Just a few hours ago another atheist social activist was hacked to death by unknown assailants in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Since 2013, Eight secular activists, writers and publishers have been murdered by Islamist extremists. Ahmed Rajib Haider, Shafiul Islam, Avijit Roy, Washiqur Rhaman, Ananta Bijoy Das, Niloy Neel, Faisal Arefin Dipan, Nazimuddin Samad- that’s eight living-breathing-thinking people dead in the last three years. The atheist writers who are still alive have moved out of the country and the ones who are still here live their lives in fear and panic.
All these killings were carried out in near-identical fashion. Assailants ambushed them in the street or in their homes and offices, hacked them to death with sharp machetes, chanted Islamic slogans such as “Allahu Akbar” after the murder and fled the scene. The scenario is more or less the same in all eight murders. What connected the victims is that they were all secular, most of them were atheists and all of them were vocal about Islamist extremism and terrorism in the country.
This whole topic has now become a taboo here. Bangladesh is a Muslim-majority country. Religion is an extremely sensitive topic for them. So, People are afraid to talk about the murders because most of the victims were atheists. They are not even concerned that the murderers went into the victim’s homes, offices to kill them, committed murder in the broad daylight and at night when the victims were surrounded by hundreds of people. People think that they are safe from terrorism because the murderers share the same belief as them. That’s why nobody is too concerned about radicalized religion here. They are unable to realize that their blissful ignorance is not going to stop terrorists from killing them someday.
Also, it seems like the government is not very bothered about these killings. Yes, almost three years after the murder of Ahmed Rajib Haider, two of the murderers were found guilty and sentenced to death, one of them was given a life sentence and six other members received jail terms of five to ten years. But what about the other killers? Two of the murderers of Washiqur Rhaman were caught at the scene of the crime by pedestrians and handed over to the police. Where are they? What is the status of all the other cases? Nobody knows. The government officials talk about the topic like it’s not a big deal. ‘People get murdered every day, right? Why are we fussing about these few cases! There are no terrorists in the country. You are just trying to create a problem in this peaceful society.’ Unfortunately, that wasn’t sarcasm. These words were said by government officials at some time or other in the past three years.
It’s not like Bangladesh is a militant Islamic country like Pakistan; not yet anyway. But it is heading that way. I have no doubt that out Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina wants to govern the country secularly. But being indifferent to attacks on secular bloggers by Islamist militants is not going to help her in any way. But that’s not stopping the government from buttering up religious groups who actively promote radicalization. I get that the Awami League party just wants to increase their voter base but at some point the party has to realize they will never the support of these radicals no matter what.
I am tired of fighting for justice where the word ‘Justice’ doesn’t mean anything. I am tired of seeing my brother’s blood, guts and brain splattered on the floor and streets next to their dead bodies. I am tired of being disappointed in my country.
***If anyone wants to read more about this I’m linking the Wikipedia page here. If you want to know more a number of links and resources are cited there for you.