Publisher’s murder: Protests in Bangladesh against government apathy

Dhaka: Angry protesters took to the streets in Bangladesh on Sunday, blaming the government for its “apathy” and the “culture of impunity”, a day after a secular publisher was killed while two bloggers and a publisher were injured in attacks claimed by al-Qaeda in the Indian sub-continent.

Six writers and bloggers have been hacked to death in the past two and half years, five of them since January this year with families and friends of the deceased alleging failure on the part of police in bringing perpetrators to justice.

Faisal Arefin Dipan, 43, a publisher who worked with slain atheist writer and blogger Avijit Roy, was hacked to death on Saturday in his third-floor office in central Dhaka. The killing of Dipan came just hours after unidentified assailants attacked two secular writers and another publisher of US national Roy’s books Ahmedur Rshid Tutul, leaving one of them in a critically injured.

A group identifying itself as Ansar al-Islam — Bangladesh chapter of al-Qaeda in Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) — claimed responsibility for the attacks. The attacks sparked widespread anger with different rights groups and social organisations staging street marches in the capital and elsewhere today, slamming police failures to ensure security and demanding immediate government action to bring the perpetrators of the crimes to justice.

Teachers, writers, students and other protesters converged on Dhaka University to vent their anger. Ganojagoron Manch, a major forum of secular bloggers, also called for countrywide protests. “I don’t want any trial, I want good sense to prevail (among all),” said Dipan’s father Abul Kashem Fazlul Huq, a retired university professor and a well known left-leaning writer.

“Both sides – the one that’s doing politics using secularism and the other that’s doing politics using state religion (Islam) — are pushing the country towards destruction. Let good sense prevail on both sides,” he said.

Online activists and bloggers blamed government’s “apathy” and “culture of impunity” for the murder of secular writers and publishers. Several rights activists alleged that the key people behind such murders and attacks could not be traced due to attempts to gain political mileage out of these incidents.

Before Dipan’s murder, four secularist bloggers were killed by Islamist militants in Bangladesh this year. Bangladesh-born US writer Roy was hacked to death by unidentified assailants on February 26. Blogger Washiqur Rahman was murdered in central Dhaka on March 30. Writer and blogger Ananta Bijoy Das was killed in a similar attack in northeastern city of Sylhet on May 12.

On August 7, attackers entered the apartment of blogger Niladri Niloy Chattapadhay and hacked him to death. Ansar Al Islam had claimed responsibility for the killings on social media.