The Government’s political servitude towards Islamism:
Following the killings of Bangladeshi secular bloggers, writers, and activists at predictably regular intervals; the Bangladesh government officials had made various remarks and statements on this issue. Needless to say, these comments and offhand remarks have jeopardized the safety and security of the bloggers and to some extent encouraged the militants to continue with such heinous crimes of viciously attacking and killing innocent citizens.
Some of these statements and remarks made by the Bangladeshi state authorities are compiled below.
1. April 14, 2016: Prime Minister Hasina says hurting religious sensitivities will not be accepted. She has asked everyone to be careful about what they write and said her government will tolerate no act that disparages religious beliefs and sensitivities.
2. April 9, 2016: Bangladeshi al Qaeda wing declares war on atheists
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan echoed those sentiments on Saturday. He said the issue is not freedom of expression but tolerance of other religions.
“The bloggers, they should control their writing,” he told CNN. “Our country is a secular state… I want to say that people should be careful not to hurt anyone by writing anything — hurt any religion, any people’s beliefs, any religious leaders.”
3. April 7, 2016: Govt to scrutinise slain Nazim’s writings: Minister
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal today said that the write-ups of the slain secular activist Nazimuddin Samad are needed to be scrutinised to see whether he wrote anything objectionable about religion.
4. April 7, 2016: Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal stated that the write-ups of the slain secular activist Nazimuddin Samad are needed to be scrutinized to see whether he wrote anything objectionable about religion. He underscored the need for scrutiny in an interview with BBC Bangla Service when asked about the possible cause behind the killing.
5. May 11, 2015: The political situation in Bangladesh was too volatile for Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to comment publicly on the brutal murder of secular writer and blogger Avijit Roy, the premier’s son Sajeeb Wazed Joy has said.
Joy, the PM’s Information and Communication Technology Affairs Adviser, told Reuters: “We are walking a fine line here.” Blaming political opponents who, he said, seek to destabilise his mother’s government, Joy further said: “We don’t want to be seen as atheists. It doesn’t change our core beliefs. We believe in secularism.”
6. April 8, 2015: Two days after the murder of Niladri Chatterjee Niloy, whose complaint was ignored by the police, the inspector general of police (IGP) AKM Shahidul Hoque advised the bloggers not to write blogs that may hurt religious sentiments.
At a press briefing at the Police Headquarters on Sunday, he also suggested notifying police if anyone’s blog was found to be offensive to religions.
“There will always be free thinkers. I have enough respect for them. But we need to remember that hurting religious sentiments is a crime according to our law.
“Any offender of religious beliefs may get the highest punishment of 14 years imprisonment, but killing someone for that offence is never acceptable,” said Hoque.
He said if anyone were sued for hurting religious feelings, that person would be brought to justice.
“Those who are free thinkers and writers, I will request them, please make sure that we don’t cross the line. Anything that may hurt anyone’s religious sentiments or beliefs should not be written,” he added.
7.March 31, 2013: Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina pledges to punish online insults against Islam
Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today pledged stern action against people found guilty of defaming Islam using the internet as right-wing Islamic parties threatened to wage an intensified street campaign against “atheist bloggers”.
Suppressed Freedom of Speech:
The Bangladesh Government clings to its policy of appeasing the extremists. In the year 2013, the government cracked down on bloggers who were critical of its pro-Islamist stance, arresting four of these writers in the capital of Dhaka. After several months of incarceration, the bloggers were granted bail pending trial; where they face a decade in prison.
Furthermore to thwart the struggle for free speech, it has already enacted pseudo-blasphemy laws in the form of Information and Communication Act-57. Imposing strict restrictions on online freedom of expression, the law violates the international freedom of expression standards. It also criminalizes several legitimate areas of expression through some ambiguous and vague language. It paves the path of legal uncertainty and recent arbitrary interpretations and applications of the law have resulted in arrests of ordinary citizens including adolescents.
The killers are still at large:
Avijit Roy’s murder remains a mystery even more than a year after the incident. Bangladeshi investigators have failed to arrest the killers of Avijit Roy. He was hacked to death brutally by suspected Islamists in the Dhaka University campus. The investigators at the Detective Branch of police detained eight persons in connection with the killing, but none of them confessed yet to their involvement, according to investigation officers. The police could not, or did not, trace the attackers despite the fact that FBI identified possible culprits after analyzing the CCTV video footage.
Except for Ahmed Rajib Haider’s case, the scenario is the same in all the other murder cases. The mastermind behind Rajib’s murder Redawanul Azad Rana is yet to be apprehended; the ideological leader of the Ansarullah Bangla Team Mufti Jasimuddin Rahmani got a lenient sentence of mere five years. When blogger Niloy Neel sought protection from police, Niloy Neel was denied help and instead told by the authorities to flee the country. After a few days, he was killed in his own residence. In the recent murder attempts on publishers which saw the death of publisher Faisal Arefin Dipon, not a single suspect was identified.
Minister Kamal remarked that, investigations have been completed of all the previous cases, “Either the main perpetrators have been detained or identified.” This is a blatant lie as none of the cases are actually being investigated. Bonya Ahmed, the widow of deceased Avijit Roy was never contacted or consulted about the case by the authorities, although she was at the spot and was gravely wounded.
The government has clearly failed to address the attacks properly. Instead, it is using Islam as a wedge for broadening its appeal and tapping into populist support for the nation’s official religion. The demands of ‘Ulama League’, an Islamic wing of the ruling party, echoes with those of the extremists.
The struggle is still on:
Under such pernicious conditions, the secular humanist bloggers of Bangladesh continue to be vocal. For these bloggers, well-being isn’t enough and becomes a sordid burden when it is bought at the price of mortification and subordination, and they are willing to trade their well-being for attaining their goal of establishing fairness, justice and freedom of speech. The prudent course will be continuing to resist the perpetuating vicious circle of injustice, oppression, degradation and bigotry. The rest of the world is already acknowledging this struggle and they are willing to be a part of it.