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Government Ambivalence to Blame For Blogger Murders in Bangladesh: Activists

By Shahriar Sharif
2015-08-07
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A policeman stands outside the home of murdered Bangladeshi blogger Niladri Chottopaddhya, Aug. 7, 2015.
A policeman stands outside the home of murdered Bangladeshi blogger Niladri Chottopaddhya, Aug. 7, 2015.
AFP

Updated at 5:50 p.m. ET on 2015-08-28

The latest killing of a blogger in Bangladesh on Friday sparked outrage over what activists said was a failure by the government to guarantee basic values enshrined in the country’s constitution.

“It is a sad state of affairs that we cannot guarantee secular ideas and freedom of speech that are the cardinal features of our constitution,” Badiul Alam Majumdar, secretary of Sujon, a rights group campaigning for rule of law and social justice, told BenarNews.

Niladri Chottopaddhya, who wrote about religious fundamentalism under the name Niloy Neel, was hacked to death by killers who invaded his home in a Dhaka suburb on Friday, as his wife screamed from another room. He was the fourth secular blogger killed this way since February.

“I’m sorry to say that the government is largely responsible for this. Its ambivalent stand against religious bigotry and fundamentalism has only emboldened them to commit this kind of heinous crimes in the name of protecting Islam again and again,” Alam said.

He attributed the rise in attacks to the perpetrators’ twisted thinking that such sensational murders draw maximum attention and thus advance their cause.

“They want international attention. Their whole purpose is to create anarchy and instability in a society and these killings serve them well,” Alam added.

Activists from both and abroad also blamed the government for not doing enough to protect to secular bloggers and bring people who kill them to justice.

“It is matter of great regret that the government is not taking adequate steps to protect the bloggers and secular activists,” Sultana Kamal, executive director of Ain-O-Salish Kendra, a rights organization, told BenarNews.

“The situation has come to such a pass that I’m now afraid whether free thinking can be practiced at all in secular Bangladesh,” she added.

Reporters Without Borders, a free press watchdog based in France, expanded on this point in condemning Chottopaddhya’s slaying.

“We have repeatedly called on the government of Bangladesh to respond by putting in place concrete measures of protection. We said in the past that their passivity in the matter was akin to a blank check for the perpetrators of these acts of extreme violence,” Benjamin Ismaïl, the group’s Asia Pacific director, said in a statement.

“Today, we wish to tell the authorities that, in addition to bearing a big part of responsibility in the assassination of Niloy Neel, they should answer for their failure to bring to justice the murderers of bloggers killed since the beginning of the year, and we will continue to question them about this unacceptable lack of protective measures,” he added.

Inspired by IS

Meanwhile, a senior law enforcement official said that the dramatic rise of the Islamic State in the Middle East had played a significant role in emboldening extremists in Bangladesh. IS, also known as ISIS, has shocked the world by publishing footage of gruesome prisoner executions.

“The rise of ISIS and their success in creating a homeland for them has instilled new hope and aspiration among the militants in our country,” Monirul Islam, joint commissioner for Dhaka Metropolitan Police, told BenarNews.

“It simply emboldened those who were lying low,” he added.

Islam said that he came to that conclusion after police arrested some of them who were planning to go to Syria and Iraq to join IS.

Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) has claimed responsibility for three of the blogger killings, including Chottopaddhya’s. In a statement Friday, the group called him a “blasphemer” and pledged to continue attacking “these kinds of enemies of Allah.”

But Islam emphatically said that his forces were working round-the-clock to ensure that militancy does not take root in Bangladesh.

“We are not sitting idle. We’re investigating these murders and in some cases we have formally charged the assailants,” he said, referring to the seven persons, including five students of Dhaka’s private North South University, who have been charged in the murder of blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider in 2013.

He also claimed that investigation was under way in the murders of Avijit Roy and Washiqur Rahman, who were hacked to death in February and March this year respectively.

Avijit’s father said he was not satisfied with the way things are moving.

“I don’t have any further update about my son’s tragic end and I’m not happy,” Ajoy Roy, a former professor of physics at Dhaka University, told BenarNews.

An earlier version wrongly noted the month in which Washiqur Rahman was killed. It also incorrectly identified Niladri Chottopaddhya as Niladri Chakrabarty.

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