A Rajshahi University professor was hacked to death by unidentified criminals near his house in Choddopai area on the outskirts of the city yesterday afternoon.
AKM Shafiul Islam, 48, a teacher of sociology, died after an emergency surgery around 4:45pm at the Rajshahi Medical College Hospital.
Brain damage and profuse bleeding from multiple stabbings in the neck and head led to his death, said RMCH Director Brig Gen Nasir Uddin.
A gang of four attacked him at the entrance of Bihas residential area around 3:00pm while he was returning home by his motorbike, said Alamgir Hossain, OC of Motihar police station.
In a late development, an Islamist group calling itself Mujahideen fi Sabilillah has claimed the responsibility for Shafiul's murder in a post on its Facebook page Ansar Al Islam Bangladesh-2.
“Allahu Akbar! Allahu Akbar! Our Mujahideens today have murdered a murtad [atheist] who had prohibited female students from wearing burka [veil] in classrooms,” says the first ever post of the newly created community page of Facebook.
Given three hours after the murder, the post also warned "atheists" in general of similar consequences.
Some of the posts quoted a report of pro-Jamaat newspaper Daily Sangram, published on April 3, 2010, that had accused Prof Shafiul of banning burka in his class.
The cover photo of the page has a collage of Rajib Haider and Ashraful Alam who had already been killed. It also has photos of those whom the group targets to kill next: Asif Mohiuddin and Rakib Mamun.
OC Alamgir Hossain told The Daily Star around 1:30am today that they were looking into the claim.
After the murder, police recovered a blood-stained machete and the victim's motorbike from the scene.
The professor was a follower of Lalon and used to invite Baul singers to his house every Monday. He belonged to a pro-Awami League teachers' panel, according to his colleagues.
Talking to The Daily Star, his son Soumin Shahrid Javin, a journalism student at Dhaka University, said: “My father did not have any enemies; he was a very good man. He was progressive-minded but religious fanatics on the campus and around the locality were always angry with him."
“Jamaat-Shibir men threatened him with dire consequences two or three years ago for his mystic ways of life,” he added.
Golam Sarwar Sujon, the victim's colleague who used to attend the baul gatherings, said one big gathering was held at his house on Tuesday where baul singers from different parts of the country and India took part.
Sirajul Islam, another colleague of the victim, said Shafiul's belief in baul philosophy and the mystic way of seeking God might have angered some quarters.
He also said Shafiul had left his campus residence about a year ago and started living alone at a rented house in Choddopai which is close by the RU campus.
Shafiul married thrice. His first wife had died long ago and his second wife divorced him while the third left him allegedly for his devotion to baulism, he added.
RU teachers and students burst into protests following the murder. Hundreds of students from sociology department barricaded the Rajshahi-Dhaka highway for half an hour since 6:00pm yesterday.
RU Teachers Association announced that they would boycott all classes and examinations today, demanding immediate arrest of the killers.
Shafiul's autopsy was performed at the RMCH morgue. His body was taken to the RU Central Mosque for namaz-e-janaza.
His namaz-e-janaza will be held after his only son Soumin Shahrid Javin reaches Rajshahi, said his colleagues, adding that his body would be sent to his village home in Bogra for burial.