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Thread: Amnesty Intl. protest attack on Bangladeshi Intellectual

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    Banned sanwin25's Avatar
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    Amnesty Intl. protest attack on Bangladeshi Intellectual

    Amnesty International strongly condemns the attack by unidentified assailants on the leading Bangladeshi writer and Dhaka University lecturer, Dr Humayun Azad, last Friday night. The attack has left Dr Azad in a critical condition. It is believed to be connected to the death threats he received following the publication of his recent novel about religious groups in Bangladesh who collaborated with the Pakistani army during the 1971 independence war.

    Amnesty International calls upon the Government of Bangladesh to institute an independent and impartial investigation by a competent authority into this attack and to bring to justice those found responsible. It further urges the government to ensure the safety and security of Dr Azad's family who reportedly continue to receive threatening calls.

    There has been widespread concern about the attack in Dhaka. Students groups have held protests against this attack and there have been reports in the Bangladeshi press that police and ruling party activists attacked and injured scores of protestors yesterday. Amnesty International is concerned by these reports; it urges the government to bring to justice those responsible, and to prevent future attacks.

    Four opposition parties have called for a general strike on Saturday to protest against the attack on Dr Azad and to seek the punishment of those who were involved. Amnesty International urges the Government of Bangladesh to ensure the safety of anyone engaged in a protest event including the participants of the general strike on Saturday. The government must give clear instructions to the police that under no circumstances should they resort to attacking peaceful demonstrators. The Government must also ensure that activists of the ruling party are prevented from attacking demonstrators.

    The attack on Dr Azad highlights the vulnerability of individuals engaged in the peaceful expression of their views regarding the activities of extremist religious groups in Bangladesh. Amnesty International calls upon the Government of Bangladesh to respond immediately and effectively to any calls for protection made by writers or journalists who fear such attacks.

    Amnesty International is also concerned about the highly politicised statements, allegations and counter-allegations of responsibility made by the government and the main opposition party in relation to this attack. Such statements, before the facts are known, could divert the course of justice and allow those responsible for the attack on Dr Azad to evade punishment.

    Dr Humayun Azad was attacked on 27 February while he was waiting for a rikshaw to go home after leaving a national book fair. He went into a coma after he was stabbed three times by unidentified assailants, who also detonated a home-made bomb which sent people running for cover and allowed the assailants to flee. The exact motive for the attack is not known, but family members believe it was carried out by religious groups who had been reportedly sending death threats to him. Threats were reportedly made against him after the publication of his book "Pak Sar Zamin Saad Baad" ('the first line of the Pakistani national anthem'), a story based on religious groups in Bangladesh who collaborated with the Pakistani army during the 1971 independence war. He is reportedly in a critical condition and is being treated at a military hospital in Dhaka. His family is reported to have been receiving threats from unknown callers telling them not to seek legal action against those responsible for the attack.

    According to reports in the Bangladeshi press, religious groups had been agitating against the publication of the book and lobbying for the introduction of a blasphemy law to ban such publications.

    Human rights, shooman bites ! Who needs them in Bangladesh.


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    Banned sanwin25's Avatar
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    Further info on the attack on this Bangladeshi intellectual.

    The brutality with which Humayun Azad was attacked on Friday evening before the Bangla Academy reflects the increasingly narrowing world of intellectual freedom in Bangladesh. The attack on the noted writer and teacher does not surprise anyone who has followed recent trends in the growth of intolerance in the country. When an anti-Ahmediyya outfit held out, not long ago, dire warnings against the opinions which Dr. Azad had characteristically been giving expression to, it should have been obvious to all, especially the authorities, that the writer was in danger. The reluctance of the powers that be to take note of the threat (and such reluctance to act against professed criminality in almost every instance seems to have become the norm) led in quick time to a rightwing lawmaker demanding that Azad’s newest book in the market be proscribed for what the lawmaker thought was its blasphemous nature. It appears to have become extremely easy these days for a group of self-seeking politicians (those with a questionable political past) and their supporters to decide for themselves what the frontiers of belief are and what ought to be done with ‘wayward’ writers. It is a hugely dangerous message that has been going out to the country. The bloody assault on Humayun Azad could be but an early manifestation of what lies ahead for those who have always upheld liberalism as a guiding philosophy of life.
    There is a grave need for people across the spectrum to come together in the defence of free expression, be it in creative writing or in the narration of history or in the work of the media, all over the country. It is a morally impoverished society which sits lazily and tremblingly by while criminality, whether in the form of goons stalking the streets or in the garb of men upholding a cause that is as spurious as it is reprehensible, takes over the land. In recent months, the threats held out to journalists and writers leave little doubt as to how far the country has swung from being a vast territory for intellectual refinement to a narrow strip of land where liberal ideas are increasingly a beleaguered state of affairs. When Dr. Azad was attacked on Friday, it was fundamentally the secular liberal culture of Bangladesh which was pounced upon. Those who have known Azad, through association with him or through his writings, have for all their occasional disagreements with him agreed that he has consistently represented a class of the intelligentsia which has never flinched from upholding the values shaping the struggle for a secular Bengali state thirty two years. From that point of view, it makes sense to argue that his attackers on Friday gave every indication of speaking for those who have in the last three decades or so sought to overturn the very moral and political fabric of the State in their own sinister interests. And the attack has left little doubt in the public mind that the incendiary statements made by powerful elements against Azad in recent times, threats which the writer himself referred to more than once, have acted as a spur to the attempt on his life.
    This morning, we demand that swift, meaningful action be taken against those responsible for the crime. Additionally, we ask the people of this bruised country to gather around the principle of liberal thought and send out the clear message to the forces of darkness that they have no place in this land, that they belong in the backwaters of times we have left far behind us. Meanwhile, we pray that Humayun Azad pulls through and lives to be a renewed symbol of national resolve.

    Two ministers of the government who are expected to play it straight when the subject of law and order is in question have not proved up to the job. At least that is what they intended to convey when contacted by newsmen. Neither the home minister nor the law minister had the time to go through the US state department’s report on the human rights situation in Bangladesh last year. Are we then to take what the ministers said at its face value? Or is it that they were just trying to evade a direct answer by way of the excuse of ‘not having read the report’ or that they were not ready to face up to what the report in question contained? But ignorance is not always bliss and that is more so if that is the case of a studied one.

    Whatever the reasons the government leaders may have put forward to evade a direct answer to the queries this seems to be an uniquely Bangladeshi trait from the journalists, the fact remains that the state department report did not paint a very positive picture of the country’s law and order. The impunity with which criminals and terrorists of every hue are operating in society has not failed to draw the attention of those who had prepared the said report on our law and order situation. The law minister’s contention that the US government department concerned did not take the view of the Bangladesh government while preparing the report does not also stand up to reason. For one need not have to be a genius in the field of investigative journalism to discover the incidents of human rights violation by the organs of the state, especially the law enforcing departments, as well as the terrorists and criminals of every description, in today’s Bangladesh. The police beating up political demonstrators on the street as well as torturing prisoners in custody to death every now and then, terrorists killing businessmen, journalists, service holders and the common people with bombs and bullets with abandon and women and children being molested by criminals in the cities and villages day in, day out— these are but the staple of the press here. So, for any organisation willing to know about our human rights situation need not take the trouble of going into research for the purpose. So, what additional truth may the government make available to the interested one on this score?
    The more important question is: do the ministers in question, or even the government for that matter, have any faith in the reports published in the newspapers everyday? The government has more often than not expressed its dissatisfaction with the reports of human rights violation in the country. So, one can easily understand the position of our ministers when they cannot hide their disappointment in the face of such questions.
    But how long will our government leaders be able to hide from reality in this manner?

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