How many more Avijit's must we mourn?

Mourning Avijit Roy

Avijit Roy, wife Rafida Ahmed Banya and daughter Trisha in holiday in New Orleans
Avijit Roy, wife Rafida Ahmed Banya and daughter Trisha in holiday in New Orleans

It was a few yards away from where Dr. Milon had been killed. Then it had been?suspected the police were involved. This time, the police were a silent witness. Blogger and human rights activist Dr. Avijit Roy and his wife?Rafida Ahmed Banna?were returning home after visiting the Amar Ekushey Book Fair. Their ricksha was stopped, they were dragged out and Avijit was hacked to death. Banya?was severely injured and lost a finger.?
Not everyone will agree with Avijit’s viewpoint or the articles he wrote in his Mukto Mona (Free Mind) blog?(now inactive), many will dispute his analysis. That is in the nature of the human mind. But?Bangladesh they told me was a free country. Not any more.
The attack took place less than 50 yards from a police checkpost. Another 200 yards on the other side was the Shahbagh Police Station. The police presence was certainly no deterrent for the attackers.
While ?Freedom of Expression? is enshrined in Bangladesh?s constitution it is far removed from the realities of Bangladesh?s political space. A culture of intolerance, championed by both the government?and opposition parties makes any form of dissent a dangerous act. While such behavior is to be abhorred irrespective of the perpetrator, the government, by actively encouraging repressive behavior and creating an environment of complete impunity for those in power, has nurtured such behavior. This has led to a culture of fear. A few brave souls, such as blogger Avijit Roy, who had been nominated for the Best Blog in the recent BOBs award, spoke out courageously, and have paid a terrible price.
Previous attacks on bloggers have led to deaths and serious injuries. The government, rather than stemming the repression, has provided tacit support to the attackers by incarcerating the survivors. Bloggers are under immense danger in Bangladesh as a result, but a greater casualty is ?freedom of expression? itself and by extension, the very foundations that Bangladesh has been built upon.
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As his son would have surely wanted. Retired Professor of Physics and Ekushey Padak recipient Ajoy Roy and his family have donated Avijit’s body so it might help others.
Location of murder of Dr. Avijit Roy near Dhaka University Teachers Students Centre (TSC) roundabout. Photo: Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World
Location of murder of Dr. Avijit Roy near Dhaka University Teachers Students Centre (TSC) roundabout. Photo: Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

Students with protest slogans painted on their chest, as Noor Hossain had done in 1987, when he was gunned down by police. Photo: Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World
Students with protest slogans painted on their chest, as Noor Hossain had done in 1987, when he was gunned down by police. Photo: Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

Protests at TSC roundabout on 27th February, the morning after the murder. Photo: Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World
Protests at TSC roundabout on 27th February, the morning after the murder. Photo: Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

Raju Bhashkorjo. Statue constructed in protest against the killing of Raju. Another blogger who was killed, after death threats were made against him, in similar fashion to Avijit's killing. Photo: Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World
Raju Bhashkorjo. Statue constructed in protest against the killing of Raju. Another blogger who was killed, after death threats were made against him, in similar fashion to Avijit’s killing. Photo: Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

Author: Shahidul Alam

Time Magazine Person of the Year 2018. A photographer, writer, curator and activist, Shahidul Alam obtained a PhD in chemistry before switching to photography. His seminal work “The Struggle for Democracy” contributed to the removal of General Ershad. Former president of the Bangladesh Photographic Society, Alam set up the Drik agency, Chobi Mela festival and Pathshala, South Asian Media Institute, considered one of the finest schools of photography in the world. Shown in MOMA New York, Centre Georges Pompidou, Royal Albert Hall and Tate Modern, Alam has been guest curator of Whitechapel Gallery, Winterthur Gallery and Musee de Quai Branly. His awards include Mother Jones, Shilpakala Award and Lifetime Achievement Award at the Dali International Festival of Photography. Speaker at Harvard, Stanford, UCLA, Oxford and Cambridge universities, TEDx, POPTech and National Geographic, Alam chaired the international jury of the prestigious World Press Photo contest. Honorary Fellow of Royal Photographic Society, Alam is visiting professor of Sunderland University in UK and advisory board member of National Geographic Society. John Morris, the former picture editor of Life Magazine describes his book “My journey as a witness”, (listed in “Best Photo Books of 2011” by American Photo), as “The most important book ever written by a photographer.”

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