It was with devastating shock and disbelief that I received the news of the brutal killing of our very well-known blogger and writer Avijit Roy and the severe injury to his wife, blogger Rafida Ahmed Bonna. According to the report, unidentified miscreants hacked them at TSC of Dhaka University on Thursday night. Avijit, son of former DU teacher Dr. Ajay Roy and also the founder of Mukto-Mona Blog, and his wife were admitted to Dhaka Medical College Hospital in critical condition immediately after the attack. Later, he died while undergoing treatment around 10:30pm.
My acquaintance with Avijit dated back to 2000 when he was a Ph. D. student at Singapore National University. It was through his invitation I started contributing in Mukto-Mona blog where I had my article page in both English and Bengali.
Mukto-Mona came into being in the year 2000, with the intention of debating and promoting critical issues that are of the utmost importance in building a progressive, rational and secular society, but is usually ignored in the mainstream Bangladeshi and South Asian media. On May 26, 2001, Avijit created a Yahoo group under the name Mukto-Mona. A year later, it was developed into a complete web site (www.mukto-mona.com), which probably was the first South Asian humanist and rationalist forum on the net. The aim, in the words of Avijit, was “to build a society which will not be bound by the dictates of arbitrary authority, comfortable superstition, stifling tradition, or suffocating orthodoxy, but would rather be based on reason, compassion, humanity, equality and science.”
Since its birth, Mukto-Mona has been able to draw the attention of many like-minded thinkers including distinguished authors, scientists, philosophers and human rights activists from all around the world. The group always tried to raise their voices wherever people's freedom and civil liberties were attacked.
In addition to his involvement in universal thoughts as a humanist and rationalist, Avijit was a staunch fighter and advocate of bringing to justice the perpetrators of crimes committed against our people and nation in 1971. He wrote a piece entitled, “Real or fake Quader Mollah: An evidential investigation,” divulging the real identity and misdeeds of Quader Mollah in 1971.
Born in a Hindu family, he wrote a status in his Facebook on October 14, 2014: “I do not have much faith in any religion, but many people around and close to me are Muslims. I have no abhorrence or repugnance for them. I rejoice with them in their moments of happiness. I feel pain when oppressions befall them. I never hesitate to stand beside the Muslims in Palestine or Kashmir when they become victims of torture and oppression. I did that in the past, I will do that in future. This is the manifestation of my humanism.” Alas, a person of such sagacious human values had to fall prey to the ferocity of creatures who identify themselves as human beings!
This shocking tragedy once again brings to us a grim reminder of the tragedy that befell one of our great free thinkers, Prof. Humayan Azad. This tragedy of untold magnitude reminds us in clear terms that we are still living in an era of the worst form of bigotry. How preposterous and incredulous would it sound at this moment if anyone tries to downplay the danger of religious fanaticism as a fear-mongering political campaign? The tragic loss of a young and brilliant humanist at the evil hands of the bigots once again brings up the question to our nation's conscience that was raised by Prof. Azad: “Is this the Bangladesh we had wanted?”
The writer is the Convenor of the Canadian Committee for Human Rights and Democracy in Bangladesh, and a long-time contributor to Mukto-mona.