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Bangladesh PM, Jamaat condemn blogger’s murder

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Dhaka: Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and leading political parties, including the Jamaat-e-Islami, have condemned the brutal murder of the fourth blogger in Bangladesh, the media reported on Saturday.

Niloy Chatterjee, 40, was hacked to death on Friday when five men, suspected to be Islamists armed with machetes, entered his apartment in Gorhan area here where he lived with his family.

Sheikh Hasina warned she will not tolerate terrorism in the name of religion.

“We cannot let this happen in Bangladesh. The people of this country are peace loving,” she said.

The Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent’s (AQIS) ‘Bangladesh branch’ claimed responsibility for the murder.

Asked about the claim, Hasina said, “They kill themselves to kill other Muslims in the mosque. Then they are murdering bloggers for … writing against religion.”

The Jamaat-e-Islami also condemned the killing.

“We condemn the murder of Niloy Hossain alias Neel. This incident proves that the government has totally failed to provide security to the citizens,” Jamaat leader Hamidur Rahman Azad said.

“This kind of murder is happening regularly. But regrettably the government has failed to stop such brutalities and also to prosecute the real killers,” he added.

The opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) claimed the spate of blogger killings was part of a conspiracy by the government to claim that militancy was a problem in Bangladesh.

“From the way they (bloggers) had been killed in front of law enforcers, it is clear there is a conspiracy,” BNP’s Khandker Mahbub Hossain said.

The other three bloggers — Avijit Roy, Oyasiqur Rahman Babu and Ananta Bijoy Das — were also killed in a similar manner.

All four were involved with the ‘Ganajagaran Mancha’, a movement demanding maximum penalty for those who committed war crimes during the 1971 Bangladesh freedom struggle and a ban on religion-based politics.

The UN, the US and Amnesty International have also condemned the killing of the blogger and urged the authorities to bring the killers to justice.

(IANS)

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‘In Absence of free thinking and Freedom of Expression, even Dreaming is a Battle’ : Forced to hide and flee the Country, the Sorry State of Secular Bangladeshi Writers and Bloggers

A report published in May by Amnesty International, the global human rights watchdog, slammed Bangladesh’s government for allegedly failing to protect secular writers against threats and stifling free speech

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Blogger Avijit Roy (left), poses with Ranadipam Basu outside the stall of the Shuddhashar publishing house at the Ekushey Book Fair, in Dhaka in February 2012. Roy was hacked to death by Muslim extremists three years later. Benar News

Washington, October 29, 2017 : Fear still stalks Bangladesh’s secular writers, even though 18 months have passed since the last in a series of brutal killings of activists and intellectuals by religious zealots in that country.

For two of these writers, one who fled aboard and another who chose to stay behind, the killings and an increasingly hostile atmosphere toward non-religious viewpoints forced them to change their lives, as they told BenarNews in interviews.

Writer Sobak Pakhi is hiding out in another South Asian country but he’s too afraid to reveal its name to the public, while colleague Ranadipam Basu is keeping a low profile back home.

“Free thinking and freedom of expression are practically gone now. … I don’t see any immediate hope … even dreaming is a battle now,” Ranadipam told BenarNews in response to a series of email questions.

Both men say they don’t feel entirely safe in their homeland because of a recent spate of murders by Muslim extremists who targeted secularist Bangladeshi intellectuals like them for questioning God’s existence, or using the written word to challenge the emerging influence of religious fundamentalists.

Pakhi is an editor of Mukto-Mona (Free Mind), a leading blog for free thinkers, rationalists, skeptics, atheists and humanists in Bangladesh, which he fled over what he described as the government’s support for those who kill secular bloggers and writers.

“Once they get the chance, they will attack me and then my case will also be considered as an ‘isolated incident’ in a country of 160 million people,” Pakhi told Benar.

“I won’t go back to the country in the future.”

Basu, an author of short stories, poems, essays and children’s books, tried to leave but said he came to see his fate as wed to staying on in Bangladesh. Yet he’s keeping a low profile because he worries about his family’s safety in light of the attacks in the recent past, he said.

Since February 2013, when secular activist and blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider was killed by extremists near his home in Dhaka, at least 10 writers, bloggers, publishers, activists and intellectuals have been slain in machete attacks by Muslim militants. All of the other attacks occurred in a spate that began in February 2015. The last one was the slaying of activist-law student Nazimuddin Samad in April 2016.

‘A lifetime target’

Although their country’s constitution declares Bangladesh a secular nation, both Sobak and Ranadipam voiced concern over what they described as the growing influence of the government’s acceptance of conservative Islamic organizations. They cited the relationship between Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her Awami League party with an influential hardline Muslim group, Hefazat-e-Islam.

Pakhi, a graphic designer skilled at video editing, wrote articles about how he grew to doubt religion and became an atheist. In 2008, he saw Bangladesh as a tolerant country.

But as the years went by, he kept writing while facing death threats. He wrote about what he said was disrespect shown to women by religions; the promotion of killings and wars in religions; the use of religious rhetoric to create unstable situations; and the limitations of God and religion.

ALSO READ Bangladesh Saw ‘Significant’ Rise in Terrorism Last Year: US State Department

Threats grew as groups pressured authorities to remove his blog posts. “You do not understand now, but will regret later,” one threat stated.

Pakhi then turned to writing fiction.

“I wrote some short stories, satire and poems about the limitations of the concept of God. I started writing against fanaticism, the backwardness of religion, bigoted matters of mobs and extremism on ‘Facebook,’” he said.

When asked about government action against militants, Pakhi said the nation began targeting them long before the recent attacks on bloggers. He said the first crackdown occurred in 1989, adding that after a series of arrests, the government denied the existence of militant groups and secretly released those in custody for political expedience.

“The militancy issue in Bangladesh might go out of sight again, but my risk will not be neutralized because I am a lifetime target for them,” Pakhi said.

In his view, politics pushed Prime Minister Hasina to maintain a relationship with Hefazat-e-Islam, a fundamentalist group that has called for public executions and posted his picture on a banner. Hasina’s relationship with the group weakens opposition party Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), helping to strengthen her Awami League’s control of government.

“If a few atheist bloggers die or leave the country as a consequence of relationship between the government and Hefazat, it doesn’t really matter to Sheikh Hasina, because the deaths of a few atheists do not create any pressure on the government in a 90 percent Muslim-dominated country,” he said.

A couple of months before fleeing Bangladesh in 2015, Pakhi told an interviewer he had no plans to leave his homeland, adding that militants should be the ones to go. At the time, however, some Bangladesh police officers suggested that he exit the country.

“Whatever the government is saying about providing security to bloggers, those are lies, because after my departure, two bloggers and more than 10 progressive people were killed by militants,” Pakhi said. “I haven’t seen any positive effort from the government to stop those.”

He remains concerned about threats in his new country, but continues to write and refuses to censor himself.

“Several times I have thought about reducing the volume of my writing, but then I asked, why? Basically, keeping silent is frustrating and shameful. I shouldn’t do that. My writing will not be stopped,” Pakhi said.

Threats to free speech

A report published in May by Amnesty International, the global human rights watchdog, slammed Bangladesh’s government for allegedly failing to protect secular writers against threats and stifling free speech.

Amnesty cited a widely reported statement by Hasina that followed the August 2015 killing of secular blogger Niladri Chottopaddhya, who was known by the pen name Niloy Neel.

ALSO READ Meet Tuhin Das from Bangladesh: Poet, Activist and Writer in Exile

“No one in this country has the right to speak in a way that hurts religious sentiment. You won’t practice religion – no problem. But you can’t attack someone else’s religion,” Hasina said at the time. “It won’t be tolerated if someone else’s religious sentiment is hurt.”

Government officials rejected the Amnesty report, claiming it contained recycled information.

“The report is not a reflection of the latest situation in Bangladesh. We cannot accept this,” Civil Aviation Minister Rashed Khan Menon told BenarNews at the time.

Apart from secular writers, journalists in the country have also complained about what they say is a hostile environment for a free press, in which reporters and editors are vulnerable to threats.

On Thursday, the family of a missing Bangladeshi journalist, Utpal Das, held a news conference to plead to the government to help them find him. The reporter for the online news portal Purboposchchim BD News was last seen on Oct. 10, his family said.

The website he works for was one of several local and foreign news outlets that picked up a report on Sept. 23 alleging that the government had foiled a plot to assassinate Sheikh Hasina on Aug. 24. A day after the article came out, government officials issued a statement criticizing the report as fake news.

Survived attack

Basu, the writer who stayed in Bangladesh, survived one of two attacks on publishing houses in October 2015 that killed publisher Faisal Arefin Dipan.

“I can’t remember even a single thing about the attack,” Basu said, adding, “I don’t see any immediate hope coming out of this situation.

“I don’t go out unless it is essential, but whenever I go out, I can’t behave normally and naturally, I get panicked when I see any unknown faces, start fearing that they may attack me,” he said. “Maybe I have lost my trust of other human beings.”

At the same time, earning a living is tough, he said, because publishers don’t want to face the risk of publishing any book he writes.

“I haven’t stopped writing, but I don’t have any platform to publish. I can’t take the risk of publishing through online platforms, as I live in Bangladesh.”

Even though the government has cracked down on militant dens throughout Bangladesh, killing dozens of suspects since a terrorist attack at a Dhaka café last year, Basu said he did not see hope for those like him who remain in the country.

“Secular thinkers are really at a panic to express their opinions. On one side, there are threats and attacks from religious fundamentalists, and on the other side, intolerance and actions from the government to stop free thinking through blasphemy-type laws,” he told BenarNews.

Basu was skeptical that the killers of secular blogger Avijit Roy (pictured) and other non-religious thinkers would be brought to justice any time soon. Roy, a Bangladeshi-born U.S. citizen and author of several books challenging religious beliefs, was hacked to death as he and his wife were leaving the Ekushey book festival, the country’s most prestigious literary event, in February 2015.

“Those attacks were not sudden, emotional actions. There was a long-term destructive plan behind those – a plan to stop secular writers from one side and to create a panic among publishers to not to publish any secular works,” he said.

“A long time has passed, but any practical results of police actions are not visible yet. Therefore, writers and publishers are panicked and as a result, expression of free thinking has been completely stopped, Basu said, adding, “Why those suspected were not arrested or why a trial is not moving, I think only policy makers can answer those questions properly.”

Meanwhile, Basu frets about the security of his family, especially his school-age son.

“Some of my friends, even the media got the wrong impression that I have left the country like many others. I did not correct their misconception over security concerns,” he said. “That’s why I do not appear before media anymore and I can’t imagine revealing my whereabouts by seeking help from police in this unsecured land.” (Benar News)

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Stop Lecturing And Demonizing India over its Plan to Deport 40,000 Stateless Rohingya Muslims: Minister

The Rohingya are denied citizenship in Myanmar and classified as illegal immigrants, despite claiming centuries-old roots

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Rohingya refugee watch children attend madrass in a temporary shelter on the outskirts of Jammu, India, Wednesday, Aug.16,2017. VOA
  • Rights groups, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, have slammed India’s deportation plan as “outrageous”
  • The government says the Rohingya Muslims are illegal immigrants and should deported because they pose a potential security threat
  • There is no other country in the world which hosts so many refugees, so don’t demonize us, don’t give us lecture
Rights groups should stop lecturing and demonizing India over its plan to deport 40,000 stateless Rohingya and recognize that the country has treated millions of refugees from across the world humanely, a senior official said this week.

 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s right-wing government says the Rohingya Muslims who have fled to India because of persecution in Buddhist-majority Myanmar are illegal immigrants and should deported because they pose a potential security threat.

“India is the most humane nation in the world,” said junior interior minister Kiren Rijiju, defending an order to states to identify and deport the Rohingya — including 16,500 registered with the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR).

“There is no other country in the world which hosts so many refugees, so don’t demonize us, don’t give us lecture,” Rijiju said.

Hundreds of thousands have fled Myanmar, where they are marginalized and sometimes subjected to communal violence, with many taking refuge in Bangladesh — and some then crossing a porous border into Hindu-majority India.

FILE - Children of Rohingya refugees attend a temporary school run by a nongovernmental organization at a camp for Rohingyas in New Delhi, India, Aug. 16, 2017.
FILE – Children of Rohingya refugees attend a temporary school run by a nongovernmental organization at a camp for Rohingyas in New Delhi, India, Aug. 16, 2017. VOA

On Monday, Myanmar security forces intensified operations against Rohingya insurgents, following three days of clashes with militants in the worst violence involving the Muslim minority in five years.

Indian minister Rijiju said registration with the UNHCR was irrelevant.

India is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention, which spells out states’ responsibilities toward refugees. Nor does it have a domestic law to protect refugees.

ALSO READ: Refugees in India Looming For Basic Rights: Here Is Why India Needs Refugee Law! 

The Rohingya will be sent back from India in a humane way, following due legal processes, Rijiju added.

“We are not going to shoot them, nor are we planning to throw them in the ocean,” he said Monday.

Rights groups, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, have slammed India’s deportation plan as “outrageous.”

Asia’s third-largest economy is bound by customary international law — the principle of non-refoulement — where it cannot forcibly return refugees to a place where they face danger, they say. (VOA)

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Not Just Journalist Ram Chandra Chhatrapati, these 9 People too Bore the Brunt of Speaking Truth to Fight Corruption

Here is the list of other courageous people who paid a heavy price for their honesty

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Not just Ram Chandra, 9 more activists bore the brunt of speaking truth and fighting corruption in India
Many people have been murdered for speaking truth and protesting corruption. Pixabay

Aug 30, 2017: We live in a strange world, here, you get butchered for speaking truth and protesting corruption, and you are exalted for committing monstrous sins.

The conclusion of the rapist, Baba Ram Rahim case, was the first tribute to the family of the brave journalist Ram Chander Chhatrapati who was murdered for exposing Dera Sacha Sauda chief.

Ram Chander isn’t the only one who sacrificed his life for the nation.

Here is the list of other anti-corruption activists people who paid a heavy price for their honesty:

Narendra Kumar

Narendra Kumar, the Indian Police Service (IPS) officer, was killed by a sand mining mafia, who was carrying illegally mined stones on the tractor in Madhya Pradesh. The murder of the officer in 2002 also raised a debate on corruption, and many activists including Anna Hazare protested against the episode. A tractor was run over the officer after he tried to stop it. 

Pravin Mohare

Pravin Mohare was the film agent in Mumbai, who used to procure film certificates from the Censor Board of India. He dared to expose the former CEO of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) for accepting bribe worth Rs 50,000 to provide a film certificate. In 2014, Mohare was praised for the brave act, but sooner his ID was blocked by the CFBC. He was forced to sell vegetables in Mumbai after spending months jobless.

Lalit Mehta 

Lalit, an RTI activist, was murdered in 2008 for exposing racket in the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA). He was attacked while riding on his way to Chatarpur. Lalit’s face was crushed to an increasing amount that it was unidentifiable.

Also Read: Criminal Babas in India- Rapist Ram Rahim and Rapist Asaram: Why Delay in Justice of these Godmen?

Manjunath Shanmugam 

Manjunath, an IIM graduate, worked as a Sales officer for the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC). He was murdered for sealing two corrupt petrol stations in Lakhimpur, UP, which used to sell adulterated petrol. He also led a surprise raid after the petrol station reopened. In 2005, Manjunath was found dead with injuries from six bullets in the backseat of his car.

Niladri Chattopadhyay Niloy

Niladri Chattopadhyay Niloy was human rights activist and a blogger. He used to write about women issues, minority groups and opposed religious extremism. His blog, Mukto Mona, was a community of free thinkers, skeptics, atheists, and rationalists, which was formed by Avijit Roy. Avijit was killed by an Islamic group, which claimed responsibility for the murder. Niladari was the voice for Avijit’s death and met the same fate for supporting him. A group of four Muslim youths butchered Niladari with sharp weapons at his apartment where he was found dead.

Satish Shetty

Satish Shetty was an Indian social activist who had exposed numerous real-estate scams in Maharashtra using Right to Information (RTI). Satish’s engagement with truth earned him many enemies. In 2010, anonymous attackers killed him in Talegaon.

Satyendra Dubey

Satyendra Dubey, a proficient IES officer, was the Project Director of the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) at Koderma. Coming from a low-income family, he was not fond of corruption and found many discrepancies in the projects of the NHAI at Koderma. He also asked the contractor to reconstruct 6 km of poorly built roads. In 2003, Satyendra was shot dead by the mafia of road construction. His body was discovered aside the road in Gaya, Bihar.

Shehla Masood

Shehla Masood was the environmentalist, businessman, wildlife, and RTI activist. In 2011, she was shot dead at point blank range by an unidentified assailant in Bhopal. The most probable reason for her death was attached to her protest against illegal mining of diamond and strife to save animals who were slaughtered for their skins.

Tej Bahadur Yadav

Tej Bahadur Yadav, a BSF jawan, uploaded several videos on Facebook concerning the inferior quality of food given to the jawans, which the BSF denied. BSF dismissed him, and Tejpal had to go through a three-month long proceeding at a court for tarnishing the reputation of the BSF. Yadav was also withdrawn from post retirement benefits.


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