This is a brief history of the events of last couple of years and my thoughts about what triggered the brutal murders of the bloggers and extreme intolerance towards free thinkers in Bangladesh. Many people think that, this is not only related to extremism and belief rather the Islamic militants are being 'used' to serve a cunning political agenda. Keeping that in mind, we may bring our attention to the chain of events and understand who can possibly commit these brutal crimes under various names like 'Ansarullah BD', 'Bangladesh IS' 'Al-Qaeda' etc.
In 2013, there was a huge protests called 'Shahbag movement' to demand the capital punishment of the convicted 'war criminals' of the liberation war, who are mostly the leaders of Jamat e Islami Bangladesh. The party 'Jamat e Islami' is convicted for conspiring with Pakistani army to commit mass murder, genocide and killings of the intellectuals of Bangladesh in 1971. When this movement was in full swing, a very active member of this movement 'Rajib Haider' was brutally murdered. Prime-minister Sheikh Hasina rushed in to show her condolences and declared him as a martyr of 'second liberation war'. Rajib Haider used to write under the nick name 'Thaba Baba' who was not only an active voice for 1971, war crimes and banning of Jamat but also wrote satire on religion (particularly on Islam & Mohammad). Probably as a part of the cunning masterplan of the killers, only these satire blogs were highlighted, shared and advertised countrywide to defame the bloggers. Not surprisingly, at that time, people of Bangladesh were not ready for this sort of writings or mocking of religion. This things turned the 'united protest' of young people to a very chaotic one. It brought in divisions, doubts and disbelief among the protesters of Shahbag- and the whole thing turned into a very different and non-relevant debate 'astik vs nastik'. It also lead to a practice of tagging anyone who is active in 'Shahbag Movemnt' as atheist.
Later in May 2013, there was a huge march towards Dhaka by mullahs and hujurs carrying posters and banners saying 'hang the atheist bloggers' under the name of 'Hefazot e Islami' (which shares very similar ideology as Jamat e Islami).There were clashes between these hujurs and police as things started to go out of control. And this time as well, these islamists jumped in to take this opportunity to play victim and advertise worldwide how Bangladeshi Government is torturing and killing islamists! They lobbied worldwide hiring human right organizations such as; Odhikar showing false allegation of killing Muslims (later on it was proved to be an exaggeration and some people who were claimed to be 'killed by police' were found well and alive). Not surprisingly, BNP as well did not waste anytime to use this opportunity to support 'Hefajot' and lobby against the Government internationally. In this situation, Government turned their backs on the bloggers to save their reputation and to come clean as a islam friendly Government. I think, the ruthless killers of the bloggers and secular minds were provoked to kill more than ever by this movement of mullahs, madrasa students and islami extremists. This movement has created numerous militant killers who are ready to kill someone just by the tag 'blogger'.
As a result, a country, apparently peaceful and secular in nature became very intolerant towards the word 'blogger'. Here I would like to mention, the process of slow islamization began long ago after the assassination of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib in 1975. Almost every year in recent times-there has been frequent incidences of violence towards religious minorities and some intolerant incidences and attacks towards some high profile writers. But this pattern of extreme and mass intolerance towards secular writers were fueled by the movement of 'Hofazoti Islam'. Most of the people in Bangladesh, even the highly educated ones now think 'blogging' is something where people only mock religion. This notion led to a very unfortunate situation today where majority of the people don't condemn the killings of the bloggers rather they blame the bloggers for their writings. Government as well became very cold and strange about this fact, they keep denying the rise of terror and keep lecturing about what to write and how to write. After every brutal killing, instead of taking a strong stand against these brutal acts,their press releases are like 'secularism doesn't mean absence of religion', 'criticizing religion is a punishable crime'. On top of that, Government has implemented a very controversial 'ICT Act 57'.
There are many theories and thoughts regarding the rise of terror in Bangladesh. Some theories highlight its connection with the terrorism worldwide. But it is undeniable that, there is a striking similarity between the murder of the intellectuals on 14th December before Bangladesh got freedom and murder of 'free thinkers' when Bangladesh is trying to get its long pending justice against the war criminals. It is high time we identified our enemies and understand why it is necessary for them to end free thinking and secularism in Bangladesh. It is also time to realize the necessity to practice free thoughts, freedom of expression and secularism which is one of the reasons why Bangladesh was born, reason why Bangladesh is distinct from many other Muslim majority countries.
The following documentary by BBC sums up the situation in Bangladesh well except the fact that 'Shahbag movement' was not primarily for secularism (as it said in the documentary), it was actually a protest to demand capital punishment of the convicted war criminals which later on turned into this very nasty game of oppression and killing of free thinkers.