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US blogger murdered in Bangladesh 'for stand against fundamentalism'

world Updated: Feb 27, 2015 18:24 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
US blogger

Unidentified attackers have hacked to death a prominent blogger, who was known for his writing against religious fundamentalism, in Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka, amid outcry that similar attacks in the past have not been thoroughly investigated and perpetrators remained unpunished.

Avijit Roy, a Bangladesh-born US citizen, died late Thursday night after he was taken to Dhaka Medical College Hospital immediately after the grisly attack. His wife Rafida Ahmed, also a blogger, was seriously injured as the assault was made when they were returning from a book fair at Dhaka University.

Police could not say immediately who were behind the attack but Avijit’s family and friends said he was a strong voice against religious fanatics and has faced threats in the past. The latest attack has demonstrated that intolerance against people who are critical of fundamentalism is growing in the country.

In a Twitter post, a previously unknown group Ansar Bangla 7 said Roy was targeted because of his “crime against Islam.”

Avijit posted write-ups in his Facebook where he mentioned that he was being threatened to discuss religion.

On Friday, Avijit’s father, Ajoy Roy, who is a physicist and a former teacher of Dhaka University, filed a murder case but did not name anybody.

The attack took place when many Bangladeshi bloggers who advocate free thinking and openly talk against religious fanatics and religion-based politics are increasingly getting louder.

Avijit’s Bengali-language blog, 'Mukto-mona', or Free Mind, was a platform of bloggers and writers who write about science and religious extremism. His friends said he had been threatened earlier by the people who felt offended because of his stand against religious extremism and fundamentalism.

Dhaka Metropolitan police official Abdul Baten told reporters they began an investigation and crime scene experts and detectives have collected two blood-stained cleavers at the scene.

At least two attackers hit the 42-year-old writer from behind, leaving him critically injured. Doctors later declared him dead at the hospital. Rafida was also injured as she attempted to save her husband from the attacker who immediately fled from the scene, police said, quoting witnesses.

Anujit Roy, his younger brother, said Avijit had returned to the country earlier in February from the US and was planning to return there in March.

He was the elder son of Ajoy Roy, a former teacher of Physics at Dhaka University and a well-known writer.

Similar attacks have taken place in the country in the past but authorities have failed to properly investigate and catch the killers.

In February, 2013, blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider, who was also a voice against religious fanatics and an organizer of a platform that advocates capital punishment for war crimes, was killed similarly by unidentified attackers near his home in Dhaka’s Mirpur area.

Haider had sought banning of fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami party which had campaigned against the independence of Bangladesh in 1971. He was a self-declared atheist and critical of using religion in politics.

Prominent writer, researcher and Dhaka University teacher Humayun Azadwas was critically injured in similar attacks allegedly by Islamist extremists at Dhaka University after he wrote a satirical novel against fundamentalist groups in 2004. Azad could never recover from that trauma stemmed from the attack and later died at his flat in Berlin, Germany. He was also returning from Ekushey Book Fair at night the attack was made.

In January, 2013, another self-styled atheist Asif Mohiuddin was stabbed by unidentified people near his office in Dhaka’s Uttara area.

Bloggers got prominence in Bangladesh’s political landscape in 2013 after a special tribunal dealing with war crimes trial involving the country’s independence war in 1971 sentenced fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami party’s assistant secretary-general Abdul Quader Mollah to life in prison for his role in the killing of people during the war.

They organized a mass upsurge near the Dhaka University campus when hundreds of thousands of people thronged to demand capital punishment for Mollah.

They continued to protest for over a month drawing youth people to the cause of justice for the families who lost their dear ones during the independence war against Pakistan. They prominently highlighted the punishment for collaborators who sided with Pakistani military in 1971. Bangladesh says 3 million people died in the nine-month war.

Later, a law was amended in Parliament and Mollah was eventually sentenced to death by the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court. He was hanged later.