Tales of a few fighters from dark tiny little room
The ‘Shahbag movement’ started on 5th February, 2013. The movement started demanding capital punishment of war criminal Abdul Quader Mollah who was convicted for his brutal war crimes during Bangladesh liberation in 1971. The movement was non-violent, peaceful and spontaneous movement of general public. On February 15th Rajib Haider one of the online activists was hacked to death near his house when he was returning home from Shahbag. Rajib Haider happened to be an atheist and it was the first target killing by Islamic militants. Every person in the country was shocked but as news spread that he was atheist- people were not showing any sympathy to deceased Rajib Haider. At that point of Shahbag movement suddenly an Islamic group named ‘Hafazat-E-Islam’ emerged (English meaning: Protectors of Islam). They claimed- all bloggers are atheist, they are insulting our religion and they should get punishment! It is worth to know that the bloggers and online activists were the one who started the movement in Shahbag. Shahbag movement continued for more than 120 days. In that time our political opposition party BNP (Bangladesh Nationalist Party) who are political ally with Jamat-E-Islam; used some Islamic and right wing newspapers to provoke Hafazat-E-Islam to create an anti Shahbag movement. Hefazat-E-Islam with the help of some media started this movement, they came in to streets, and violence erupted. To please them or negotiate with them Bangladesh government announced to make a list of atheist blogger who insulted Islam. By that announcement another Islamic group allied to government ‘Olama League’ submitted a list to Home ministry. There were names of 84 bloggers in that list. But we did not get afraid of that. Most of the bloggers believed it was just a mere threat and nothing else. Government would do nothing against bloggers. But we were wrong!
March 31st, 2013 at 10 P.M. detective police caught a blogger to call me. He was a junior friend; we were studying in the same university (University of Dhaka). I was at the university hall. After receiving the phone call, I went to meet him casually. Outside of my hall I saw he sat with three people. One stranger came forward and introduced himself and said to me; they are arranging a meeting about blogger safety. At first I did not trust them. Suddenly one white Micro jeep came and they said blogger Moshiur Rahman Biplob sat inside it with DB police. So I agreed to go with them.
Jeep started running. First police sieged my cell phone and started their interrogation. They were curious to know about another blogger who was in the list. Especially they were very interested about a female blogger. They ordered me to take them to her house but I denied. I never thought I would be arrested for my writings. I looked at the junior friend; I saw fear in his eyes. The police had threated him before they reached me. The Jeep was running with silence.
At Shahbag police released my junior friend and gave him more threat. Jeep started again and reached DB (Detective Branch) head office. Although I did not think we were going to be the public enemy as it turned out a few hours later. When we (Biplob and I) reached DB office I saw blogger Rasel Parvez. I did not expect him at this place at midnight. He is renowned and known as a very nice and brilliant guy. I asked him: “why are you here?” He replied: “I had come here help DB police because police said they have no idea about blog so I thought as a citizen I should come and help them understand what blog is.” We sat on a bench together.
After more than three hours police came and took away Biplob and Rasel with handcuff. Another officer took me to another place and gave a place to sit on the floor. One hour passed but they did not come back. I got afraid because I was alone. When they came back with handcuff I feel good. Police took arrested blogger’s computer, internet router from their houses. I was a university student that’s why police had no fortitude to take my computer from my hall. Whole night they sat on the bench I sat on the floor. We had no opportunity to talk with each other.
Next morning, police brought us to another place. We were locked in handcuff with each other. We were just walking on road, did not know where we would be going. Police were taking us in their media cell. They presented us in national media as a public enemy, as if we have done treason against state. Police published our name, address, home town everything. Police gave a statement in newspaper; we were trying to destroy religious harmony! After publishing everything our families were in instant danger. Especially my family faced so many problems because I belong to a minority Hindu family. Some people harassed my family member, my parents were afraid of social stigma. After finishing media presentation, Police took us to Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Court (CMM Court) and requested for remand. CMM accepted police request for 7 days. In Bangladesh there is a notorious culture in police remand; that police can do anything with anyone, in any time on their mere whim. From the Supreme Court there is a direction or set of rules of remand in police custody but no one cares. Whole day we had no opportunity to eat. We three blogger were facing new experience. I was a university student, Rasel was a teacher and Biplob was a businessman. Through blogging platform we had known each other. I had no close relatives in Dhaka. My parents lived in country side and had no idea about CMM court or police case. Rasel have two children, his wife was a university teacher. Biplob was businessman and his wife was doing a job. At CMM court everybody had their relatives but I had no one except my girlfriend Camelia. Now she is my wife.
Hearing remand notice we got astonished. For 7 days remand DB police brought us to their office. When we reached DB office again we had seen a different environment there. Everybody was laughing at us when we arrived there. Behind that laugh there was a sick signal intended towards us. Before Shahbag movement people had no idea about blog and police was no different. They did not know what blog is. For the right wing media propaganda general people conceived blog as a place where bloggers only insult religion. Few police said; “we should kill you without food”. In DB office there were two lockups for people under remand. These were supposed to accommodate 7-10 people. But generally they keep inside there more than 35 people! Biplob and I were in same lockup Rasel was in another. Everybody started asking why we were here. In these lockers also were some Islamic terrorists. We had to say; “it’s local political case that is why we are here, we are brothers”. We lied but already they knew why we were there. We had another worry about Rasel Parvez; because he was all alone in another lockup. Later we heard; when he was there some people vituperated him but fortunately he was not attacked that time. In 2007 a cartoonist Arifur Rahman was arrested for his cartoon. Unfortunately some Islamic fundamentalist people attacked him inside of Dhaka central jail. Religion and specially Islam is very sensitive issue in our country. Even criminal turns out to be very pious and can do anything for the sake of religion. So no wonder criminals are also very sensitive about their religion. For that reason nonbelievers are not safe in jail also. We had another issue about our safety. After three hours police brought us into another room only for our safety. Because that time some national and International organizations were trying to help us, if somebody attacked us police would be blamed about our safety. That was basically an official room, only at night we could sleep.
April 3rd, 2013 DB police arrested another blogger Asif Mohiuddin and took him to remand but he was accommodated in another room. First three days national intelligence, other detective officers were coming to ask questions about us. Constantly taking pictures, interrogation about different stuffs, they acted as if we were aliens. It seems they probably never saw any atheist before meeting us. Everything was so weird. So people started giving us some advice and lecture to convince us that god exists. We understood no one liked us here. In remand days there was no schedule for interrogation. At night 3 A.M police called for interrogation. There some interesting stuffs happened; first day everybody hated us but after two days they were started to like us and said we have different views that they don’t agree but we were good people. We had already shared our personal view, talked about many things with them. May be they had a superstation about atheist people that all were evil; but we broke that for sure.
April 10th, after completion of remand DB police brought all the bloggers to CMM court. We expected bail. But CMM court sent us to Dhaka central jail and denied our bail. When we reached at central jail everybody berated and threated us. Everybody shouted and said; tomorrow morning we will kill you. Fortunately they were in lockup room because it was night. They gave us a room; it was good for one person but we stayed together. At night for hunger we could barely sleep. At night Rasel requested some food but security said they have no food, it’s over. But after some times he brought some rice and tomato for us. We thanked him, we tried to sleep eating that food.
Jail was definitely not safe for us. There were so many Islamic extremists there. Moreover murderers of blogger Rajib Haidar were there. Jihadists do not care any man made law or any authority. Their way of thinking is rather straight forward; if they die for Islam they will be guaranteed paradise. If they killed atheist or enemy of Islam Allah will reward them. Here I want to share an irony, some country makes a hard law against jihadists, but I think that is out of equation or stupid because Jihadists does not care about any man made law. If police shoot a Jihadi he thinks he will go in heaven so law does not work to stop Jihadi activities. To stop jihadi activities one needs good integrated education and stop Islamizing the country. I am not suggesting stripping religious life from them. Islamization is a political term which has political aim. Islamism is a political movement like fascism.
Next morning everybody came to see us. They might have thought atheists were like Dracula, who used to drink blood, fly etc. So many Islamic terrorists were in jail. So Jail Super kept a guard for our safety. Jail Super was worried about our security. We had no opportunity to move freely in jail. To be very honest it was most boring time of my life to pass staying all days in a room. We felt urgency to meet our family but it was not easy especially for us. We demanded to read book, to write, study but authority did not allow. Day by day we were getting mentally sick, sometimes our family members were allowed for short time visit. They were trying to manage bail for us but court was not supplying that to us. On other side Hefazat-E-Islam was giving threats and declared a mobilization at 5th May 2013.
After two weeks for our sickness and security reason we were transferred at Jail hospital and got opportunity to read books and meet with relatives. We had long time to discus and read so we were busy with discussion in many topics.
May 5th 2013, Hefazat-E-Islam arranged an Islamic mobilization and stated violent and destructive movement. They wanted to capture Dhaka city by the name of Islamic movement. They attacked some of the national buildings, wanted to attack Shahbag movement. It was so horrific situation for capital city and its dwellers. Hefazat-E-Islam used all Madrasha (Islamic School) students in that destructive activates. They gave fatwa (statement based on Islam) if anyone joined them he would be awarded by God and would achieve heaven eventually. Madrasha students said to the media: we don’t know what is blog or who is blogger but we want to kill them. Every time they were used by Islamic leaders. They never had the chance to read our blog, they don’t know anything about us but they want to kill us on one account. They wanted to hand us death because their leaders said do it for Islam and for prophet. The fact is they are less knowledgeable but inherently violent, especially about religion. Islamic groups attacked a lady journalist on Hefajat-E-Islam raid on street. Islam does not allow woman to go outside and work. When they saw her- doing her job they attacked but fortunately she survived. They destroyed roads, parks, trees, vehicles and many things; attacked journalists, police- so many police were killed and injured. On the resistance police charged up and Hefazat cadre got injured and few died too. For all nightmares Hafazat was responsible. Before 5th May they promised they would just do a peaceful mobilization and nothing more. But they betrayed with their promises or announcement. After mobilization they were trying to occupy Dhaka. They had a vision take over the power and create an Islamic revolution. But people were not with them.
After Hafazat’s destruction movement we thought probably we would get bail quickly. 12th May Rasel and I got bail from the High court. It’s seemed our bail was dependent on Hafazat’s movement. Biplob and Asif got bail later. When I came out from jail I had no place to go. That is because no one wanted to take any risk for me. I needed a safe and hiding place for my own security. Rasel said to me to come with him. We went to old Dhaka to hide ourselves. After one week I came to one of my friends house. Before coming to Sweden I could not visit my own house, could not go to my university again. I had no eye problem but I used glasses to hide my identity. I stopped my writing, my friends suggested: you have case in the court, some people looking for you, so you need to keep quiet for some time. I did not want to leave my country. I thought everything will be good again but I was terribly wrong. Since February 2015 Jihadis started killing again. First they brutally killed Avijit Roy on 26th February in the street. Bonya Ahmed was brutally injured with Avijit Roy; luckily she survived.
It is my personal opinion that to start their killing mission terrorists waited for Avijit Roy. He was the first victim in 2015. He was one of the finest writers and very renowned blogger. He established the secular blogging site ‘’Mukto Mona” and was a brilliant online activist, with great organizing talents. Later in 2015 Islamic terrorists killed Washiqur Rahman Babu, Ananta Bijoy Das, Niloy Chattopadhyay. All of them were vocal against religious suppression. Ananta Bijoy tried to join a conference of PEN in Sweden. Unfortunately Swedish embassy in Bangladesh denied him visa for unknown reasons. After the rejection from Swedish embassy, a week later he was killed in the morning in front of his house in Sylhet. . Islamic terrorists are attacking the secular bloggers, writers and even the publishers in broad daylight, in front of thousands of people or even inside their own residences or offices.
April 19th, 2014 Hafazat-E-Islam’s supreme leader Allama (meaning wise man) Shafi said; “it’s time to kill blogger by the name of Allah”. Daily national newspapers published his statements. The killers are scot free. They are threatening openly. But the government is not taking any action against them. The government policymakers are apparently in an alliance with the patrons and promoters of the killers. Important persons of the ruling party are frequently meeting with Allama Shafi, who had issued an edict recently to kill the atheist bloggers.
Generally Muslim majority countries have no democracy. But Bangladesh has a historical reputation for his democratic movement and secular culture. Bangladesh was born as secular country and people were more openminded compared to Pakistani population. In February 27 2004, Dr. Humayun Azad was the first victim of machete attack by Islamic militants when he was coming back from book fair in University of Dhaka. The provocation of such attack was done by Jamal-E-Islam leader Delowar Hossain Saidee. He provoked extremists to attack on Humayun Azad in his waaz mahfil (Islamic theatre). Last December, after two years of killing of Rajib Haidar, court condemned killers for their crimes. But other blogger murder cases have no update although more than 12 months have passed. Personally I have huge doubt to get justice for our dead bloggers.
Now I am residing in a safer place. Whenever I walk I don’t need to see behind searching for the killers roaming in back. I don’t need to harden the lock on my door. I don’t need to use fake glasses to hide identity. I am safe now but in my country there are fellow bloggers, online activists who are writing with death on their fate. I don’t want anyone leave his or her country, friends, family, relatives like me. I don’t want anyone give his life under the machetes attack just for ideological differences. We are fighting machetes with pens; it is an uneven, unequal war. I see a dream I am going to homeland and gossiping with my known people and friends in the streets. No one following me on the street to kill, I will walk back home to have dinner with my ever waiting mom.