Freedom of expression

The last posts of murdered Bangladeshi blogger Ananta Bijoy Das

Ananta Bijoy Das was hacked to death by a machete-wielding gang in Sylhet on Tuesday. He is the third secular-atheist writer to be killed in Bangladesh since February.

Ananta Bijoy Das was posting on his Facebook page hours before he was murdered on the streets of Sylhet on Tuesday. A contributor to the Mukta Mona blog run by the atheist blogger Avijit Roy – who was killed and his wife, injured, earlier this year in Dhaka – Das was outspoken and fearless in his criticism. Here are three of his final posts.

On dereliction of duty by the police: May 11, 2015

When Avijit Roy was murdered, the police were standing nearby and watching the spectacle. The murderers left unscathed after their act. Later the police claimed there had apparently been no dereliction of duty. One would love to know what their duty was.

When the murderers were escaping after killing Oyasiqur Rahman Babu, the police had been standing by then too, But unfortunately for them, they could not say that on this occasion too they had not abandoned their responsibilities. For a person of the third gender, named Labanya, captured the murderers, who were sent to jail.

The police were paper tigers when women were being molested one by one before an audience of thousands at the new year celebrations. They were engaged primarily in not neglecting their duty. They were busy clearing the way for the sexual offenders to escape. So when Lyton Nandi and several others nabbed some of the sexual terrorists and handed them over to the police, the police released them after some time.

When there was an uproar in the media about this, the police categorically denied any such incident. No one had complained to them. When the molesters were spotted on CCTV footage, they fell silent. The old guitar began to be played again. No one had complained to them. The police are inactive even after several of the sexual terrorists have been identified. There’s no dereliction of duty.

When a number of leftist organisations, including students’ unions, submitted a memorandum of protest to the police, demanding to know why the offenders were not being arrested, why not even attempts were being made, the police pounced on them, injuring university students with the butts of their guns and their boots. Here too I was told that the police had not abandoned its responsibility. But I’m very keen to know what the real responsibility of the police is.

On the recent earthquake in Nepal: May 1, 2015
“We must not expect much of religious fanatics. Whether these fanatics are Pakistani, American Christians, or Indian Hindus. At the end of the day they belong to the same cattle pen.”



On ‘Sylhet fundamentalism’: May 12, 2015


A ruling Member of Parliament has expressed a desire to whip a teacher of Shahjalal University in public. Whips used to be wielded by zamindars once. They would skin their subjects alive on the slightest of transgressions. But no one protested against the zamindars’ daylight robbery. We have to say we’re fortunate that the age of zamindars no longer exists. But like the all but extinct organ, the appendix, a handful of leftover zamindars remain. Will you let us know which clan of appendices you belong to, Janab Parliamentarian?

Hearing of the MP’s desire to use the whip, I too want to know, as Professor Azad did, I no longer need to know what examinations you’ve passed, tell me what you’ve failed. Those are pygmies compared to a professor when it comes to intelligence, talent and skills actually dare talk of whipping the very same professor! That’s education in the Kalyug for you.

You became a member of the university syndicate on the strength of being an MP, and now you think you’ve conquered the world. As an member of a House whose members are not elected, you should be humble. But the insolence of power that all of you unelected MPs demonstrate sets a benchmark in shamelessness.

Parliamentarian, we do not need to know whether you have ever stood on the threshold of a university. Why don’t you tell us the name of one of your primary schoolteachers instead – if the teacher were alive, we would have informed him that he should have opted for agriculture instead of imparting education to such an arrogant person for money. Why did he have to tarnish the profession of teaching!

Janab Parliamentarian has accused this particular professor of ‘hatred for Sylhet’. But janab, where’s the need for displaying so much casual love for Sylhet? Is Sylhet an enclave of a different country within Bangladesh, or is it an enclave of Bangladesh within some other country? Will you ever be able to prove that the professor who is the subject of your so-called allegation is a ‘Bangladesh-hater’? What’s behind your resentment of the professor?

We’re told that this MP’s father was an influential member of the peace committee associated with the Pakistan’s genocide in 1971. And the professor at our university is a steely and courageous voice against the those opposed to independence. In the classroom and in his writings and his speeches, he speaks of the Muktijuddho, the war for freedom, he speaks of the consciousness of ’71, of independence, or trying war criminals, of a secular Bangladesh. It is probably because the students love Bangladesh from their hearts and have been toiling indefatigably for a long time that our MP starts burning at the very mention of the professor’s name. The equation is simple.

The MP has alleged that this particular professor is resonsible for the people of Sylhet not getting a chance to study at the university. Laughable! The people of Sylhet will take entrance exams and go to university on ther basis of their merit – who can have a problem with this? To those who want regional quotas for people from Sylhet, I have this to say – if the people of Dhaka demanded that no one but them should be allowed to study at Dhaka University, if the people of Chittagong make the same demand for Chittagong University, if the same cry is raised in Rajsahi, in Khulna, in Barisal, then Bangladesh no longer needs to called a unified nation. Every region could become independent on the basis of its university. Do people from Sylhet not study at Dhaka University, at Chittagong University, at Rajashi University – or at Shahjalal University for that matter?

Janab Parliamentarian, the word university refers to universality. But what a few Sylhet fundamentalists like you say creates the impression that you and your ilk do not consider the university anything more than a private kindergarten in your locality. Because you’re an MP in power, you are might be a member of the management committee of a private school of kindergarten, which is why you see no difference between a university and a family-owned kindergarten.

To Sylhet fundamentalists, Sylhet is not a part of Bangladesh, it is a separate nation. So my suggestion is that you should make Sylhet secede from Bangladesh first and carve out an independent country, after which you can display as much love for Sylhet as you wish, and hunt for so-called Sylhet-haters. But you cannot live in Bangladesh, live off Bangladesh, be a citizen of Bangladesh, carry a passport of Bangladesh, be a member of the Bangladeh Parliament, and still practise shameless regionalism. You’d better shed your Bangladeshi identity first.

When I edited the first issue of Jukti (Rationality) in 2007, I published a piece by Suman Turhan titled Sylhet Fundamentalism. I shall quote from the final part of the essay.

“Whatever we, the denizens of Sylhet, one of the smallest islands in an ocean, may have achieved or not, we have given birth to an independent fundamentalism. Sylhet fundamentalism has been spreading in utter silence like a deadly epidemic for a long time now. We must rise in protest against this anti-progressive regionalism at once. Positive results cannot be arrived at in a competitive world by keeping ourselves organised in groups. No one with a free mind can be indoctrinated in regional fundamentalism or limit themselves within the walls of narrowmindedness. The world is very large, but our well-behaved hypocrites are still quite primitive, it’s time for them to crawl out of the well and view our enormous universe from a new perspective. All of us are human, and all of us are Bangladeshi Bengalis – how long will it take the people of Sylhet to understand this simple truth?”

Translated from the Bengali by Arunava Sinha.

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