We need to stand against the culture of ignorance that tries to solve disagreements through violence
In a bid to silence the critical voices of the country, yet another name has been added to our ever-growing list of victims.
The tragic murder of poet and publisher Shahjahan Bachchu will definitely now, at least, for a few days, dominate the conversations of the concerned circles -- lambasting terrorism and condemning religious fundamentalism in particular -- but unfortunately, from the prior experiences we all know that the robust discussions and angry dialogues won’t bear any result.
But, still, it’s a conversation worth having, and an anger worth unleashing.
Whenever such a crime occurs, our obvious tendency is to blame the terrorists, which, of course, is rational, but in the meantime, we should probably pay equal attention to a vicious aspect of our culture.
Due to our overwhelming exaltation of ignorance, a chronic disease is spreading in our social and political landscape.
In the last few decades, partly due to the rise of the religious hard right, and partly because of political surrender to them, our society has become extremely anti-intellectual. And this is not just the denial of science, knowledge, and critical literature -- it’s a trend of explicit hostility towards intellectuals and free-thinkers.
It has become so severe, that at times it seems that this nation is on a suicidal mission of destruction of the progressive fabric of its own society, which in the past few years has become more evident than ever.
Poet Shahjahan Bachchu is the latest inclusion to this horrific series of evidence. A few months ago, it was Dr Muhammed Zafar Iqbal. Before him, it was Dr Humayun Azad, Professor Rezaul Karim, Philosopher Randipam Basu, author Avijit Roy, and many more.
In fact, in recent years, no other country of the world has recorded more violence of this kind than Bangladesh, not even Pakistan or Iran.
But the most despicable evidence of all is that none of these savage killings was properly dealt with through the criminal justice system.
This, sadly, has become a country, where after the death of Nazimuddin Samad, the senior government officials told us that part of the investigation would be “to see whether the murdered writer Samad has written anything objectionable.”
This was at a time when the police were already stationed at the national book-fair as the authority to decide which books can or cannot be sold.
And when perpetrators get away with such actions without protest or a fight, it is clear that creativity and knowledge have lost its value in our society. This phenomenon is dangerous.
Because when a nation abandons knowledge and intellect, it exposes itself to irrationality and becomes an easy prey of the hate-mongers motivated by hateful communal-sectarianism. Thus, peace and prosperity disappear -- glaring examples in our region are Afghanistan and Pakistan.
However, unlike the aforementioned countries, Bangladesh has become a promising economy -- recording higher than expected growth almost every year, and a model of development.
Yet, we cannot really deny the fact that most of the social problems that are still holding us back -- child marriage, gender equality, communal hate crimes, population growth, investment in cutting-edge science and education technology, and so on -- are rooted in the unequivocal acceptance of ignorance by a large part of our society.
Many would rightfully argue that such violent deaths of the intellectuals and state-sanctioned injustice that follows can truly take us back to regressive times.
Development demands people of intelligence, and the point of effective development is to create and to protect knowledge, and to eradicate ignorance, not to endorse it.
It is simply not possible to build a prosperous nation without an informed, enlightened, and rationally thinking population.
And if we truly are to become an advanced nation, our society, as well as the government, has a defining question to answer: Should we keep allowing deaths of our intellectuals and free thinkers?
Nur E Emroz Alam Tonoy is a blogger.