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They hacked Niloy, now threatened to rape me: Bangladesh blogger

The brutal murders of Niloy Chatterjee, a Bangladeshi secularist blogger and MM Kalburgi, a renowned Indian scholar, in August sent shockwaves across the two nations.

world Updated: Sep 10, 2015 15:57 IST
Aniruddha Dhar
Aniruddha Dhar
Hindustan Times
Shammi Haque,Niloy Chatterjee,Bangladeshi blogger
A photograph from the Facebook profile of 22-year-old Dhaka-based blogger Shammi Haque.

The brutal murders of Niloy Chatterjee, a Bangladeshi secularist blogger and MM Kalburgi, a renowned Indian scholar, in August sent shockwaves across the two nations.

While fundamentalists continue to threaten atheist writers in India, 22-year-old Dhaka-based blogger Shammi Haque is living in constant fear after four of her colleagues were hacked to death this year by suspected Islamists.

“In a recent text message, they threatened to pick me up from my home and rape me… They have also threatened to slit my throat if I continue writing against the fundamentalists,” said Haque, also an activist with Ganajagaran Mancha – a movement demanding capital punishment for the 1971 war criminals.

This is not the first time she has received such threats. “I have received warnings and death threats from unknown persons on Facebook and over phone ever since I joined the movement in 2013,” Haque, who contributes to the blog site -- Istishon (station), told HT from Dhaka.

Shammi Haque being dragged by policemen during a protest. (Photo: Facebook)

The BBA student of a private university in the capital city, who is currently under 24x7 police protection said, "The fundamentalists perceive all bloggers to be their enemy.

Recently, I was followed by two men on my way to Meena Bazaar in Dhaka on August 27 after which I lodged a police complaint."

The young activist, who has been pressing for freedom of speech and other progressive thinking, is living dangerously since the brutal murder of Chatterjee.

"Even a little creak of the window wakes me up in the middle of the night. Despite getting 24-hour police protection, I fear that the next on the list of machete-wielding killers could be me," said Haque. Repeated threats have now restricted her social and political associations considerably.

"Once I used to think that the Hasina government was better than the Khalida Zia government. But the current scenario in the country makes it clear that this government is worse than the Zia’s BNP and Jamaat-e-Islami," said Haque.

"I live in a free country and like many others like to write blogs and on Facebook. Is that why I am facing such a situation?" she questioned.

Read | Bangladesh: Three murdered bloggers and their fight against fanatics

Constitutionally a secular nation, Bangladesh has witnessed a series of attacks on outspoken rationalist writers in the last two years.

Blogger Rajib Hyder was hacked to death on February 5, 2013, only a week after the movement was launched against the Jamaat-e-Islami leaders and activists who were allegedly behind the genocide, rapes and arson attacks during the independence conflict.

Within the first eight months of 2015, four other bloggers – Avijit Roy, Washiqur Rahman Babu, Ananta Bijoy Das and Chatterjee – were killed in similar attacks.

All the four bloggers were associated with the Ganajagaran Mancho, which forced the Hasina government to crack down on Jamaat-e-Islami in recent times.

Shammi Haque at a protest event. (Photo: Facebook)

But Haque and other activists are still unconvinced with the action taken by the government against the killers of their fellow-bloggers.

"Had proper action been taken against Roy’s murderers, Babu would not have been killed. Had the culprits behind Das’ murder been brought to book, Chatterjee would not have been attacked," said Haque.

In a recent interview to a news agency, Berlin-based Bangladeshi blogger Asif Mohiuddin had said at least 12 atheist bloggers had fled the country this year. Mohiuddin too had left his country after surviving a machete attack in 2013.

According to Haque, there has been little support from Indian writers, though she believes her counterparts are facing similar threats back home.

On August 20, 2013, prominent rationalist Narendra Dabholkar, 68, was shot dead in Pune. Dabholkar’s mentor Govind Pansare, 83, was killed in Kolhapur in February, six months before Kalburgi’s murder.

First Published: Sep 10, 2015 15:41 IST