Freedom of expression, the most inalienable right of the citizens, has been under attack in many ways in this country for a long time. Denying this fact will not change the truth. The killing of blogger Avijit Roy on February 26 by unknown assailants is nothing but an outcome of what this country is becoming day by day.
The rhetoric that Bangali people have been living in communal harmony for last thousand years is not correct. History reveals the bitter truth. The failure to check the psychological changes in the mind of the people has cost us many lives and loss of trust among each other. The government, the intellectuals and the educated section of the society have failed to prevent these changes. This is the real threat the country is facing now.
Now the question is not who killed Avijit, rather everybody is asking how he was killed when there were policemen within approximately 10 yards of the incident. Pictures were published in the newspapers showing common people and police standing near the crime scene, and some of them were taking photographs with their cell phones. This is what we had seen at the time of Biswajit killing, when media took videos of the whole scene rather than rescuing him.
There is speculation that nothing will happen to the killers considering the result of investigations in the case of Professor Humayun Azad, Rajib Haider, Professor Lalon, Sagor-Runi, and so on. In the Avijit killing the photographs published in the newspapers and social media show that there were eye witnesses, including police. The killers can also be tracked down by tracing their cell phone activities. Police seized two motor cycles and two machetes from the crime scene. If those motor cycles belonged to the killers then the registration details will lead to identification of the killers. All we need is to find the killers.
If the investigation is successful despite all odds, then we can demand holding of the trial in Speedy Trial Tribunal, and also transfer of all the previous cases like that of Humayun Azad and Rajib Haider to the same tribunal. In this crisis, the society needs a judicial precedent to get back hope.
Recent news reports have raised some questions about the role of security agencies as published photographs show that police were standing near the victim while Rafida Ahmed cried for help! Police probably could not prevent the homicide but they could at least have attempted to catch the killers.
Some are trying to link the incident with some comments in the leaked telephone conversation of Mahmudur Rahman Manna. If they want ordinary people to believe what they are saying, then they should also admit that the sole responsibility of protecting us lies upon the government. If the government knew that there would be an attempt to kill someone in the Dhaka University campus to boost the oppositions protest, then it should have taken extra measures to protect the lives of the citizens. The antithesis is there as well which casts suspicion upon the people who are claiming the “Manna theory.”
After every incident in Bangladesh we get drowned in a myriad of thesis and antithesis, leaving a very narrow space for the investigators to find out the actual perpetrators through investigation. Our past experience shows that the investigation finally finds truth in the claim of the people in power! Literally leaving no hope for getting justice. This bias has become a national phenomenon in all sphere of our life. In the present case of Avijit, if this culture goes on then there is no hope at all.
The killing of Avijit gave rise to questions like what and how far the bloggers can write in their blogs, a very legitimate question. Be it blogs or any other media, as per international law, no one can be allowed to incite child pornography, genocide, racial hatred and terrorism. Except these four, there should not be any other restrictions against one’s right to freedom of expression. Our constitution has a number of other vague restrictions which are not defined and are capable of being interpreted according to the wish of the people in power.
There are a few self-imposed restrictions like refraining from defaming someone intentionally, deliberately committing any other criminal offence, etc. Even if someone does commit an offence which is punishable by law then he may be liable to be dealt with in accordance with law. Killing him/her cannot be justified for whatever reason. Moreover, to win an argument one needs a better argument. Whether you like it or not, civilisation will move forward by way of questioning authority. This is what education usually does — arm people with the tool to question authority. There will always be people who will follow the established principles rather than questioning them. This is how the society should grow up — side by side.
Published on 1 March 2015 at the Daily Star.