Bangladesh is in a spell of murdering atheists, humanists and free-thinkers, all for upholding secularist views, by the fundamentalist Islamists in the name of religion. All of these victims were secularists meaning they aspired to see a free democratic society with a clear separation of religion – whatever that religion could be – from the functioning of the State. Religion has its place and it should not spill over to politics, economics and other State activities. These are the views the notorious Jamaat-e-Islam and its multitude of sister organisations loath to see and are prepared to exterminate by vicious murder.

This year alone four high profile secularists have not brutally murdered by the Islamists and as many as ten bloggers were murdered over the past 29 months. A couple of days ago – on 7th of August 2015 – Niladri Chattopadhyay Niloy had been hacked to death in his own home, an apartment at Khilgoan in Dhaka. His crime was that he was a secularist blogger, who asked for punishment of the war criminals during the liberation war period. The killers, five in number, entered into his house at mid-day, when most of the adults in surrounding apartments had gone out to mosques for Friday prayer. They shouted ‘Naraey Taqbir’ and started hacking him, while his wife had been pushed in to the balcony. The Jamaat-e-Islam today condemned the killing of ‘Niloy Hossain’. Who is this ‘Niloy Hossain’ whose killing Jamaat condemns, but not of ‘Niladri Niloy’? How could this inhuman, barbaric organisation stoop so low to insult the memory of the dead person by distorting his name and it calls itself a religious organisation?

Another blogger in Sylhet by the name Ananta Bijoy Das was killed by the Islamists on May 12, 2015. As he was going to work in the morning, he was chased by two or three thugs with machetes and then hacked him to death in full view of the public.

On March 30, 2015 yet another blogger by the name Oyasiqur Rahman Babu was hacked to death in Tajgoan area of Dhaka city as he was going to his office. The assailants struck him with machete from behind and then hacked him to death in broad daylight on the street. One of the assailant was caught red-handed by the public and was handed over to the police. The assailant was taken to the police station and confessed that he knew nothing about his victim’s activities. He was simply asked by his religious leader, the ‘hujur’, to kill the man by the name Oyasiqur Rahman Babu. However, instead of producing the assailant to courts for prosecution, the police later announced that the assailant had escaped from the police custody!

While all of the above victims were Bangladeshi nationals, the first victim of this year, Dr Avijit Roy, was an American of Bangladeshi descent. He along with his wife came to Dhaka on 17 February to launch his latest book called ‘The Virus of Faith’ at the Book Fair in Bangla Academy. He was murdered on the footpath in front of the Teachers Students Centre (TSC) of Dhaka University. Although it was just after dark, the whole area was very well lit and the area had as many as three layers of police cordon to make it secure for the public. Three assailants attacked him and his wife with machetes, killed Avijit and injured his wife and then quietly slipped away under the nose of policemen, who were no more than 10 feet away!

The first such barbarous deed took place more than ten years ago when Prof. Humayan Azad was killed on 27 Feb 2004 for his secular views. Since then bloggers like Asif Mahiuddin (on 15 January 2013), Ahmed Rajib Haider (on Feb 15, 2013) and Arif Raihan Dip (on 9 April 2013) had been killed. The blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider was killed near his house in Mirpur in Dhaka as he was returning home after work. The thugs were waiting for him at the top of the lane. His crime was that he participated in the ‘Ganajagaran Mancha’ demonstration demanding proper punishment for those who committed crimes during the liberation war.

But the irony of the whole episode is that not a single person out of all these killings had been apprehended and produced to courts for conviction. Even when an assailant was caught red-handed by the public and handed over to the police, the police couldn’t keep him in custody! What a joke!

What does all of these incidents indicate? Does it not indicate undeniably that government is complicit in these murders or at least turning a blind eye to all these things? Following Avijit’s death, FBI came over to Bangladesh to help in the investigation of one of their citizens. But they left within a matter of days as they did not get proper cooperation from the local security agents.

The modality the government follows immediately after a murder is that one or more ministers make some strident calls and issue statements condemning such barbarous incidents and proclaim that such things will not be allowed in the country. The reporters out of their enthusiasm and conscience report the incident for a few days in national newspapers and then progressively taper down its coverage as public uproar subsides and then the whole thing goes into oblivion. This pattern had been followed, not once or twice, but in all these cases.

The Prime Minister’s son, Sajeeb Wazed, himself an American, but working in Bangladesh as an IT Consultant said after Avijit’s murder that the government cannot be seen to side with an atheist. What it implies is that this government makes a judgement, after a murder had been committed, whether it would be beneficial for the government party to pursue the case or not. If it is beneficial, it would be followed; otherwise not. With this mind set the government may say that, if a member of the opposition is killed, government cannot be seen to side with the opposition and let the murder go unchecked! When a member of the minority is killed, government would wash its hands off in similar excuses. The government of the country is then like a mafia organisation running the country for party interests only!

When the government said that it cannot side with the atheist, it offered a licence to the fanatics to continue killing people as long as the victim can be branded an atheist. The follow-up of Avijit’s murder does support such contention. The Islamist thugs kept killing people knowing very well that they would not be pursued and, indeed, they have the implicit blessing of the ruling party. Four more murders had been committed since Avijit’s killing, all due to the acquiescence of the government.

It is simply incredible that in a country of age old tradition of decency, humanity and culture and, above all, a functioning government, as many as ten murders had been committed by religious thugs and not a single case had been solved, not a single person had been apprehended. Does it not reflect on government’s gross negligence and incompetence or worse acquiescence?

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