Humility is not a peculiar habit of self-effacement...it is self-less respect for reality, and one of the most difficult and central of all virtues - Iris Murdoch in The Sovereignty of Good (1970) ///
Pain make man think. Thought make man wise. Wisdom make life endurable - Sakini, in The Tea House of the August Moon (John Patrick (1953)
Tuesday, 10 May 2016
Bangladeshi bloggers: What we want the world to know
NB:Many decades ago, during
the opposition to the Vietnam war, democrats the world over were
internationalist in their outlook. Sufficiently large numbers of them refused to align with one-sided ideologies, and supported democratic movements across the geopolitical divisions of the Cold War. Yes, there were political dogmatists then too, but the anti-Vietnam war movement - or the now-forgotten but highly successful anti-MX missile movement of the 1980's (European Nuclear Disarmament) were vastly popular because they were not defined by any partisan political 'line' or orientation.
Today international support for democracy is selective, subject to doctrinal certification. Some campaign
for human rights in Palestine, but forget about Tibet. Some remember the human rights violations suffered by the people of the Kashmir Valley, but forget about the sufferings of Pandits (it’s never the ‘right
time’ to raise such issues). Some condemn blasphemers against Islam, but are
more offended by cartoons than by murder. Some raise their voices against
criminal acts and arms peddling by the Western powers but not against the same
activities when committed by the Russian and Chinese governments. In south
Asia, it has become an entrenched practice to view communalism through a communal lens - and this selective and opportunist stand toward our version of fascism has underwritten our failure to evolve a comprehensive resistance to it.
In India there has been a systematic assault on the rights of free speech and criticism
of religion – this has been evident in India with the legal protection given to
religious fanatics (about which my friend Purushottam Agrawal has written a
biting satire, Nakohas, an acronym for National Commission of Hurt Sentiment).
The murders of Dabholkar, Pansare and Kalburgi are cases in point, as are the manufactured
hate campaigns by the ruling dispensation, which rakes up issues such as love
jehad, beef eating, and the forced chanting of patriotic slogans to keep up the
temperature of hatred in which it flourishes.
In Bangladesh there
has been a series of brutal murders of bloggers and intellectuals, as is true for Pakistan as well. Surely our support and solidarity for endangered intellectuals, journalists and human rights defenders in these countries is a moral imperative
for democratic activists everywhere? Or will political correctness make us turn a blind eye to communal tyranny? Let us remind ourselves once again, that a threat to
human liberty anywhere is a threat to us all, and that the survival of
democracy and free speech requires international solidarity. I post these interviews with Bangladeshi bloggers out of respect for the dead, and as a salute to their courage in resisting the religious fascists and highlighting the role of a supine government in allowing this situation to develop - DS
Bangladesh has become
a dangerous place for anyone who dares to cross an invisible line set by
Islamic extremists intent on silencing dissenting voices with knives and guns. In
the last two years, at least eight
atheists and gay rights campaigners have been killed in attacks in the
majority Muslim country. CNN approached three bloggers who know their lives are
at risk to ask what they wanted the world to know. For their own safety,
we didn't want to identify them. However, at their insistence, CNN has agreed
to put their names to their words because, as one said, not doing so "will
boost extremists' morale." "They will attack us more, believing they
have achieved something and forced us to hide our names (and that) if they
continue killing, they can stop our writings completely."
Words in custody but killers are free, by Imran
Editor's note: Imran H. Sarker is a blogger, convener of the
Bangladeshi Bloggers & Online Activists Network and spokesman for the GonoJagoron
Moncho secular movement. The views expressed are his own.
"With the killing
of one blogger after another, we seem to be heading towards total oblivion. As
the world progresses under the banner of freedom of expression, we seem to be
hurtling backwards. Our freedom is being silenced by the serial murder of
bloggers and publishers.
In 2015, five bloggers
were killed, including prominent
Bangladeshi-American writer Abhijit Roy. Every killing has created an
outcry: streets have been lined with protests. But instead of focusing on
solving the murders, state officials have been known to make such statements
that question their commitment for justice. The procession of the dead
increases as we lose our fellow warriors. The killers attempt to create one
barricade after another on the road to free thought. The state watches in
silence, while the people's anger wells up at the procession of killings.
In any civilized
nation, people have a right to get justice. But among officials, not a single
word seems to be uttered about denouncing the killers. Rather, public
statements are released questioning the bloggers' writings. It is almost as if
they seem to rationalizing the killers' actions. They are unable to arrest the
killers, but using Section 57 of the Information and Communication
Technology (ICT) Act, they are imprisoning bloggers.
scrutinized by the government. This is not what you would
expect to hear from the home minister of a self-proclaimed democratic country.
It speaks of a spineless government that lets a murderer get away while several
writers have claimed that authorities have prosecuted them.As a result of such
displays of ineptitude, Bangladesh is turning into a free roaming ground for
fundamentalists and their religiously-blind killer brigades. This is not the
humane Bangladesh which we had dreamed of."
Editor's note: Maruf Rosul is a writer and contributor to the Mukto-Mona
human rights blog. The views expressed are his own.
expression in my country is dying. If George Harrison were still alive, he
probably would change the first line of his song written for the Concert for
Bangladesh to these words instead. Right now, our beloved Bangladesh
is bleeding ceaselessly. The land is torn asunder by the fanatics. There is no
way to disagree with the establishment or to ask questions about anything, even
though freedom of speech is our constitutional right.
We welcomed Awami League as
ruling party because of their secular and democratic stand. But to our utter
astonishment, the state machinery has turned into an instrument of suppression
for freethinkers, writers, bloggers and publishers. Fundamentalists and
militants are orchestrating a systematic orgy of killing. A number of bloggers,
writers and publishers have been killed in the last three years and yet there
is no justice.
The situation is
becoming a nightmare for writers and bloggers. The killings follow the same
pattern, but it is the statements from the government that are the most
pathetic. These derogatory and irresponsible statements encourage killers who
are trading in religion and seeking a theocratic state. We are led to assume
that the government agrees with the fundamentalists, which leads to zero action
on the killings.
When the state fails
to take proper action, it imperils us all. The state's impotence on this matter
is aiding and abetting the killers, and empowering religious bigots and
fanatics. Fundamentalists are on the rampage all over the world. Freedom of
speech, expression and freethinking is under threat. So the fight should be
dauntless and carried out worldwide before these evil forces put another nail
in the coffin of our freedom."
Editor's note: Arif Jebtik is a blogger and writer. The
views expressed are his own.
"When I heard
that another online activist, Nazimuddin Samad, had been hacked to death, I
didn't feel any rage this time. All I could feel was a load of agony, tiresome
discontent and bitter heartache! It had been quite a few months since the last
murder. Deep down in my heart, I was mentally prepared that maybe we would to
lose a few more lives soon. Sometimes, it is just a relief to get the news that
the latest victim is not me, it is still somebody else.
After my publisher, Faysal Arefin Deepon, was murdered, his father
--a Dhaka university professor and a renowned Bangladeshi
intellectual -- said he would not seek justice, "as I know there is no
justice out there for me." The worrying thing is, as people are losing
faith in the state, hope is also diminishing. As they continue to tally their
votes in order to hold power and influence, our mainstream politicians are the
ones who are creating the debacles our country is currently facing right now.
It is they who are silently broadening the path for radicalized murderers and
extremists. Not so long ago, our largest opposition party held a mass rally
demanding that bloggers be hanged. Our former prime minister said the bloggers
were "estranged youth."
After the murder of
Nazimuddin, our home minister told the media that the government will look into Nazimuddin's writings. When a citizen is murdered
and the state's priority is finding out the subject that he wrote about rather
than identifying the perpetrators, it does appear as though the government has
very little interest in identifying the murderers of these bloggers. The state
is now imposing boundaries in each and every aspect of our lives to give
extremist outfits space to nurture and grow. In the meantime, our culture,
heritage and identity are at stake.
Earlier this month,
Pohela Boishakh, our welcome to the Bengali new year, was scaled down in
comparison to previous years. Attacks on
religious minorities and the murder of minority religious leaders are
also becoming the norm. It seems like the secular society in Bangladesh is
rapidly changing and more bloodshed is inevitable. However, against the odds, a
handful of young people continue to carry the charge to bring back religious
harmony and freedom of speech, and to restore hope and faith to our people.
And yes, I do believe
that someday we will come back as a nation. We will reclaim our losses. A
nation with such a strongly defined past in which all religions, races and
cultures have lived together in religious harmony -- this is us, this is