Bangladesh Book Fair Sellers Drop Works by Slain Writer

Kamran Reza Chowdhury
160202-BD-bookfair-620 The Jagriti Publications booth includes a tribute to publisher Faisal Arefin Dipan, who was slain in his office in October, Feb. 2, 2016.

Updated at 1:40 p.m. ET on 2016-02-04

Nearly a year after secular writer and blogger Avijit Roy was stabbed to death by suspected militants during Bangladesh’s premier book festival, his works are no longer for sale in the South Asian country, publishing sources say.

About 100 publishers are participating in this year’s edition of the Ekushey Boi Mela (Ekushey Book Fair), which opened Monday – but none are selling books by Roy, who was murdered on a busy Dhaka street after leaving the event on Feb. 26, 2015.

Abul Bashar, an owner of Hatey Khori publication house, told BenarNews: “Why should we sell his books? Is there any guarantee that we will not meet similar fate?”

Roy, who ran the secular blog Mukto Mona (Free Mind), was killed when assailants blocked the rickshaw carrying him and his wife, Rafida Bonya Ahmed. She lost her thumb and suffered serious stab wounds in the attack. Islamists issued threats to Roy on Facebook prior to the attack.

Roy’s was the first of five deadly attacks on secular writers and publishers in 2015 – and the violence has cast a pall on intellectual life in Bangladesh.

“Now, before writing anything, we always think lest anything could anger the militants,” Shabdik Tutul, a Dhaka University student, writer and film maker, told BenarNews.

A deadly year

The last of the five men killed was Faisal Arefin Dipan, who published two of Roy’s books. On Oct. 31, 2015, he was hacked to death inside his office, Jagriti Publications, in Dhaka.

Shuddhushwar Publications owner Ahmedur Rashid Tutul and two secular bloggers survived similar attacks at Tutul’s office the same day.

Jagriti Publications has a stall at the book fair on Dhaka University campus this year. A banner honoring Dipan hangs in the booth, with his portrait and the words “Good Sense Prevails on Everyone.”

“We are not going to publish Avijit Roy’s two books any more. This may be for security or for other reasons,” Razia Rahman, Dipan’s wife and Jagriti proprietor, told BenarNews.

Sarwar Saany, a Jagriti staffer at the fair, told BenarNews that because the publisher has stopped printing them, Roy’s books are no longer available in Bangladesh.

Language Martyrs

Bangladesh treats February as a cultural month as the nation marks the killings of Bengalis by Pakistan forces on Feb. 21, 1952, when Bangladesh was known as East Pakistan. On that day, paramilitary forces killed people protesting the decision to scrap Bangla as the national language.

Since then, Feb. 21 has become Language Martyrs Day in Bangladesh, and it is now celebrated worldwide as International Mother Language Day.

In addition, the national Bengali Research Center, Bangla Academy arranges the month-long book fair, Ekushey Boi Mela, to showcase new books and encourage young writers. Writers and poets from home and abroad hold meetings, seminars and cultural events tied to the book fair.

Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal addressed safety at this year’s festival.

“We have taken adequate security measures for the Ekushey Boi Mela. A police station has been stationed there and an adequate number of intelligence staff members have been deployed for the security of the book fair,” Khan told parliament on Tuesday.

Members of the local militant group Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT) and individuals affiliating themselves with al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Police have arrested eight suspects in the murders, including one who had threatened Roy online.

“So far, we have yet to find a link among the eight persons arrested,” Mashruqur Rahman Khaled, a deputy police commissioner, told BenarNews.


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