Bangladesh protesters demand justice in wake of latest blogger murder

The Gonojagoron Moncho, a Dhaka-based progressive youth platform, has given Bangladesh’s government a one-week deadline to arrest the murderers of blogger Niladri Chatterjee alias Niloy as part of an ultimatum to spur local officials into action.

Niloy is the fourth secular blogger who was hacked to death by a group of unknown miscreants this year. The recent murder on August 7 has left Bangladesh as well as the world aghast at the inability of the country’s law enforcement agencies to apprehend the masterminds behind the killings.

Hours after Niloy’s murder on August 7, Ansar-Al-Islam, the Bangladesh chapter of al-Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the killing terming the blogger an enemy of Allah. An online video in April by Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) claimed responsibility for killing the bloggers and similar free-thinkers in Pakistan and Bangladesh. The video had claimed that there will be more such operations in the future.

Niladri Chaterjee alias Niloy

Niladri Chaterjee alias Niloy

While speaking to Asia Times on Monday, Imran H Sarkar, spokesperson for Gonojagoron Moncho, of which Niloy was an active member, said that after the ultimatum ends on August 14, “Our protests will intensify across the country if the government fails to show any kind of sincere initiative to catch the killers.”

“We have a number of programmes including floral tribute to Niloy, country-wide processions and more  planned during these seven days till coming Friday,” informed Sarkar.

Sarkar, also the Head of Blogger and Online Activist Network (BOAN), is critical of the Bangladesh government’s inability to solve past murders of bloggers and arrest the murderers at large.

Prior to Niloy, blogger Ananta Bijoy Das was hacked to death by a group of miscreants in Sylhet of Bangladesh on May 12.

Two months before this incident, blogger Washiqur Rahman Babu was also hacked to death on March 30 in Dhaka. Two suspects were arrested in connection with the killing.

A month before Babu, US-Bangladeshi blogger Avijit Roy, who was also the founder of Mukto-mona (free thinker) blog, and his wife was attacked by a group of miscreants wielding machetes on February 26.

Roy succumbed to his injuries hours later after being rushed to a hospital nearby. Roy was an atheist blogger who had written a book titled The Virus of Faith, which likened religious extremism to an infectious disease.

Sarkar also panned a comment made on Sunday by the Inspector General of Police AKM Shahidul Hoque during a press briefing.

At the briefing, the IGP said, “There will always be free thinkers. I have enough respect for them. But we need to remember that hurting religious sentiments is a crime according to our law.”

“Any offender of religious beliefs may get the highest punishment of 14 years (in jail). But killing someone for that offence is never acceptable,” said Hoque.

He went on, “Those who are free thinkers and writers, I will request them, please make sure that we don’t cross the line. Anything that may hurt anyone’s religious sentiments or beliefs should not be written.”

Terming the comments “unacceptable,” Sarkar said, “This is a baseless blame against blogger Niloy.” He pointed out that it has not been proven that Niloy wrote anything against Islam. Also “Such comments from authorities seem to justify acts of murder indirectly.”

The police in Bangladesh are also being criticized for not accepting a general diary as evidence from Niloy who had been threatened for quite a long time.

Niloy was in a list of 84 atheist bloggers, that included Das, Roy and blogger Rajib Haider, killed in February 2013, which islamists had circulated in Bangladesh since 2013.

“I had met Niloy in May this year,” Saad Hammadi, the Bangladesh correspondent of The Guardian told Asia Times. “He told me that he was scared of his life as he was getting threats online and over phone.”

Niloy had shared with Hammadi that following a protest rally on May 13 that demanded the killers of blogger Avijit Roy be arrested, Niloy was followed by some young men. “He had gone to the police later on. But the police did not allow him to file his general diary complaint,” said Hammadi.

After being refused by the police, Niloy had even written a post on Facebook sharing his dismay.

“I am shocked that in spite of him reaching out to the police for help, the authorities paid no heed. When civil rights are hindered in such manner, the government ought to take some special measures particularly for the group of people who are targeted,” said Hammadi.

As justice is yet to be meted out, bloggers in Bangladesh are wary of their own fates amid threats they receive online and over phone.

“We are seeing the perpetrators put their words to action while the authorities have neither been able to find them nor stop the crimes,” said Hammadi.

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