DHAKA: A gang armed with machetes hacked a secular blogger to death at his home in Dhaka yesterday, sparking protests in the capital over the fourth such murder in Bangladesh this year. Niloy Chakrabarti, who used the pen-name Niloy Neel, was killed after the gang broke into his apartment, according to the Bangladesh Blogger and Activist Network, which was alerted to the attack by a witness. “They entered his room in the fifth floor and shoved his friend aside and then hacked him to death. He was a listed target of the Islamist militants,” the network’s head, Imran H Sarker said.
Police confirmed Chakrabarti, 40, had been murdered by a group of half a dozen people in the capital’s Goran neighborhood, although they had no details on the motive for the killing. “There were six people who knocked on his door, saying that they were looking to rent a flat,” Muntashirul Islam, a deputy police commissioner said. “Two of them then took him to a room and then slaughtered him there,” Islam said. “His wife was in the flat but she was confined to another room.” Mahbubur Rahman, another deputy commissioner, told reporters that Chakrabarti’s wife had been heard crying out “Save us! Save us!” during the attack but no one had responded.
He is the fourth secular blogger to be killed in the Muslim-majority nation since February, when Bangladeshi-born US citizen Avijit Roy was hacked to death in Dhaka. Roy’s wife was also badly wounded in the attack. The other victims include Ananta Bijoy, Das who was attacked by a group wielding machetes on May 13 as he headed to work in Sylhet, and 27-year-old Washiqur Rahman who was hacked to death in Dhaka in March. Most secular bloggers have either gone into hiding, often using pseudonyms in their posts, or have fled abroad.
Bloggers in hiding
Activist groups say they fear that Islamist hit squads have lists that contain the real names and addresses of the bloggers. Asif Mohiuddin, another blogger who himself survived an attack in Bangladesh in 2013, described Chakrabarti as an atheist “free thinker” whose posts appeared on several sites. “He was critical against religions and wrote against Islamist, Hindu, Christian and Buddhist fundamentalism,” Mohiuddin, who is now based in the German capital Berlin said by phone.
Police meanwhile said Chakrabarti had been one of the organizers of the large-scale protests in 2013 against Islamists convicted of war crimes dating back to the 1971 conflict when Bangladesh seceded from Pakistan. Immediately after the murder, hundreds of secular activists joined a protest march in the city’s Shahbagh Square, which was also the venue for the 2013 demonstrations.
“We’re protesting a culture of impunity in Bangladesh. One after another blogger is being killed and yet there is no action to stop these murderers,” said Sarker, who was among the protestors. Amnesty International said the government had to do more to stop what it called “this spate of savage killings”.
“There is little doubt that these especially brutal killings are designed to sow fear and to have a chilling effect on free speech. This is unacceptable,” said David Griffiths, the London-based rights group’s South Asia research director. “The price for holding opinions and expressing them freely must not be death. The Bangladeshi authorities now have an urgent duty to make clear that no more attacks like this will be tolerated.”
Bangladesh banned the hardline Islamist group Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT) following Das’s murder in May, after facing accusations that they were doing too little to stop such attacks. In a recent petition addressed to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, authors including Salman Rushdie and Margaret Atwood called on her government “to do all in their power to ensure that the tragic events… are not repeated, and to bring the perpetrators to justice”. Bangladesh is an officially secular country, but more than 90 percent of its 160 million people are Muslim.- AFP