“This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave”, said Elmer Davis.
Her thought may have been directed to a land that is not ours but it is a perfect fit when days such as 26th of February comes to our door.
In Bangladesh, this is the age of emptiness of the brain, stolen voices, silence, and submission.
It’s an age when human purity is damaged by the covetous, crooked outfits and individuals like Al-Quida, ISIS, Ansarullah, Ahmed Safi, Mejor Zia and the rest.
In this age when killing, threat, arrest, and imprisonment are the new normal, promotion of reason and knowledge is no longer for the cowards. It is here that Avijit Roy stood out as a beacon of hope- living a life of a public intellectual that most of us would not dare to pursue. He was one of the handful among us who had the courage of convictions to speak and do what is right.
In the evening of February 26, 2015, days after Ekushey February — the very day that symbolises our linguistic freedom — Avijit Roy was killed by the militant group Ansarullah, on his way home from the most sacred sanctuary for a Bengali writer, the Ekushe Book Fair.
For ages, our society valued and protected its actors, writers, academics, and artists. But, because of the years of the shameless exaltation of ignorance, we now have entered an arrogant intolerant phase where we cowardly witness the murders of the best among us.
Banning books, attacking arts, chasing writers out of the country, harassing anyone who doesn’t agree with the existing ideas of the society has become our new normal.
Dr. Muhammad Jafar Iqbal needs police protection in our country. Dr. Shahidul Alam spends months in prison. Yet, they’re lucky compared to the fate of Dr. Humaun Azad, professor Rezaul Karim, and not to mention Dr. Avijit Roy.
We have forgotten the fundamental values on which our nation was forged upon for narrow political gains. If we were respectful to those values – equality, free expression and so on – and defended them none of these would have happened.
If we really believed in the rights that are guaranteed by the Constitution, maybe none of this would have happened. If that was the case, we would have by now, at least, witnessed a fair trial. Instead, it has been four years since the day, we are still having the dialogue who actually killed Avijit Roy?
However, in the hearts of the heart, we all know who killed him. You did. You may not have pulled the trigger, or maybe you were not present physically at the murder scene but you were behind it. You all are.
You all have killed Avijit. The Bangladeshi state killed him by failing to act when those violent Islamic fundamentalists threatened the freethinkers of violence.
A contingent of police was stationed within metres away from where he was killed. They didn’t stop the murderers who weaved their way through everyday life and hacked their victim in cold blood. Police killed him.
The justice system was at the forefront of this act of murder like all other killings happens in the country. The perpetrators knew that our old, incompetent criminal justice system has no ability to deliver justice unless the victim comes from the higher end of the country. It’s a system that doesn’t care whether the criminals are punished or not.
The academics killed him by failing to make a stand when the state turned a blind eye on the violent Islamic fundamentalists, by supporting the rulers beyond the call of duty, by being lured by greed.
Most importantly, the Bangla Academy – the institution that was created with a sole purpose of representing the writers and academics killed him more brutally than others by banning his books from being sold in the book fair, by bowing to the demands of the ignorant fundamentalist outfits.
We together planned Avijit’s killing. We planned it for decades. Those who were at the scene physically have just executed the plan.
Now, on the fourth anniversary of his assassination, as someone who is deeply inspired by the ideals Avijit had stood for, I’m here today offering an apology to those who felt offended because of his thoughts and to all of you who have killed him.
You’re entitled to an apology because, like all other writers, he desired to write that speaks the truth. He should have realised that truth is not palatable to the bigots, and acted appropriately.
Your religion is followed by the overwhelming ninety percents of the population of Bangladesh. How dare he said that your religion is a delusional perverted ideology? How dare was he to say that the superpower you believe in does not exist? How dare was he to ask you to think rationally and scientifically?
Had he forgotten that you’re the mainstream of the Bangladeshi population and those who he tried to defend are dispensable in the name of peace and harmony of the nation?
I’m sorry for his lack of understanding that it is unpalatable for you when he spoke of inequalities and injustices prevalent in our society.
But most importantly, I’m sorry that he tried to defend you.