Avijit Roy had great admiration for Charvaka, one of the greatest philosophies born in our part of the world.
Charvaka challenged the divinity of the Vedas, and dared to call the holy books “man-made.” And for that, practictioners of Charvaka were persecuted.
Victims of blind faith dot the entire history of the human race, it appears. Persecution of those who campaign for freedom and rationality at the hands of dogmatic zealots is not something new.
If you ever visit the Campo de Fiori in Rome, at the centre of Roman Catholicism, you’ll find a monument dedicated to Giordano Bruno, standing as a symbol of defiance, who Italians regard as a martyr of freedom of thought, and many prominent rationalists, such as my dear friend Andrew Rawlings, regard as a revolutionary thinker of his time.
In the year 1600, Giordano Fiori was burned at the stake by the Catholic clergy for heresy, and all of his writings were censored.
Avijit, in response to the question of what inspired him, once said: “Our aim is to build a society which will not be bound by the what arbitrary authority, comfortable superstition, stifling tradition, or suffocating orthodoxy dictate, but would rather be based on reason, compassion, humanity, equality, and science.
We argue for a rational and scientific approach to human problems as an alternative to religious dogma, strongly defend freedom of thought and civil liberties, and strive for the secularisation of politics, society, and the educational system.”
In the name of divinity, the religious fundamentalist establishment, for centuries, has opposed social change, restricted scientific thought, suppressed opinions, and oppressed change-makers.
But it all went in vain. Despite the centuries-long hostility, because of the continuous promotion of ignorance and absurd claims such as them being the only source of true knowledge, the human spirit overcame it all.
And, thankfully, rationality and scientific progress catapulted us to where we are today as a species.
Today, religious clerics have become the laughingstock of the world, even in countries as conservative as Pakistan, with some experts proposing scientific research be done on djjins in order to solve the energy crisis of the world, claiming them to be an infinite source of energy.
This is exactly how, even long after death, enlightened individuals such as Avijit and Giordano claimed ultimate victory over ignorance -- through the knowledge they promoted, the words they have written, and the books they have authored.
In the evening of February 26, 2015, days after Ekushey February -- the very day that symbolises our linguistic freedom -- Avijit Roy was killed by the militant group Ansarullah, on his way home from the most sacred sanctuary for a Bengali writer, the Boi Mela.
Our country was built upon secular beliefs, and such beliefs are increasingly being propagated through technologies such as the internet, giving way to a new generation of young writers thirsty to carry the torch once borne by martyrs such as Avijit Roy
His wife Bonnya witnessed her own husband’s murder -- even an entire contingent of on-duty was within striking distance, but they never came to his aid.
The murder of Avijit Roy marked the beginning of a spate of killings in Bangladesh. In the coming months, machete-wielding assailants, in the name of their religion, slaughtered secular bloggers, publishers, university teachers, free-thinker activists one by one.
To commemorate the sacrifices made by Avijit and his band of secularist writers, a monument of defiance christened “Mukto Chinta Stombho” is currently under construction under the supervision of sculptor Rasha, on the very spot where Avijit was murdered.
But his death was only the beginning of the real tragedy. Avijit Roy’s books are barred from being sold in this year’s Boi Mela, along with books by other secular writers such as Nazmul Hassan and Ken Filkow Prize winner Raihan Abir.
Writers and authors shape human culture, our entire existence can be summed up with the written word. No one has the authority to censor someone’s thoughts, not any government and not any religion.
Our country was built upon secular beliefs, and such beliefs are increasingly being propagated through technologies such as the internet, giving way to a new generation of young writers thirsty to carry the torch once borne by martyrs such as Avijit Roy.
Religious fundamentalists have become desperate, their very ideologies are now cornered.
It’s only a matter of time until the machete-wielders realise that death can never be the end of reason.
Nur E Emroz Alam Tonoy is a blogger.