and a finger of her left hand was severed. Both of them were rushed to Dhaka Medical College Hospital by a photojournalist on duty. Avijit died at 10:30 pm. Severely injured Bonya was transferred to Square Hospital later. Now she is back in USA and is receiving further treatment.
The founder of Mukto-Mona was not Avijit’s only identity, he was the pioneer of the free thinking movement and a spirited advocate of freedom of thought and expression in Bangladesh. His activism did not stop with mere establishment of this blog site. To spread logical thinking, freethinking, humanism and scientific rationalism among the Bangla speaking community he regularly engaged in writing and other ventures. He established himself as the main icon and leading figure of contemporary Bangla freethinking movement through his extraordinary talent, relentless effort and deep dedication. He wrote about uselessness, redundancy and vices in religions, and about religious superstitions. He pointed out how religions hold back the progress of a society. But this was not his only contribution. He continuously motivated Bangla speaking community everywhere to be logical thinkers. Nothing good can be brought to society by blind faith. Each and every topic needs to be scrutinized and measured with logical yardstick. He was a polymath writing about all subjects but nearest to his heart was writing about science topics in Bangla. Avijit was a trendsetter in popular science writing in Bangla and that took him to such a height that none of his contemporaries could reach him. He is the pioneer in writing in Bangla about topics of the latest thought, developments and innovations in science. Neither his predecessors nor contemporaries have written about science with such lucidity and ease of language.
His wife and comrade Bonya Ahmed is a leading freethinker herself, famous for her own accomplishments. She was closely involved with Mukto-Mona from its inception. Her book “Biborton Er Poth Dhorey” (Treading in the path of evolution) undoubtedly is the best book on evolution in contemporary Bangla science literature.
Both of them are leaders in freethinking and in the fight for freedom of expression. Their long withstanding struggle against communalism, religious dogmatism, superstition and pseudoscience is well recognized, and precisely the reason they have been targets of religious fundamentalists for a long time. Consequently, this attack is not only an attack on two individuals rather a heinous attempt to destroy the ongoing revolution of Mukto-Mona.
Four or five days prior to Avijit’s murder, we heard complaints about accessing Mukto-Mona website in Bangladesh. Many thought the Government of Bangladesh blocked access to the site. We tried to gather news from various sources but could not confirm authenticity of this claim. Our technical team is of the opinion that technical problems were behind it. They are working day and night to solve the issues. We hope to overcome this problem pretty soon. In the meantime, if you would like to visit Mukto-Mona please do so by downloading torbrowser from the below link:
There should be no problem accessing Mukto-Mona through this. Please share this with anyone you know who is having trouble accessing the site, we will be much obliged.
Throughout history whoever encouraged freethinking and freedom of speech were subject to attack by reactionaries. Fundamentalists could not stand them, they mercilessly savaged them on countless occasions. Socrates had to embrace death by sipping hemlock, Hypatia was butchered in streets of Alexandria, Bruno was burned to death, Galileo was put behind bars in a dark cell, Avijit Roy was slain with sharp machete, Bonya Ahmed is bedridden with gruesome injury. But even after these, the freethinking movement could not be halted. We lost Avijit, but Avijit did not lose. Mukto-Mona and freethinkers will not lose either.
Society will move forward, no matter how much effort is deployed to pull it backwards. Despite that fact, each revolution tends to be tainted with blood. Without sacrificing blood, no revolution achieves success. That’s why Avijit wrote:
“Those who think victory will be achieved without bloodshed are living in a fool’s paradise. From the moment we have started writing about topics like religious extremism and fanaticism, we knew our lives were in danger. Jamat-Shibir-Razakars are not venom-less snakes, we realized this in 1971. During 80’s and 90’s I’ve read countless descriptions of horrific slaying by Shibir. My close friends were among those who were injured.”
An unfortunate norm of impunity prevailing in Bangladesh has continuously patronized these killers. We saw there was no prosecution of Dr. Humayun Azad’s assassins, none for Rajib Hayder’s killers either. We do not want the same fate for Avijit’s case. Right now Mukto-Mona demands the Government of Bangladesh to find the killers at the earliest and prosecute them following a proper investigation.
Mukto-Mona is passing through a critical juncture. We ask for the highest level of solidarity and support from you at this immensely difficult time. Be with us, support us, be together and be each other’s strength. Your support will boost our strength to a great extent.
Mukto-Mona shall not deviate from its original ideal and purpose as established by Dr. Avijit Roy. It is proven through the cowardice attack on Avijit and Bonya that we can successfully strike the reactionary block. The acceptance of Mukto-Mona by countless youngsters and its popularity among the progressives in the society became a cause for irritation to religious fanatics. These cowards did not have the courage to face Avijit’s sharp logic, hence they resorted to machete. Yet, they could not defeat Avijit, he is victorious even in his death. This secular humanist lion-hearted soul contributed his organs and his whole body for medical research and for betterment of science. While alive he worked for human progress, in death his great spirit is not halted.
Creatures of the dark are giving desperate death-bites. Let us all be together, be close, hand in hand. Victory will be ours! We shall win! Avijit Roy expressed similar hope before his demise.
“I can clearly sense that the time of Jamaat-Shibir-Saydee-KaderMollah etc. is nearing an end. They try to give the final and severest bite like a creature struggling against death. Do you remember 1971 killing spree by these vultures just two days before our victory to clear off Bangladeshi intellectuals? Do you recall just before the fall of autocrat Ershad how Dr. Milan had to sacrifice his life? These are evidences. Their final moment has arrived. Our victory is inevitable.”
Yes, our victory is inevitable.
Yes, we will win this battle. You can silence the words with machetes, but not the voice.
Each and every one, raise your voice, high.
Written by: Mukto-Mona Moderator
Translated by: Shuborna Senjtui