Bangladesh, especially the secular progressive section of the country, is under attack by two extremely brutal Islamic terror organizations, namely Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) and Islamic State (IS). Both of these organizations belong to the Sunni sect and they adhere to tow different strategies to establish Islamic rule in Bangladesh. While IS can be thought of as an authoritarian movement that indiscriminately attacks and kills on Shites, Ahmadiyas, foreign nationals and other non-Muslims, AQIS thinks of itself as a populist movement and focuses on targets who have the ability to motivate people on secularism, atheism or any progressive values that AQIS deem as anti-Islamic or pro US. For the time being AQIS affiliated group in Bangladesh Ansar Bangla is avoiding the killing of Sunnis and ignoring other minority groups such as the Shites. As they concentrate on their progressive targets, they want to create an impact on the mind set of Sunni population who they want to be on their side.
Since 2012, Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) have coordinated attacks on people who were leading the secular humanist movement in Bangladesh. With each murder they created significant impact by not only silencing the individual, but also by silencing his platform. In the process, they expected to gain moral support from the majority of Bangladeshi Muslims and also from the authority.
Niloy Neel Chatterjee was a promoter of reason, science and secularism. He wrote on many different topics, including atheism, feminism, humanism and different regressive aspects of religion. He created Bangladesh Science and Rationalist Society, organized protest against religious and social injustices, and worked to debunk pseudo-science and superstition. In addition, he, along with friends, created a publishing entity to share enlightened thoughts. He was the progressive product of that Bangladesh which achieved its liberation through a bloody war against Pakistan in 1971. There were others – bright young people who were killed before and after him – Rajib Haider, Avijit Roy, Washikur Babu, Ananta Bijoy Das, Xulhaz Mannan, Mahbub Tanay, Nazimuddin Samad and others. Niloy joined their rank when he was hacked to death in his own apartment, in front of his partner. It was the 7th of August, 2015.
Neel’s last post on Facebook (7th August, 2015). He was killed hour after that.
Before his death Niloy sought help from the police, he tried to file a complaint regarding unknown people who were following him. The police not only refused to register his complain, but rather advised him to go aboard. It was the strategy of the Bangladesh Government, until very recently, to ignore the murders of the atheist writers and bloggers. It is our assumption, the authority, for the fear of a religious backlash kept quiet about these assassinations. In some cases, the authorities might have instigated specific killings when they compared the atheist’s writings as pornography and declared that the atheists have brought this mayhem on themselves by their own doing. When Niloy got killed the Inspector General of Police held a press conference and told bloggers not to cross the limit.
Unfortunately, the groups like Ansar Bangal, which killed Niloy, were and still is crossing all the limits. They continued their actions with tacit moral support from the authority. They kept killing people like Niloy Neel one after another and each time the Bangladesh Government came with the explanation why these writers and activists responsible for their own murder.
After the heinous massacre carried by the IS on July 1 in Dhaka’s Holey Artisan Bakery and Restaurant, the Bangladesh Government seemed to have woken up from a slumber. However, Neel’s murderers are still at large; they are planning to execute another enlighten Bangladeshi as we read this article. While Bangladesh government and the Prime Minister do not have the courage to stand beside the secular progressive community, we, people like Niloy, Avijit, Ananta, Babu. Samad, Xulhaz Mannan and others, will continue own struggle to make Bangladesh free from the virus of faith.
Niloy is dead but thousands of Niloy are not. Bangladesh will regain its secular credential to reclaim its diverse cultural and humanistic traditions. We are in a situation where the darkness of religion is shredding us, but we know that this darkness can only be won by shining the light of knowledge and reason. No matter how many hands pick up machetes, they won’t be able to kill the words of Neel.