Bangladesh: Twin Attacks on Secularists Enrage Citizens

Kamran Reza Chowdhury
151102-BD-protest-620 Gonojagoron Moncho movement spokesman Imran H. Sarker (third from right) and others march in Dhaka’s Shahbag area to protest the weekend murder of publisher Faisal Arefin Dipan and a separate attack on another publisher and two writers, Nov. 2, 2015.

Bangladeshis are expressing shock, fear and anger after twin attacks on publishers and writers in Dhaka this weekend that left one dead and three seriously wounded.

Saturday’s machete attacks by suspected Islamists followed the killings of four secular bloggers earlier this year and marked the first time that violence has been directed at publishers of secular literature in Bangladesh.

“If the perpetrators of the previous killings were tried, such murders would not take place,” Sirajul Islam Chowdhury, an English professor at Dhaka University, told BenarNews.

“The militants must be checked immediately. They have the power of machetes, not logic,” he said.

The two publishers targeted in separate attacks, Faisal Arefin Dipan and Ahmedur Rashid Tutul, had both published works by the late Avijit Roy, a Bangladeshi-American secular blogger who was hacked to death with machetes on Feb. 26, 2015, as he and his wife were leaving a book fair at Dhaka University.

Dipan, 42, who led the Jagriti publishing house, was reportedly beheaded during an attack inside his office on the second floor of the Aziz Super market, which is a center in Dhaka for secular writers, publishers, poets, bloggers and journalists.

His slaying took place about 45 minutes after Tutul and two bloggers, Ranadipam Basu and Tareq Rahim, were attacked at the Shuddhoshor publishing house 4 km (2.5 miles) away in Dhaka’s Lamatia area.

Tutul, Basu and Rahim were critically hurt but out of danger, Health Minister Mohammad Nasim told reporters Sunday.

Police have yet to arrest any suspects in either of the incidents.

According to news reports, a group identifying itself as Ansar ul-Islam, a local affiliate of al-Qaeda in the Indian Sub-Continent (AQIS), claimed responsibility for both attacks in messages posted on Twitter.

Bangladeshi police, however, said they suspect the banned militant group Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT) carried out the two attacks, and was also behind the blogger murders.

‘Militant must be rooted out’

Angry citizens have taken to the streets of Dhaka to protest the latest attacks.

On Sunday, hundreds of students, teachers, political activists and publishers formed a human chain at the campus of Dhaka University – long considered a bastion of popular democratic movements in Bangladesh.

“The militants are out to wipe out the secular forces in the country. The militants must be rooted out of the country,” Muntassir Mamoon, a professor, told the crowd of demonstrators.

On Sunday night, book sellers and secular writers staged a protest in Dhaka and many kept their shops closed Monday.

“Many of the publishers will wind up their publishing business, unless their security is ensured,” Mezbah Uddin Ahmed, a leader of the publishers’ association, told BenarNews.

The Gonojagoron Moncho (Mass Awakening Platform) called for a nationwide strike Tuesday to condemn the latest attacks on so-called “free thinkers.” This secular movement staged massive protests at Dhaka’s Shahbag Square in early 2013, calling for the execution of alleged war criminals in the country’s 1971 war of independence and rejecting Islamic fundamentalism.

“We will enforce a country-wide half-day hartal on Tuesday unless the police arrest the killers in 48 hours,” Imran H. Sarker, the spokesman for Gonojagoron Moncho, told BenarNews.

‘Stray incidents’

The weekend attacks took place less than five weeks after the Islamic State (IS) extremist group claimed responsibility for the shooting deaths in Bangladesh of two foreigners on Sept. 28 and Oct. 3, followed by a bomb attack on a Shiite religious procession in Dhaka on Oct. 24.

Bangladesh’s home minister, Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal, has consistently rejected reports by SITE Intelligence, a U.S-based website that monitors online jihadist messaging via social media, that IS claimed responsibility for those other attacks via Twitter.

In an interview with BenarNews, the minister described this weekend’s attacks as “stray incidents.”

“The law and order [situation] is quite fine,” Kamal told BenarNews. “Such stray incidents take place in even many developed countries like the U.S. and others. The killings do not mean that the law and order has collapsed.”

Shahriar Sharif contributed to this report.


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