In Bangladesh we are fighting machetes with pens


I am Subrata Audhikary from Bangladesh. I write on Facebook and blogs under the pen-name Subrata Shuvo.

I am one of those four atheist bloggers of Bangladesh who were arrested in 2013 just because they write blogs with ‘so called criticism of Islam’ due to pressure from fundamentalist Muslims.

Bangladesh is a secular country with majority of Muslim citizens. In this secular country, many bloggers, writers, publishers, and intellectuals have been hacked to death during last few years. Cold blooded murder by butchering the bloggers, writers, publishers even teachers are now happening at an increasing rate. And there are many more writers artists and intellectuals being hunted by the fundamentalists. There is in fact a very big hit list or kill list publicly declared and updated regularly by the fundamentalist extremists.

While some of our people wrote or raised their voice against the rise of extremism in our country, many others have labelled them as either Atheists or offenders of Islam.  If we question Shariah rituals, they label us as offenders of blasphemy.  Finally, our government then came up with a law to control the flow of online content, and directed not to write anything that may hurt the sentiment of religious people.

We secular bloggers think that religion is only a personal matter so it should not come out to politics, economics and other state activities. Atheist bloggers’ issue is new but practice of atheism is not new in Bangladesh. Before 2013 also there were so many atheists writers who had expressed their views publically and it was not so big deal in Bangladesh.

In 1974, just after 3 years of Bangladesh getting liberated in 1971, poet Daud Haidar (presently he lives in Germany), was the first victim who was arrested and forced to leave the country only for his poetry.

After twenty years of that incident Islamic fundamentalist groups demanded capital punishment against some of the writers like Taslima Nasrin, Professor Ahmad Sarif for so called blasphemy. 18th January 1999, Shamsur Rahman, a prominent Bangladeshi poet was attacked by fundamentalist group. Fortunately he was lucky enough to survive. Humayun Azad was first writer who was brutally attacked when he came back from book fair on 27 February 2004. He had subsequently died out of injury.

In religious agora, some Islamic mullahs present hate speech to provoke kill atheist writers. I just want to give an example about war criminal Delowar Hossain Saidi who was a war criminal and have got punishment by the war crime tribunal. So many times he said people should kill Humayun Azad. 25 January 2004 Delowar Hosain Saidi demanded to ban a book name “Pak Sad Jamin Sadbad” in national parliament. This book was written by Huamayun Azad and after one month Humayun Azad was brutally attacked.

Writings criticizing religions are not new in Bangladesh. Bloggers started writing against religion from 2005. After the Shabag movement started, bloggers came up into big screen. It was February 5, 2013, the first mobilisation at Shabag happened for the bloggers. Bloggers wanted supreme punishment for war criminals. After ‘Shabag’ Islamic fundamentalist political party ‘Jamat’ pitted itself against Shabag and bloggers. Islamic fundamentalist groups who support war crimes started protesting against bloggers. There line of campaign was ‘bloggers are atheist and they insult Islam!’  And they successfully established that “bloggers equals to atheists”. On February 15, 2013, Islamic extremists stabbed and killed a atheist blogger named Rajib Haidar. He was the first blogger victim of fundamentalist extremists in Bangladesh. After that, between during last three years, altogether 10 blogger and 1 publisher were hacked to death by Islamic extremists. These extremists use such names as Ansar, ISIS etc.

The saddest truth is that our government didn’t take any action against these killings. Justice for the murders of Rajib haider, Avijit Roy, Washiqur Rahman, Ananata Bijoy, Niloy and others are a far cry from reality, as the authorities have failed to even identify the perpetrators in most of the cases. It is becoming rather evident from their lack of urgency about the investigations that they are not too keen on providing justice.

For this reason, we cannot rely on assistance form law enforcement. Many have stopped writing. The extremist groups have been spreading their propaganda for a while now, and they have succeeded in planting the inaccurate notion that freethinkers are the most dangerous elements of society who seek to destroy religion, in the minds of the ordinary Muslims.

“Why are they hunting bloggers?” one might ask. The bloggers are targeted because they have become the loudest voice for the people of the country. They freely discuss a wide variety of topics and offer critiques. They blatantly point out the nation’s mistakes. They promote conversations that bring to light various issues that need to be addressed. This poses a dire threat to these extremist groups. They wish to keep the people uninformed so that they may pull the strings and control the nation. They need to protect their lies and hypocrisies from exposure. They also know that the bloggers are harmless and make easy targets, because the only way they can retaliate is with words. Since none of the murderers have so far been brought to justice, they are now fearless and going to carry on. They have achieved their goal of silencing their critiques by threatening them with death. The situation now is beyond anybody’s control. These groups of extremists have gotten so powerful that they are murdering people in broad daylight and getting away with it, and nobody is capable or willing to resist them.

In Bangladesh we are fighting machetes with pens. Everywhere, we must fight fundamentalism and all oppression, with compassion and rationality and universalism, and with a deeper understanding of the conflicts.

That is the twenty-first century challenge of humanism. So I invite you all please raise your voice and support us, to save the bloggers and save our writings.


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