If we knew what we know now about what was going on prior to Niloy Chatterjee’s killing, we could probably predict this would happen – perhaps even the means and methods of it. For those who are sincerely thinking about eradicating this problem – and I am convinced that there are many in power, who do not – face a very rudimentary obstacle: how to deal with the sadistic killers who, it seems are implementing a strategy of imposing a reign of terror. Since there is no way to engage these marauders in a rational discussion of what is the criteria they use to select their victim, where in their religious system they find the rational for their barbarism, who has appointed them the guardian, protector and enforcers of those rationales if there are any, we have in our hands a problem that does not yield to resolution most civil societies are able to pursue. They pick the criteria and decide who to hack to death next, and so far they have done so with impunity. The did however in the past declared their goal of imposing in Bangladesh a sharia based system of governance; but no one is willing to take seriously or admit to its link to the targeted killing spree.
How is this possible in a civilized society? How is it possible that in the name of a religion that claims peace as its fundamental appeal, this barbarism can go on? Yet more puzzling is the thinking and goal of these assassins and their leader or leaders. Do they really think they will physically eliminate (by killing or displacing) a large portion of the population (mostly minorities) to achieve their goal, for what they perceive as criticism of their religion? Is this the true nature of this religion; where are the defenders of the alternate interpreters of it? Are they also cowed by the same beasts so much so that they are afraid of openly opposing them? Do they not see any downside to not standing against those who are hijacking their religion?
Out of blood and tears of millions, we created a free country because our experience with religion based politics was to suffer oppression, exploitation, and anti-democratic policies; the religious bond that was the basis of creation of Pakistan soon turned into a tool for oppression. But soon after, our leaders, even those who claimed to be secular, decided on a path of appeasement with the purveyors of politics who use religion as the ram-rod. These are not the ones for whom “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions” (Marx in A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right 1843), these are seekers of power and privilege, of fame & fortune, and they trade in death and destruction to get their way! And it is incredibly depressing to observe how weak and miniscule the organized opposition to the carnage is, and the inability/unwillingness of most of the citizens to recognize that the intent of the fanatics is to do in Bangladesh what was done in Afghanistan under Taliban. If it sounds like exaggeration one ought to look up the latest declarations of the leaders of those who are determined to create a Caliphate, not the kind during which Islam reintroduced to the world the knowledge of ancient Greeks, created places of learning for Muslim, Jewish and Christian scholars to contemplate together, learned mathematics from the Hindus, etc., and produced polymaths such as Ibn Khaldun. I understand there are designated operational units for the subcontinent to make sure it is made part of the planned revival!
Hope those who are appealing to the authorities to do something about the situation, do not expect much: they ought to do it, but they have not, and will not. The current leader of AL is a poorly educated but street smart, vengeful individual still immersed in feudal culture, driven by insecurity and ambition, and with an affinity for fundamentalism. Someone close to her, a supporter, but a bit more liberal, has reported that she is very interested in establishing an Islamic University in Bangladesh – as if we need more training school for assassins! Like her predecessor she has allowed the fundamentalists to infiltrate the administration at every level, including the military, and in general encourages spreading of a religious culture. She has allowed within her ranks those who are demanding banning of bloggers. These are the people in law enforcement who told Niloy to leave the country – exactly the (minimum) goal of those who are plotting to establish sharia based regime – when he sought protection from killers who were threatening and following him around. They are the ones who admonishes the bloggers not to cross some ‘boundary’ in what the write. These ignoramuses are the regime’s spokesperson defining democracy, freedom of speech, right to protest, etc.! As long as the Supreme Leader can claim that Bangladesh has become a ‘middle-income’ country, it matters not who gets killed and why. It does not matter that those who do not like what the bloggers (or Taslima Nasreen) write, are not compelled to read those; and that is why freedom of expression is possible and necessary in a democracy; need for new thinking to emerge through debate and discussion, essential for civilization to make progress. So are essential unconditional freedom of speech, press and assembly; the real constraint on these is that if these are against their interest they will reject them; they do not need politician to tell them what their interests are! There is nothing more heinously anti-democratic as politicians in power treating adult citizens like children, and dictate what people should think, write about, listen to, etc.
All indications are that the authorities are making it possible, as innocuously as they can arrange for it, to physically eliminate voice of descent. The political establishment is dangerously insecure and this is how ignorant, devious, vengeful, crude, self-serving, despicable politicians behave. Under their democracy, fundamentalists are free to define and decide how others should live; minorities are to live in fear and insecurity of losing their home and hearth – often times more; it is women’s fault that they are being raped and assaulted by their ‘student’ goons in broad day light in front of crowds; non-believers are ‘banned’; and the ‘civil society’ can keep pontificating as long as they do not challenge what the regime hopes is its permanent hold on power. The regime does not care that their effort to curb freedom of expression, press, assembly are pushing the country towards fascism. Bloggers may be critical of religion, but surely, they pose no threat! No religion that has been in operation as long as Islam has can be so vulnerable as to be damaged by subjective observations of a handful of people who are experimenting with ideas. I have come to agree with Avijit’s father Professor Ajoy Roy that the killings cannot be happening without direct or indirect connivance of the regime in power. Given the results (or lack thereof), one wonders if they bring in FBI to better hide the evidence that might reveal the tracks of the killers!
My humble opinion is that if the bloggers wish to continue, they and their supporters need to organize themselves; one of the thing that make them so vulnerable is their self-designed isolation. And they need to cream at the top of their voices to alert the country that what the killers of Niloy and others before him doing is the continued implementation of the policy that was behind annihilation of the intellectuals in 1971. In this context the deafening silence of the ‘civil society’, their timidity is all the more pathetic; the slumber they are in is deadly!
I will end by observing that there seem to be some truth in the saying, people get the (political) government they deserve. That is the case in Bangladesh. The small contingent of progressives in the country are raising their voices in protest, but their work becomes more difficult: how do you make progress when even the basic democratic rights are being eroded every minute! If people do not see that what the zombie-like followers of the sadistic Ansar-ullah (or Ansar-ullahs, or whoever is actually running this killing machine) is the harbinger of very dark very painful future for themselves, than nothing will happen. Unless they think a messiah will to come to the rescue, people have to reject and rise up against the brutality in the name of religion; unfortunately the messiah thing does not work.