DHAKA: Angry publishers burnt books and closed their businesses in Bangladesh yesterday, in the third day of protests over the latest gruesome attacks on secular writers and publishers by suspected hardline Islamists. Hundreds of people, including book-shop owners, took to the streets of Dhaka to protest perceived government inaction over a string of attacks including the machete murder on Saturday of a publisher of secular books.
“This is not an isolated incident. They first started killing authors, then the bloggers and now they’ve targeted the publishers,” Mustafa Selim, head of the Bangladesh Creative Publishers Society, told reporters. Rallies were also held in other cities and towns to demand more protection for publishers, bloggers and writers, some of whom have fled the country or gone into hiding, rally organizers said in a statement.
Fears of Islamist violence have been rising in mainly moderate Muslim-majority Bangladesh after four atheist bloggers were murdered this year, also by machete-wielding attackers. Bangladesh has also been rocked by the recent murders of an Italian aid worker and a Japanese farmer, while Dhaka’s main Shiite shrine was bombed last month, killing two people and wounding dozens.
After staging protests on Saturday night and Sunday, secular activists including hundreds of teachers, writers and students also resumed their rallies at Dhaka University, the nation’s main secular bastion. “The murderers should be caught as soon as possible. There must be an end to this nightmare,” publisher Farid Ahmed, who received a death threat in a text message on Sunday, told AFP.
On Saturday, a gang of suspected Islamists armed with machetes and cleavers hacked to death Faisal Arefin Dipan in his publishing office in the capital. Two secular bloggers and another publisher were also badly injured in a similar and separate attack hours earlier, leaving them lying in pools of blood in their Dhaka office.
Al-Qaeda in the Indian Sub-continent (AQIS) claimed responsibility for the attacks, calling the victims “atheists and blasphemers”. The group, which claims to be behind the previous killings, also threatened to murder more writers and publishers who defamed Islam. Police say they are skeptical of the AQIS claim of responsibility and suspect a banned local Islamist outfit is behind all of them. Both of the publishers targeted on Saturday put out books by Avijit Roy, a US-born atheist writer of Bangladeshi origin, who was hacked to death in February. – AFP