A Bangladeshi blogger was killed by knife-wielding attackers in the country’s northeast on Tuesday, the third such murder in less than three months and further evidence of spiraling religious fundamentalism and intolerance of free speech in the South Asian nation.
Ananta Bijoy Das was set upon by four assailants with machetes in Sylhet district, a local police official told Reuters. The 33-year-old, who worked as a banker, was a blogger who advocated secularism through his writing.
Bangladesh, a Muslim-majority country liberated from Pakistan by the 1971 war between India and Pakistan, has seen a sudden increase in attacks by Islamic fundamentalists against writers and intellectuals speaking out against religious extremism. The country is also in the midst of larger political unrest, with violent clashes between supporters of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her political rival opposition leader Khaleda Zia claiming dozens of lives this year. At least 64 people have been killed by law enforcement since January, the head of a Bangladeshi human-rights organization told al-Jazeera America.
“These are only the deaths that we know about,” Sultana Kamal of the organization Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK) said. “Usually, they go unreported.”
The rise of religious fundamentalism is worrying. Das’ assassination is similar to those of fellow writers Washiqur Rahman and Avijit Roy, killed by the same method on March 30 and Feb. 26, respectively. Das was also a contributor to Mukto-Mona or “Free Mind,” a well-known secular blog that Atlanta-based Roy founded, according to the local newspaper Daily Star.
Roy’s wife Rafida Ahmed, who was with him when he was killed and was seriously injured in the February attack, called it a “global act of terrorism” and criticized the Dhaka authorities for their lackluster response. “What almost bothers me more is that no one from the Bangladesh government has reached out to me,” she said in an exclusive interview with Reuters published Monday. “It’s as if I don’t exist, and they are afraid of the extremists,” she said. “Is Bangladesh going to be the next Pakistan or Afghanistan?”