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When words get you killed

  • Published at 06:54 pm February 14th, 2017
  • Last updated at 10:19 am February 15th, 2017
When words get you killed

It was exactly four years ago that our fellow fighter Ahmed Rajib Haider was brutally killed by Ansarullah Bangla Team, an offshoot organisation of Islami Chhatra Shibir, the student wing of the Jamaat-e-Islam.

In 2013, the Shahbagh movement was sparked, and later forged ahead under its specific six-point demands including capital punishment of the notorious war criminals, a ban on Jamaat from politics, and a boycott of any institutions supporting or affiliated with them.

Through this non-violent movement, the whole nation unified again. The dearth of spine in political practice definitely paved the way for anti-liberation forces to sharpen their knives.

After the killing of our Father of the Nation, the whole political system was in a void of ideology, and the military forces allowed war criminals into politics.

As a result, these criminals became political and economic monsters. The Shahbagh movement was probably the first uprising of people to decisively point out the economic power of these war criminals, and strove to stop it.

Hence, for obvious reasons, this movement is a threat to the anti-liberation forces.

If we go through the history of our Liberation War, it will be evident that under such threat, pro-Pakistani forces always use religion to destroy communal harmony.

There was no exception in 2013. A hit list of 84 bloggers was published in the media. Subsequently, many of them were killed by Islamic militant groups.

[caption id="attachment_43608" align="aligncenter" width="870"]File photo: Dhaka Tribune Activists observe candlelight vigil in memory of Ahmed Rajib Haider at Shahbagh. File photo: Dhaka Tribune[/caption]

The bedrock of the Shahbagh movement is the spirit from our Liberation War.

A secular and egalitarian society has been its philosophical study. Shahbagh is continuing its dauntless fight against the fundamentalist philosophy and religious bigotry imported with the Pakistani jihad and petrodollar confined “Islam.”

On February 15, 2013, Ahmed Rajib Haider, one of those who wrote to express their thoughts on the lethal consequences of this indoctrination, was brutally killed. Not like he was the first – in 1999 prominent poet Shamsur Rahman was attacked by Harkat-ul Jihad al-Islami; in 2004 noted linguist and eminent litterateur Humayun Azad was under murderous attack at the book fair; on December 24 of the same year, Prof Mohammad Yunus, a teacher of economics, was hacked to death by JMB. These clandestine Islamist groups are changing their names, but their headquarter, the Jamaat, remains unchanged.

Dogma is unacceptable in a free-thinker, Rajib used to say. One can place logic against logic, a thought or an opinion can be challenged, many books can be pitted against a book

Ahmed Rajib Haider was an architect by profession, and famous in Bangla blogging communities under his pseudonym Thaba Baba. He was from Kapasia upazila in Gazipur district. As an architect, he designed a monument of the Liberation War in his own area. On August 19, 2010, he submitted the design.

According to the design, its height is almost the same as an eight-storey building. 21 stairs, symbolising the spirit of the language movement, connected the eight feet-high dais with the base. The theme was our Liberation War, and the piece was designed to portray three different narratives. Rajib Haider wished to do it without any remuneration.

As a writer, he was very straightforward. His interests included science, philosophy and literature. His key objective was to express his opinion with scientific and philosophical analysis.

Dogma is unacceptable in a free-thinker, Rajib used to say. One can place logic against logic, a thought or an opinion can be challenged, many books can be pitted against a book. But no one has the right to hit anybody for expressing thoughts.

History and culture should inform the process of how a country is run. But what a tragedy; Ahmed Rajib Haider was killed because he expressed his thoughts, and raised his voice demanding capital punishment of war criminals. This is an unprecedented loss for us, for our country.

Five students, expelled from North South University, confessed to the murder of Rajib Haider. They were inspired by the speeches of Mufti Jasimuddin Rahmani, an imam of a local mosque in Dhaka, the founder of several madrasas, and also ABT’s ideological leader in Bangladesh.

In August 2013, Rahmani was arrested from his hometown Barguna along with 30 members of his entourage. The country’s Ministry of Home Affairs banned ABT in May 2015.

On December of the same year, a Dhaka court handed down death penalty to two people, and different jail terms to six others, including Rahmani. It was nothing but a farce in the name of a trial, because the self-proclaimed killers were not given the fitting punishment. Gonojagoron Moncho and Rajib Haider’s family rejected the judgement.

Rajib’s father, Dr Nazim Uddin, appealed against the verdict with the High Court. Hearing in the case concluded on January 9, 2017. The court will deliver the verdict any day.

But still, there is a ray of hope. Still, we stand hand in hand, demanding justice for Ahmed Rajib Haider.

Maruf Rosul is a blogger and activist.