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Photojournalist Jibon Ahmed still faces the heat in aiding Avijit Roy who was murdered in Bangladesh

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Photojournalist Jibon Ahmed returns to the spot where militants killed Avijit Roy and attacked his wife, Rafida Bonya Ahmed. Photo: http://www.benarnews.org

One year back, on Feb, 25, 2015, Avijit Roy was killed in Bangladesh by Islamic fanatics. His crime? He was a champion of free speech and a rationalist and had founded Mukto Mona- a community of rationalists, atheists and free thinkers. Here we bring an account of the tale of sorrows and intimidation that a photojournalist Jibon Ahmed faces for he helped the wounded Avijit. – NewsGram

For an act of humanity – taking fatally injured blogger Avijit Roy and his wounded wife Rafida Bonya Ahmed to a hospital – photojournalist Jibon Ahmed lost his job, faced censure from colleagues, and endured repeated questioning by police.

A year after the Feb. 26, 2015, machete attack outside the Ekushey Book Fair that killed Roy and caused Bonya to lose her thumb, Ahmed still recalls the feel of Roy’s blood.

“I did not know that the human blood is so warm. I still feel the heat,” Ahmed said, recalling the night when hundreds of people including on-duty police watched Roy struggle to survive while Bonya screamed for help.

The couple came to Dhaka to attend Bangladesh’s annual book fair that attracts intellectuals from all over the world. While returning home from the Dhaka University campus, suspected Islamic militants stopped their rickshaw, hacked them with machetes and fled the scene, leaving them in pool of blood.

The U.S-based engineer and writer ran the Mukto-Mona (Free Thinker) blog that raised questions about religions, especially Islam.

On that day, the photo agency Ahmed worked for sent him to cover the book fair. He was talking with fellow photojournalists about 10 meters from the spot where Avijit and Bonya were hacked.

Screams

“It was around 7:30 p.m. We suddenly heard a woman screaming. I immediately rushed to the spot,” he said. “There I saw a woman was lying near a parked motorcycle with her head directed toward the ground.”

He twice patted her, but got no response. After his third touch, Bonya responded.

“She gave me a witch’s look like you see in a horror movie: blood was oozing out of her shoulder and her eyes. She thought I was one of the attackers,” Ahmed said.

He told her that she must go with him to a hospital for treatment. Traumatized, Bonya asked, “What happened here?”

A few yards away, Ahmed saw people encircling another injured person, who was shaking on the ground. Bonya rushed to the spot, calling, “Avi, avi” (still alive).

She hugged Roy and stood up, asking someone to take him to a hospital.

“Then I opened my camera and snapped shots showing a blood-soaked Bonya calling for help,” he said.

Frantic trip

Ahmed said he stopped a three-seated three-wheeler and took the extreme right seat, holding Roy’s injured head while Bonya sat next to him holding her husband’s body.

“Suddenly I felt that his brain was on my finger where the machete had cut the skull. I removed the finger and gently pushed the skull to stop the brain from coming out of his head,” Ahmed said.

As the three-wheeler headed toward the hospital south of the crime scene, Bonya panicked, thinking Ahmed was abducting them.

“She started asking me to let them go in exchange for as much money as I wanted. I brought out my camera and was repeatedly assuring her that I was a photojournalist, not an attacker. But she did not believe me,” he said.

The vehicle got stuck in a traffic jam created by a police check post.

“Watching the police, Bonya started screaming for help. She was telling the police that I was abducting them. Now, I was in fear lest I face lynching or police action,” Ahmed said.

“Suddenly, I saw a policeman who was following our scooter from behind. He witnessed everything. As he gestured, the police barricade was removed and I took them to the hospital,” he said.

Ethical quandry

Fellow photographers at the Dhaka Medical College Hospital scolded him, saying he had violated journalistic ethics.

“I should not have taken them to the hospital, they said. ‘Now, you will face the police music,’ some of my colleagues taunted,” he said.

While at the hospital, Ahmed removed his blood stained T-shirt and put on a clean one, then left for his office in Motijheel, another part of Dhaka.

“I immediately came to my office in Motijheel and released the photos. I did not know them. Suddenly I saw breaking news on TV that the persons I took to the hospital were Avijit Roy and Rafida Bonya Ahmed,” he said.

His boss told him to go into hiding and to stay away from the office.

“By that time I was totally upset. I could not figure out what I should do. But later on I decided that I must not hide,” he said.

His photo of the event spread quickly on Facebook, where hundreds of people posted negative comments about him for taking pictures instead of helping the victims.

Meanwhile, police began questioning him to determine if he was linked to the killers. “They quizzed me at least five times,” Ahmed said.

‘Nobody cared’

Ahmed said he lost his job due to his unwitting role in the tragic evening.

“I have no relatives in Dhaka. I come from Khulna. Losing my job, I had to sell camera to survive,” he said.

“But I finally got relief as Bonya confirmed that I was not one of the killers, I was the rescuer.”

Ahmed is now a freelance photographer.

“I still remember the events even one year after the incident. My headache problem has worsened since then. I cannot talk for long. Now, I try to remain isolated,” he told BenarNews.

He said he would not talk to the media about Roy’s murder anymore.

“Nobody cared about me and the issue. What is the meaning of doing a story after one year?” he asked. Used with the permission of BenarNews.

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Irrespective of who wins at the ballot, Bangladesh’s Hindu minority is persecuted by the losing side, as if it was their fault.

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West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed

 By:  Tania Bhattacharya           

 

Tania Bhattacharya
Tania Bhattacharya

Twenty-first of February is an important annual date for the peoples of both, Bangladesh, and West Bengal. On that day in nineteen fifty two, students of East Pakistan’s institutions of knowledge like Dhaka Medical College, had been mercilessly struck down, after they were fired upon by the soldiers of West Pakistan. Their crime? Bangla, the indigenous mother-tongue of all Bengalis, irrespective of religion and location, had been the prime focus of East Pakistan’s ‘Language Movement’. The seat of power, despite the East’s relatively larger demographic, had been, for all means and purposes, firmly lodged in the West, separated from the Eastern wing, by thousands of miles of territory belonging to the state of independent India. West Pakistan wielded absolute power over Pakistan’s army, its internal security, administration and the judicial system. Persian, Arabic, Urdu, Punjabi, Saraiki, and Sindhi, were the most recognized and respected lingua franca. Bengali was deemed by the West, to be a ‘Pagan’ language, the tongue of millions of ‘kaffirs’ that worshipped a plenitude of deities.

 

 

indo-bangla
Ansal-al-Islam supporters demand the death of Atheist bloggers.

The Bengalis, a people deeply protective of their cultural heritage, cutting across religious lines, took offense, and thus commenced the movement for the restoration of Bangla, as the legitimate representative of the East Bengalis. What followed, is well known, to South Asian History, enthusiasts. Exploiting the opportunity that had presented itself, and asphyxiated by more than ten million Bengali refugees who had migrated to eastern India in wake of ‘Operation Searchlight’ imposed by West Pakistan on its eastern wing, India had invaded the latter in the early December of 1971. The shortest war of modern history, had ended a fortnight later, with the emergence of an independent homeland, for all Bengali speaking peoples: Bangladesh.

Assam
An Indian publication reporting the Nellie Massacre of Assam.

Bangladesh turns forty-seven on the twenty sixth of March this year. Over the last nearly five decades, much water has flown under the bridge. Significantly, it has taken along with it, a bulk of the initial bonhomie and camaraderie, that Bangladesh and India shared with one another. From trustworthy allies, the two neighbours, have now entered a phase of grudging respect, but that too is often found in suspended animation, once anti-Indian regimes come to power in the other country. There are a number of reasons why India and Bangladesh have experienced a souring of relations over time, and much to the ordinary Indian’s chagrin, not all of the blame can be laid at our eastern neighbour’s door.

Pakistan
The 1971 surrender of West Pakistan.

BANGLADESHI CONCERNS

 

  1. A) WHAT’S IN A PICTURE? EVERYTHING!

Any patriotic Indian, often ruminates fondly over a well circulated photo that emerged in the December of 1971. It was taken during the capitulation of the West Pakistan army to India. The photo is held up by Indian nationalists, like a trophy and proudly referred to as the ultimate symbol of India’s crushing of Pakistan. This historic photo in question, has a sombre Lt. Gen. J.S. Arora, looking on, as a visibly demoralized Gen. A.A.K. Niazi of Pakistan signs the document of surrender. A sea of khaki and army green dot the backdrop of the image. Smiling soldiers of the Indian Defence Forces, can be seen interspersed between high ranking members of the Pakistan Army. However, remarkably, missing from the image, is the presence of the very people, who had had to sacrifice their life, their limb, and their precious dignity, to make their own independence happen.

Indira Gandhi
Bongobondhu Sheikh Mujib with Indira Gandhi. The two shared a close friendship.

As time has passed, millions of Bangladeshis have taken stock of the historic footage that seemed to signal their freedom day, and yet, they have asked: “Where are our people?” Yes, indeed. It is a photograph that, once the euphoria had died down, was bound to reveal its troubling nature. It may have been the defining moment for our own military men, but for the patriots within our newly born neighbour, this image is one of being slighted; of being overlooked, and insulted. Indians should have realized awhile back, that parading the said photo, was not a wise thing to do. The newly liberated nation, did not and to this day, cannot claim the image as their own, due to the complete absence of any East Bengali presence.

 

  1. B) WATER, WATER EVERYWHERE, BUT NOT A DROP TO DRINK!
protests
Bangladeshi atheists and freethinkers protest the murder of their own.

In 1996, Bangladesh and India had signed a treaty over the sharing of river waters. The agreement – known as the Ganges Treaty – had promised to equally divide the volume of river waters shared by the two nations. Waters of the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna mega-basin, constitute the globe’s second largest hydraulic region, with a high population density inhabiting its banks. Simply put, the so-called division of water, is neither fair, and nor useful, to Bangladeshis. Through the Farakka Barrage, India, with its advanced systems of harvesting trans-boundary water, virtually controls the upstream flow of currents, which it then utilises without a care for the consequences being experienced by the people that live around the downstream currents of the barrage. As a result, Bangladesh has become a victim of environmental degradation which is a direct consequence of India’s water harvesting policy and techniques. Flora and Fauna, especially a variety of edible fish, important to our eastern neighbour, have either drastically lessened, or come close to extinction, due to callous and selfish, Indian interests over river-water sharing.

police
A troublesome photo.

INDIAN CONCERNS

 

  1. A) THREE IS A CROWD!
assam

Illegal immigration into Assam from Bangladesh has created Distrust and concern among the locals.

A fundamental problem that posited itself even before the Liberation War in East Pakistan was over, and should have been a dark indicator of what was to come, was the deluge of refugees that had escaped the porous Indo-Pak border at its eastern end, and come to stay in India, as hopeful citizens. Even though Bangladesh is itself a witness to a refugee apocalypse in the form of the Rohingyas, they do not seem to be able to join the dots between their own problem, and that of India’s, for which their homegrown, poverty-stricken population is responsible. The Indian state which has borne the brunt of our refugee crisis, has been the north-easterly one of Assam. Bordering Bangladesh, this volatile Indian region has had to absorb the vast majority of illegals that continually transgress into our territories, by paying a small bribe to the jawans of the BSF (Border Security Forces), and obtaining false ration and identity cards. Bangladesh has chosen to delude itself by claiming time and again, that the alleged social scenario is an impossibility, accusing India instead, of tainting Indo-Bangla ties with our calumnies against them. In a heart-breaking tragedy that unfolded in the Nellie town of Assam in 1983, thousands of Muslims were slain by the local Assamese, over fear of the former’s illegal alien status.

water
Bangladesh and India’s West Bengal do not see eye to eye over river water issues.

It must be acknowledged, that though a sizeable proportion of the deaths were of Indian Muslims who were unfortunately caught in the crosshairs; the remaining victims were indeed of Bangladeshi descent. The crisis could have been averted, if a national population census board had been specifically set up for the beleaguered Assam state, decades previously. But illegals from Bangladesh have been known to wade deeper into Indian territory, in hopes of a better life, and confirmed sources have located many such uprooted families living in the shanty dwellings of even megalopolises like Mumbai, which lie on the far-off western shores of India. If left unchecked, the Bangladeshi Illegal Aliens crisis, may snowball into a far greater threat than it is today. Given the pull of money, such individuals and indeed, families, may be willing to join insurgency operations that are threatening the fabric of unity that holds this country together.

&nb