Early steps towards a theocracy: Changes in the Constitution of Bangladesh
It cannot be said that the activists dedicated to turning countries like Bangladesh into Islamic theocracies kept their intent a secret. In the latest incarnation of the Wahhabi-inspired mission, not too long ago ISL (Islamic State of the Levant) announced appointment of their leadership for the Indian subcontinent, including Bangladesh. What is a bit surprising how fast they have progressed and how expertly they have manipulated even the top leaders of the country and seduced the civil society in facilitating implementation of key stages in their goal to make it a part of the caliphate. The agents of extremism have become adroit in exploiting existing vulnerabilities and creating pressures; they are prepared to strike whenever an opportunity presents itself. The insistence by the Prime Minister that there is no ISL in her zamindary was truly pathetic: about the same time an US agency, tracking extremists around the world was downloading from an ISL outlet on the net pictures of the jihadists they were proudly displaying, announcing their arrived at the gate of heaven from that restaurant in Dhaka after butchering their victims like animals to be butchered at the festival after Ramadan. Prime Minister's bragging must have drawn a big laugh at the ISL's head-tent: what could be a better target than one that does not seem to have any connection with reality, and also one of the sickest to boot?
"Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel." – Samuel Johnson If it is introduced in the Parliament, the proposed legislation to ban criticism of the Liberation War, the martyrs, etc., will be yet another sign that democracy is marching towards slow death in Bangladesh. Both issues are of great emotional interest to most people in Bangladesh and some seem to feel the need to protect (from questioning) these emblems of the struggle for the freedom as patriotic. The irony seem to be lost on folks: it was for democracy all that sacrifice was made, and now we turn around and limit democracy by taking away freedom of speech. Under the most generous assumption, it exposes, as it has done on many occasions in the past, the ambiguous relations Bangladeshis seem to have with democracy: we demand it, fight for it, sacrifice for it, but often don't like its implications. We seem to be fearful of the freedom democracy is supposed to bring. This is not a psychological assessment, but there might be a link between elements of our culture that contributes to what appears to be a propensity to seek the 'comfort' of authoritarian 'protection'. Let me be clear: I am an unconditional defender of the creation of Bangladesh, a historical necessity; the so called two nation theory (TNT) originated in quintessential false ideology. I am convinced that the division of the subcontinent was a grave mistake, and as a community Muslims of the subcontinent lost the most); in the sixties, I have argued with communist party leaders to adopt a proactive policy for independence from West Pakistani proto-colonial economic exploitation and political repression. During the Liberation War, I was outside the country, still, I worked hard along with many Americans to generate public and Congressional support for the emerging country (see: Fighting for homeland away from home; The New Age, December 16, 2006, Op-Ed page). But, just because of that, am I justified in shutting someone up if they believe it was all 'India's doing'? And even if I am able to ban such criticism, can I stop a person from thinking as he/she pleases? One can walk away from such inane characterization of the epochal transformation from 1947 to 1971, but cannot condone suppression of fundamental democratic rights, excluding citizens from participating in the democratic process. You cannot 'like' democracy only when you win; for it to work, you have to do so even when you do not win, as long as the right and opportunity to gain back support is not denied. But that means a political system with freedom of speech, of press. Essential also is regular elections that are fair, open and polling stations are not forcibly occupied by the ruling party, oppositions are not hounded and assaulted to ensure the ruling party wins power and without even a parliamentary opposition! Indeed, a political party that actually cares about the country over and above its narrow self-interest would do everything possible to make the agency responsible for conducting the election as non-partisan as humanly possible. Whenever a political system enables a party to remain in power term after term, that system is nothing but an autocracy, giving the ruling party absolute power. Treating the country like one's zamindary is a far cry from a society that is democratic. Isn't undermining democracy a more egregious offense against the Liberation War and the Martyrs? Our difficulty with democracy is reflected in our history, in the opportunism of our attitude that democracy is possible only when our community is in the majority, the subtext of TNT. Underlying all of these is a fundamental misunderstanding of the purpose of democracy as a system and why it is desired by almost everyone for managing our collective affairs in-spite of many of its imperfections. Even a cursory survey of the origins of formal democracy in Greek society would reveal that it emerged as the better of available alternatives to manage our collective existence given the inherent heterogeneity of all human societies (as opposed to assumed homogeneity based on faith subsumed in TNT), for facing seemingly irreconcilable contradiction: one the one hand ensuring our existence and security requires living in some form of collective, yet the same need compels us to pursue our individual interests at the expense of the collective. Without getting into an elaborate discussion, suffice it to say that the underlying drive – 'ensuring our existence & security' has been a concern because of inadequacy of the necessities for existence & security – i.e., insufficiency of the mode of production that would provide for our necessities. Making some adjustment to the consumerist habit we have acquired, if we are able to produce sufficiently for our collective needs, i.e., existence and security are guaranteed, this fundamental contradiction can be resolved. There are indications already that it might be achievable in practice as well (compare, for example world's population and global food production – see World Hunger and Poverty Facts and Statistics, World Hunger Education Service, available on the internet). It should be clear that in the prospectus of 'communist society', 'class contradiction' is expected to be eliminated, but not all human foibles; 'democracy' practiced in an environment free of want of necessities and insecurity will allow us to overcome the limitations of democracy of class divided society, and enable us to live collectively more harmoniously in spite of our imperfections. The arguments against prohibition of criticism of the Liberation War are simply inane. Just because someone (probably with hostile intentions) tries to refute the magnitude of the atrocities committed by the enemy does not make it true nor does it diminish the sacrifices required to free the country, and definitely does not negate the need for liberation from Pakistan. Simply because in 1952 (only) four people died in the protest demanding Bengali to be accepted as one of the national languages of Pakistan surely did not stop it from being the revolutionary event that changed the direction of this country. The 'argument' that ours is a new democracy and 'it will take time for our people to get used to democracy', has gotten stale; we have been at it nearly seven decades; let us stop making excuses. It is also a fact that a lot of people did not like the idea of 'breaking up Pakistan;' and that was made clear by their presence in huge numbers to receive Bhutto when he showed up after the liberation. Their minds can be changed, if at all, through education and persuasion; and some will remain unchanged. Society is never free of those with false ideology; let them speak but not act. Criticism allowed in a democracy is not a rational reason to outlaw democracy of criticism. The progressive community in Bangladesh must not subscribe to the fear of democracy, while they legitimately criticize the regime in power for being anti-democratic. I am not advocating absolute freedom; but it is more protective of democracy if the democratic process itself is able to confront lies and falsehoods in a legitimate battle for the heart & truth conducted openly and freely. The entire premise of human progress is imbedded in the conviction that people will (ultimately) choose correctly, and those who are leaders among us can lead the fight for truth the best only in a democracy. The draconian measures being contemplated are indication of the mistrust of the voters, unspoken assumption that people are dumb, while politicians, even though many of them display more Neanderthal than human attributes, know 'what is good for the people' – in typical feudal arrogance. Voters do make 'bad' choices (e.g., electing in US George W. Bush twice), but if they are allowed to do so freely as is promised, people will make corrections if it is in their interest (electing an African-American as the President of the USA). If Left are true to democracy, they ought to declare that they will not restrict people's freedom of speech when in power; that they do not assume they will be in power forever once/if they get there; they will ensure free and fair election even if they are projected to lose the election; that people have the right to disagree, yet they can agree on a set of terms and conditions that makes collective, social life possible. Especially those who claim to represent the working class, it often falls upon the vanguard to pick up the mantel of democracy. And it is essential to understand that democracy is a process, and only way to improve democracy is to practice it, not make excuses to prevent its continued improvement, as did the military dictators and some civilian leaders in Pakistan, West & East. 'Development before democracy' is just as lousy an excuse to stifle democracy, just as naked an attempt at hang on to power, and as obvious an indication of insecurity of the regime as has been in the case of Pakistani dictators who tried the same trick again and again. Scoundrels in the end do pay a price for their skullduggery!
In the Killing Field that Bangladesh has become, brutal assassination of Faisal Arefin Dipan, and attempted murder of Ahmed Rashid Tutil, Ronom Dipam Basu and Tareq Rahim, as heart-breaking and depressing as it is, it is not surprising; and less so is the reaction of Dipan's father, who has, as reported by the media, refused to seek justice for his son's killing; (I understand Avijit's wife also made a similar statement). I do not know the man, but I think he probably actually understands. You see, his son's death has been preapproved by the highest authorities in the country, that is, by the same people who are supposed to bring to justice the killers of Dipan (and nearly killed the other three) this time, and more before. Every time a blogger is killed, the regime in power holds the bloggers responsible for their own death! What is it but condemning anyone who has ideas other than what the insecure, cravenly power hungry, morally bankrupt political leaders who have ruled this country for few decades now? What is it but an invitation to the savages – the so called Ansar Al Islam, a criminal enterprise that interprets religion as it pleases to serve their foreign financiers to brutally kill talented young people, because these ignoramus fanatics and the regime in power have no answer to the questions these young people raise? The latter is doing everything it can to appease the former while sacrificing the best of this country's new generation who have the courage of their conviction and insist on exercising their right to free speech, a universally guaranteed fundamental human right, and have not rented themselves out as mercenary gundas posing as students that the regime maintains.
The reason for the collusion of the regime with these killers is important to understand. Based on its refusal to reinstate the secular commitments of the country as was encoded in the original constitution, today's Awami League is not any different from the Jatya Party or the Bangladesh Nationalist Party in this regard: all are Islamist in various degrees. It is further supported by AL's well know attempts to form alliances with various Islamist parties; it also maintains a subordinate group that is hardly distinguishable from the Jamat i Islam. All indications are, if it could get away with it, bloggers would be shut out, but it does not have the guts to prosecute the bloggers if they are in violation of the constitution. Fundamentalist criminal interpreters of religion are being used in some twisted machinations, the motive of which is only visible in the public expression of what the regime is trying to achieve: keep its hold on political power, permanently if possible. But there might be other use of the plot as well: perhaps because legally denying freedom of expression by a trial would might make it difficult for the Prime Minister to get the Noble Peace Prize, as one of her close confidante, another sycophant, and obviously, a member of the cabinet, recently announced to be the main objective; that, and making Bangladesh a 'middle income country'! One wonders where does the confidence the regime exudes come from, the support of the agents of RAW and the FBI, making sure the world (and perhaps the Noble Prize Selection Committee) remains persuaded that Bangladesh continues to be known as a 'moderate' Muslim country? Surely killing of people who foolishly thinks Bangladesh is a democracy and therefore they have the right to exercise their freedom of speech can't be that important to them & their protectors whose geo-political ambition conveniently intersects with that of the ruling class in Bangladesh.
Blaming the bloggers for their actions – helps to hide another more insidious truth. Religious fundamentalism, sanctioned by the regime, is pervasive in the country, and along with remittance from the Middle East, Hijab Culture, deliberately promoted, has become just as widespread and is slowly corroding away whatever shreds of liberalism the country once had. The regime and the classes it represents have shielded themselves from being exposed to the influence of modernity, gift of the bourgeois democratic revolution in the west, the influence of which wafted to these parts on the wings of colonialism and played an important role in introducing notions of all that is potential under democracy. Its influence on the culture remains limited, however. Anecdotal information suggests wide spread sympathy among the middle class for the self-appointed enforcers of Islam and very little for the critic of the irrational, the absurd, the exaggerated claimants and the unquestioned authority of secret criminal enterprise to decide who is to be executed next. The ability of these organized criminal enterprises to carry out their 'program' by publishing list of their next victims, is proof of a failed government; if not, implication that the regime at least indirectly approves of and considers it necessary to purge the bloggers because of the fear of their potential influence, is frighteningly unavoidable. What is important to note that these killers, their enablers occupy some social place, i.e., they exist among other people; and, surely, some one knows them and if not direct supporters, they must be aware of what these people are preparing to do. Should these people be also held accountable for being accomplices in the crimes of the assassins for not coming out and warning people of the potential impending danger?
What is necessary to rescue the society from the plague of fundamentalist attempt to impose theocracy on the country is for the citizens who still carry in them the spirit of liberation to take up arms against these forces of regression, and eliminate them at their roots. But that is not easy, because of the head-start they had in growing those roots, by their presence in every village (and city) mosques, where the indoctrination in obscurantism starts. It starts in the form of teaching children to read religious texts without understanding, and never allowing questioning, for fear that they might rebel against things they might find do not reconcile with all the other virtues they are taught by the society, say for example, tolerance of diversity. This is institutionalized in the madrasas, especially in the qoumi variety, which seems to have the singular goal of subverting democracy. It is astonishing that the society sees no danger in the extent of proliferation of religious 'educational' institution in the country beyond any social control, encouraged by the autocratic military regimes, and vigorously supported by the two major political parties. Yet, there are ample indications that some of these are in fact training facilities where the ignorant young are turned into killers, trained psychologically and tactically to turn into murderers without a soul and kill in the most brutal way possible without a shred of remorse.
What is to be done? At least two sets of problems confront the people of Bangladesh. First is the regime in power. By sheer force of arrogance and complete disregard of norms that are subsumed in a democracy, it blatantly manipulated the election, under a leader surrounded by a cabinet that is a collection of sycophants, who tells her what she wants to hear. It seems all she cares about is staying in power, and according to some speculation, being able to hand it over to the crown prince. As the protector of the interests of the native bourgeoisie practicing a version of capitalism comparable to the brutality of the Ansar Al Islam, it is able to consolidate its hold. But it exists on the assumption of popular support, and hence people have the ultimate authority, if they choose to exert it, to decide who is best capable of dealing with the dangerously anarchic situation. To do so, it is necessary to be free from the opiate like dependency on false choices between the two established parties, both beholden to the same dominating socio-economic class, and with proven affinity for religious state. To counter this currently dominant trend, organizing alternate formation by shedding off petty difference among the progressive forces is the only hope for escaping the fate set by theocrats intent on dragging the country several centuries backwards.
Unfortunately, for dealing with Ansar Al Islam, the options are limited - and complicated by the uniqueness of those who are carrying out the killing operations - because of the success of the ruling class in keeping its opposition (not the nearly dismantled official opposition party), the left formations - disorganized and weak. The regime has enslaved most of the potential critics by trapping them in the snarl of largess it can supply to keep them straight and narrow. What makes the task of eliminating the fundamentalists scourge in the country so difficult is that these people, and more so their foot soldiers, live in a reality they have concocted that has no relation to the one most of us live-in. You simply cannot have a rational discussion with these – ISIS, Taliban, Ansar Al Islam, etc. – for, they live in a place and time which most people would consider an asylum for the insane. Even the few religious leaders who have raised even the feeblest voices against the unreality of their goals and the crimes against humanity perpetrated by these demented religious fanatics, have not done well. There is the problem: how do you peacefully and rationally resolve the problem among people who live in entirely opposite realities? Yet, without resistance and direct actions to eliminate the cancer, how would humanity survive? Do we not owe it to these heroes of our time who have sacrificed their lives in defense of freedom that we all deserve? Is it not essential that the coalition of the sane, the democratic, the progressives, set aside petty differences and respond to the onslaught and purposefully decide to do whatever is necessary before they kill our next friend and comrade in struggle? As a first step, can we organize a million young bloggers to step up and practice freedom of speech, and begin their self-paced training in becoming the citizens of a modern progressive democracy? Will the assassins of Dipan and all others before him kill million bloggers?
My younger sister called the other night to tell me that journalist Peter Custers, familiar in Bangladesh, died of a heart attack. I had no contact with him for over 43 years, but occasionally bits of information came through the proverbial grape-vine that he is still involved in Bangladesh's (and other places'?) radical politics. I had something to do with him being in Bangladesh, and she thought I would like to know. For a time in the seventies of the last century I lived in Washington DC in a 'commune' in the Adams Morgan area (on Lanier Place, NW). I was a graduate student, had very little money, was having trouble with the girl friend (I am leaving the gory details out, since this is a family friendly write-up), and after sleeping on friends' sofas for several months, I decided to find a place to live, and ended up in the commune. Being a radical-hippy type myself in those days, I found the arrangement in the commune very comforting. No, there was no orgy going on, but you had company of more or less likeminded people if you wanted to, and did not have to feel lonely. I had a room to myself that I could afford; we residents had to take turn cooking and cleaning the house, lived modestly, sustainably. You learned a lot about living with people of different backgrounds and about responsibility, having to make your contribution towards the collective wellbeing. Two of the people in the house were Germans and Peter was a friend of them; they had met at the Community Book Store that used to be on P St. NW, and was the hub of a lot of radical activities in the 60s & 70s. He did not live in the commune, but was a frequent visitor. He was a young budding blond bearded Northern European radical, a student at the Johns Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies in DC, working on his Ph.D. (I was working on my doctoral dissertation on hemodynamics) in search of a cause. I do not mean that in a pejorative sense: most young people look for a cause; I came to the US after a stint with student politics aligned with the communist party, partisan of the pro-Soviet faction, etc. One highlight of the time was my effort (along with a few others) to educate (by that time I was a lecturer) Siraj Sikdar that we are not ready for revolution, that social change requires patience and hard work; clearly we did not change his mind! Peter's tendencies were not unfamiliar to me. After March 1971, I had basically stopped work on my research and devoted all my time to organizing support in US for Bangladesh. One of the major tasks was to set up, with the help of many supportive Americans, the Bangladesh Information Center on Capitol Hill to organize lobbying U.S. Congress to stop arms shipments to Pakistan that was sure to be used to kill more Bangladeshis. That is the time Peter and I met. He was very earnest, intense and lived a very simple life, almost Calvinistic, being a Dutch and all. We hung around, and for a while chased after the same woman; although he was better looking, I was more exotic and I got lucky. Rapidly he became a Maoist (no, not because he lost out in romance) and soon decided that Bangladesh was ready for a socialist revolution lead by the peasants. As if that was not bad enough, he decided that Bangladesh needed him to take a leading role in organizing that revolution. Residents of the commune, especially I and the two German friends, spent endless nights trying to reason with Peter that the idea of a blond European budding radical intellectual needed to lead the Bangladeshi peasants in Chairman Mao inspired revolution was ludicrous. He also somehow came to the conclusion that Indian imperialism will also have to be stopped from taking over Bangladesh; we tried but failed to convince him that India did not need the headache of another 70 million people (population in 1971). Although he seemed to have read some Marxist literature (more likely, Maoist literature) he did not much care about the objective & subjective prerequisites before one should contemplate storming the Winter Palace! But he was passionate about what he believed in, and at heart was a romantic revolutionary with the zeal of a missionary, an itinerant promoter of peasant uprisings. Whenever he was confronted with the question why he was not working for revolution in his own homeland, he had no answer. Underdeveloped world would be better off if socialism worked in Western countries! He did not seem to be aware of the imperialistic arrogance of an upper class European implied in preaching revolution in a third world country. He often reminded me of the title of one of Luigi Pirandello's play, "Six Characters in Search of an Author"! So, with great deal of consternation I had to deal with Peter's plan to move to Bangladesh; nothing could persuade him that he would be more trouble than it would be worth. Since he did not know a sole in Dhaka, I felt obligated to write to my family to let him stay with them until he found a place for himself. He stayed with my parents and my siblings in Kalabagan for a few months, and then he vanished. Next they heard of him was when it was reported in the media that he was arrested while throwing bombs at the Indian Embassy in Dhaka, in the middle of the first series of military coup in Bangladesh. Military interrogated him, found out that he had stayed with my family. Soon word got around that the military was looking for my younger brother, a relatively high ranking government official, and was advised by friends that he should leave the country immediately. So he did, without a penny in his pocket, leaving a pregnant wife at home; he lived like a vagabond, roaming about in cities in Nepal & India for a while. My father, also a government official, could not leave our large family behind unprotected. He was hauled to the military barracks and interrogated for long hours to find out if our family was involved in the bombing campaign that seem to have been initiated by some anti-Indian radical group(s). I understand that Peter either came from an influential banking family or had some link with them, who in turn had strong influence with the Dutch government. That connection was what got him released from Bangladesh jail so that he could resume his radical activities in Bangladesh! I have no idea if Peter had changed over the years. When the chaos was going on in my family I had fantasized about beating him to a pulp if I ever met him for the torment he put my family through; I am glad that I never did encounter him again. As for Bangladesh, it has become what it is, Peter Custers' mission notwithstanding. I hope some people benefitted from involvement with him. I wish his family well.
If we knew what we know now about what was going on prior to Niloy Chatterjee's killing, we could probably predict this would happen – perhaps even the means and methods of it. For those who are sincerely thinking about eradicating this problem – and I am convinced that there are many in power, who do not – face a very rudimentary obstacle: how to deal with the sadistic killers who, it seems are implementing a strategy of imposing a reign of terror. Since there is no way to engage these marauders in a rational discussion of what is the criteria they use to select their victim, where in their religious system they find the rational for their barbarism, who has appointed them the guardian, protector and enforcers of those rationales if there are any, we have in our hands a problem that does not yield to resolution most civil societies are able to pursue. They pick the criteria and decide who to hack to death next, and so far they have done so with impunity. The did however in the past declared their goal of imposing in Bangladesh a sharia based system of governance; but no one is willing to take seriously or admit to its link to the targeted killing spree. How is this possible in a civilized society? How is it possible that in the name of a religion that claims peace as its fundamental appeal, this barbarism can go on? Yet more puzzling is the thinking and goal of these assassins and their leader or leaders. Do they really think they will physically eliminate (by killing or displacing) a large portion of the population (mostly minorities) to achieve their goal, for what they perceive as criticism of their religion? Is this the true nature of this religion; where are the defenders of the alternate interpreters of it? Are they also cowed by the same beasts so much so that they are afraid of openly opposing them? Do they not see any downside to not standing against those who are hijacking their religion? Out of blood and tears of millions, we created a free country because our experience with religion based politics was to suffer oppression, exploitation, and anti-democratic policies; the religious bond that was the basis of creation of Pakistan soon turned into a tool for oppression. But soon after, our leaders, even those who claimed to be secular, decided on a path of appeasement with the purveyors of politics who use religion as the ram-rod. These are not the ones for whom "Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions" (Marx in A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right 1843), these are seekers of power and privilege, of fame & fortune, and they trade in death and destruction to get their way! And it is incredibly depressing to observe how weak and miniscule the organized opposition to the carnage is, and the inability/unwillingness of most of the citizens to recognize that the intent of the fanatics is to do in Bangladesh what was done in Afghanistan under Taliban. If it sounds like exaggeration one ought to look up the latest declarations of the leaders of those who are determined to create a Caliphate, not the kind during which Islam reintroduced to the world the knowledge of ancient Greeks, created places of learning for Muslim, Jewish and Christian scholars to contemplate together, learned mathematics from the Hindus, etc., and produced polymaths such as Ibn Khaldun. I understand there are designated operational units for the subcontinent to make sure it is made part of the planned revival! Hope those who are appealing to the authorities to do something about the situation, do not expect much: they ought to do it, but they have not, and will not. The current leader of AL is a poorly educated but street smart, vengeful individual still immersed in feudal culture, driven by insecurity and ambition, and with an affinity for fundamentalism. Someone close to her, a supporter, but a bit more liberal, has reported that she is very interested in establishing an Islamic University in Bangladesh – as if we need more training school for assassins! Like her predecessor she has allowed the fundamentalists to infiltrate the administration at every level, including the military, and in general encourages spreading of a religious culture. She has allowed within her ranks those who are demanding banning of bloggers. These are the people in law enforcement who told Niloy to leave the country – exactly the (minimum) goal of those who are plotting to establish sharia based regime - when he sought protection from killers who were threatening and following him around. They are the ones who admonishes the bloggers not to cross some 'boundary' in what the write. These ignoramuses are the regime's spokesperson defining democracy, freedom of speech, right to protest, etc.! As long as the Supreme Leader can claim that Bangladesh has become a 'middle-income' country, it matters not who gets killed and why. It does not matter that those who do not like what the bloggers (or Taslima Nasreen) write, are not compelled to read those; and that is why freedom of expression is possible and necessary in a democracy; need for new thinking to emerge through debate and discussion, essential for civilization to make progress. So are essential unconditional freedom of speech, press and assembly; the real constraint on these is that if these are against their interest they will reject them; they do not need politician to tell them what their interests are! There is nothing more heinously anti-democratic as politicians in power treating adult citizens like children, and dictate what people should think, write about, listen to, etc. All indications are that the authorities are making it possible, as innocuously as they can arrange for it, to physically eliminate voice of descent. The political establishment is dangerously insecure and this is how ignorant, devious, vengeful, crude, self-serving, despicable politicians behave. Under their democracy, fundamentalists are free to define and decide how others should live; minorities are to live in fear and insecurity of losing their home and hearth – often times more; it is women's fault that they are being raped and assaulted by their 'student' goons in broad day light in front of crowds; non-believers are 'banned'; and the 'civil society' can keep pontificating as long as they do not challenge what the regime hopes is its permanent hold on power. The regime does not care that their effort to curb freedom of expression, press, assembly are pushing the country towards fascism. Bloggers may be critical of religion, but surely, they pose no threat! No religion that has been in operation as long as Islam has can be so vulnerable as to be damaged by subjective observations of a handful of people who are experimenting with ideas. I have come to agree with Avijit's father Professor Ajoy Roy that the killings cannot be happening without direct or indirect connivance of the regime in power. Given the results (or lack thereof), one wonders if they bring in FBI to better hide the evidence that might reveal the tracks of the killers! My humble opinion is that if the bloggers wish to continue, they and their supporters need to organize themselves; one of the thing that make them so vulnerable is their self-designed isolation. And they need to cream at the top of their voices to alert the country that what the killers of Niloy and others before him doing is the continued implementation of the policy that was behind annihilation of the intellectuals in 1971. In this context the deafening silence of the 'civil society', their timidity is all the more pathetic; the slumber they are in is deadly! I will end by observing that there seem to be some truth in the saying, people get the (political) government they deserve. That is the case in Bangladesh. The small contingent of progressives in the country are raising their voices in protest, but their work becomes more difficult: how do you make progress when even the basic democratic rights are being eroded every minute! If people do not see that what the zombie-like followers of the sadistic Ansar-ullah (or Ansar-ullahs, or whoever is actually running this killing machine) is the harbinger of very dark very painful future for themselves, than nothing will happen. Unless they think a messiah will to come to the rescue, people have to reject and rise up against the brutality in the name of religion; unfortunately the messiah thing does not work.
Once again we are outraged at the shocking killing of Ananta Bijoy by thugs recruited by self-assigned protectors of Islam that is supposed to be so fragile that this 1300+ year old religion followed by several billion people around the world is in danger of being taken down by a few atheists. Rumor has it that these 'protectors' might really be after a much sought reward earmarked for killing non-believers, preferably by chopping the victim up: a sure entry into heaven plus 40 virgins to f..k. Hopefully a side order of Viagra will come with it! One could speculate how pathetic these cretins are; but the thing to worry about is how powerful they are, and why so.
Avijit's assassination like such similar other acts of brutality, has unnerved a lot of people. Participation in the CPB-BSD organized demonstration soon after the murder (although it was announced before the killing, but to oppose recent killing spree) demanding stopping the violence that has engulfed the country shows the extent of outrage among people. Those who are agitating against violence, demanding immediate arrest of the assassins, etc., are reacting to the horror of the moment (justifiably). It would be however a dangerous lapse of memory to not pay attention to the context, i.e., the big picture, within which this and all the other atrocities being committed in the name of opposition to the current government policies. It is this that is providing cover to the carnage.
"Reason has always existed, but not always in a reasonable form." - Karl Marx, Letter from the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher to Arnold Ruge (1843)