This Death Valley is not my country!
The British ruled India subcontinent was alienated into two distinct countries as India and Pakistan in 1947 by the ruler, the two artificial countries, where the socio-cultural identical harmony was not considered, but the partition was standardized on so called Two Nation Theory, i.e. two different countries for Hindus and Muslims, which means people belonging to two major religious group to be considered as a separate nationality! Overall India represents a compound ethnic group of people who had been living in this soil for thousands of years descending from the same ancestors. Mr. Mountbatten along with his native stooges never considered these substantial factors and on the contrary deliberately widened the gap between the two major religious groups: Hindus and Muslims and threw millions of people to take blood bath for killing each other. Present Bangladesh, the then East Pakistan was always denied the nationalism theory which based on religion since its new site. After lots of uphill-downhill and different historic movements we achieved a blood birth of a new country, named Bangladesh, which country wasn’t supposed to run with such ongoing sultry culture; since, to achieve a secular and democratic people’s republic three million lives were sacrificed.
Though in post liberation period a democratic and secular constitution was adopted by the government, where it was mentioned that the state will ensure a uniform, mass oriented and universal system of education for the people, but the subsequent ruling elites kept away from such a principle. As much, the ruling class established a bawdy system in education sector, which helped them maintain status quo and widen the division and discrimination amongst people with a pooled way of general educational system, Cadet College System, Western Educational System and Religious Maddrasa System. Consequently, as offshoot of Maddrasha system a huge backward group of people are coming out. In some cases the government has no control over such kind of system; these generations have no connection with science, technology and modern world. On the other hand, by corrupting general course of politics and a gradual process of criminalization the politics it created such a deadlock that every mainstream political parties are using religion as ‘useful’ thing consciously or unconsciously and here religious sentiments are always dominating the political philosophy. As such, secular educational system, liberal lifestyle- which was the ultimate aspiration of liberation war, has become a matter of far cry.
However, it was not often that, every single person was as like as mentioned above. People from youth group always tried to raise their voice against any injustice and inconsistency in the social and state affairs. They strived tooth and nail to ensure modern-secular society. Some prominent intellectuals also contributed to bring the society into the right track. In recent past along with others Dr. Ahmed Sharif, Mr. Ahmed Sofa, Dr. Humaun Azad had been vocal with their edge-cutting write-ups and public lectures for the sake of free thinking and modern society. It is obvious that the path of their work wasn’t always as smooth as it believed to be. They always had been treated as enemy of Islam or the enemy of the society; these propaganda circulated from that group of bigots who never wished to be a part of modern and secular society and they successfully be able to convince a large section of people turning against the free thinkers as in gross line they consider it all about against Islam. In fact most of the people in our country are yet to set reason instead of religion. As a continuation of such a fanatic attitude Dr. Humayun Azad was attacked by machete on 27th February, 2004 in the Book Fair for his powerful writings and voice and later on he had to embrace a questionable death on August 12, 2004 at Germany, while he was under treatment there. It is notable here that the first murder in this subcontinent for publishing book was occurred in India subcontinent for a Book named ‘Colorful Prophet/Playful Prophet the writer of the book has not yet been disclosed but the publisher was hacked to death at that time, which was in the year of 1929.
However, upon an apparent quiet epoch after Dr. Azad’s murder the fanatic’s bloodthirsty machete became visible bloodily once again on the “Boi-Mela” (Book Fair) of 2015, the first victim of such a ruthless killing spree started with Mr. Avijit Roy on 26th February 2015, while he was returning from Book Fair along with his wife Ms. Rafida Ahmed (Bonya Ahmed), another prominent writer and Blogger. According to the version of Bonya Ahmed -“On the 26th of February, when we were leaving the well-lit, crowded book fair to get back to our car, Avijit and I were brutally attacked by Islamic fundamentalists. We were stabbed repeatedly with machetes on the side of the road. The area was surrounded by police officers and video cameras and thousands and thousands of people. Nobody came to help us, the police stood by. We owe thanks to a young journalist who did act, and rushed us to the nearby hospital a little later. But Avijit was killed and I was badly injured as a result of four stab wounds, around my head and my thumb was sliced off. I have injuries on both hands, fingers and my body. I have had multiple surgeries to repair the damaged nerves and arteries”.
Avijit started to contribute in mentionable extent towards secular and modern society through his powerful writings of science and rational thinking. He afforded best to build up a strong community of freethinker, tried to create a strong flow of rational movement in Bangladesh. On the way which he started a Yahoo Group based on internet in the year of 2001, when the Blog System for writing wasn’t as popular as now. The blog www.mukt-mona.com is the dreamed platform of Avijt, created by his endless effort, to move forward the rational thinking.
Was it really easy task to launch a rational movement in such a country where religion is being used in politics as a very ‘useful thing’? Not really. Avijit knew it very well and that’s why he wrote in his Facebook wall as, “Those who think victory will be realized without any bloodshed are merely living in a fool’s paradise. We risk our lives the moment we started wielding our pens against religious bigotry and fundamentalism…”
In twenty first century, in the time of technology there are several public blogs in Bangladesh, lots of articles, writings are available here too. Beyond every single blog Avijit’s mukto-mona came out the most popular destination for the progressives and rational thinkers, it makes itself as a grater platform too. This blog relentlessly criticized the religious prejudice, was contributing remarkably to make the science as well-liked one, was giving great feedback to the people of secular community, which ultimately became a big concern and headache for the fundamentalist.
Though Mr. Roy was just a radical atheist to the religious militant, but in wide range he was an atheist, a blogger, a writer, and above all he was a secular humanist who tried to answer the larger questions in life. He wrote in his facebook wall that, ‘I am an Atheist. But most of the people, friends and surrenders of mine are believer. I have no difficulties with them; I have no abhorrence about them. I am definitely cheerful with their delight; I become gloomy for any oppression crop up to them. I have always raised my voice for the persecuted communities of Palestine and Kashmir. I follow the same in past and will be in future. This is my lesson of humanity.” According to Bonya Ahmed’s version – Avi wrote about science, which he loved; one of his last books how the universe could emerge from nothing. He wrote book about the Origin of life, science behind homosexuality, yet another one on Love from the perspective of Evolutionary Psychology. He even wrote a literary piece regarding the relationship between Nobel Laureate Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore and the Argentinian feminist writer Victoria Ocampo. But two of his books titled Philosophy of Disbelief and Virus of Faith, created far greater attention. On one hand, they made him exceedingly popular among young adults and progressive reader. On the other hand, these books fueled hostility and anger towards Avijit from religious fundamentalists.
Upon such a shocking attack everyone thought state will take care of it, it will act accordingly. But very surprisingly we observed that state is speaking just like a disabled organ of the body, it started to impose different obstacle upon writings, rational thinking. On air the people in power are giving opinion that writers should not cross the ‘limit’, they started to articulate their disability by stating ‘we are walking a fine line here’. When a state speaks in such a stupid way, the power of dark fundamentalist bigots becomes more perilous. They declare a death list publicly and start to materialize the event of death of secular blogger in a sequential order: Thus Washikur Rahman Babu, Ananta Bijoy Das, Niloy Neel, Faisal Arefin Dipon embraced the event shortly. Bangladesh has turned into a death land for free thinking writers.
After such a blood shaded year of 2015, just before opening of the Book Fair of 2016 Mr. Shamsuzzaman Khan, Director General of Bangla Academy, the Chief Administrator of Book Fair organizing authority stated that-Publishers should not publish such book which may incite other! What a pleasantry with freedom of speech from a responsible chair. Such irresponsible statement from a responsible position will definitely encourage that group of militant to act with extra excitement with their ‘justification’. But this civic sense is not in the mind of the administration of the state, which is a big tragedy for Bangladesh.
The one after another instance of impunity and the indifference of the state is making the country to a closed minded civilization, which was not supposed to the dream of great liberation war, not the ultimate goal of a nation. I should speak, we should speak, world should speak out. It is very easy to vandalize a cultural civilization within a while, but very difficult to build up it again. It is very easy to exterminate an Avijit within few second but very hard to create an Avijit in a country like Bangladesh. Because, lots of endowed writers here, but the vacuum is for an organizer who will induce, who will care, who will tolerate; Avijit was such one. With all of his infinite care, affection and inspiration he works to build up a wide circle of people who will read between the facts rationally. This significant blankness badly rings round the time.
As we know that freedom of expression is the driving force of a civilization, the harbingers of progress and multiculturalism are still fighting to their best where as Bangladesh is in the stage of the growth of capitalism and the remainder of the feudalism. Hence, religious fundamentalism, a vice of feudal production system obstructs the cultural superstructure of the freedom of expression. This is not unseen in the history as the glorious French revolution came into existence declining all sorts of mental slavery and upholding the right to life liberty and property. When Jesus was carried away to be crucified Peter asked him Quo Vadis (Where are you going?) Hundreds of Jesus in Bangladesh is counting the moments to be hacked death with machete by the religious bigots only for simply expressing their opinions!!Only a word echoing in my neuron: Quo Vadis my country? We must resist this downfall!
This article was written by Deb Prashad Debu
Ex-General Secretary of Bangladesh Students’ Union, CU Unit. and a well known freelance writer & blogger. Writer of mukto-mona blog and of different Socio-cultural and Political Articles.