Ananta Bijoy Das, a secular blogger in Bangladesh, was hacked to death after allegedly receiving threats from Islamist extremists.
The brutal murder of the 32-year-old, in the northwest of the country, is the third of its kind this year. Each of the killings was carried out in similar ways, on busy streets. Das was taken to hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Though officially secular, intolerance is growing in Muslim-majority Bangladesh, and freedom of expression is being quashed as anti-athiest views become more popular in the public domain, according to the BBC.
In 2013, hardline Islamists demanded the government pass an anti-blasphemy law, but they did not succeed in their quest. However the issue of the law created mass protests involving thousands of people in the capital, Dhaka.
Das was an active contributor to the Bangladeshi blog Mukto-Mona, which calls itself a “community of rationalist, humanist, secular writers and activists”. Its name means “Free Mind” in Bengali. After Das’ death, its homepage read: “We are united in our grief and remain undefeated”.
The Atlantic quoted from his final post on his blog:
“No one with a free mind can be indoctrinated in regional fundamentalism or limit themselves within the walls of narrow-mindedness. The world is very large, but our well-behaved hypocrites are still quite primitive, it’s time for them to crawl out of the well and view our enormous universe from a new perspective. All of us are human, and all of us are Bangladeshi Bengalis – how long will it take the people of Sylhet to understand this simple truth?”
In April, Sweden turned down a visa request for Das, fearing he might not return to Bangladesh. He had been invited to attend a conference in Stockholm organized by Swedish PEN, on the issue of freedom of expression.
In a statement, PEN said if he had been granted the visa, “he would still be here with us today”. The organization, which defends literary expression worldwide, is demanding the Swedish embassy in Dhaka provide a reason for the visa refusal.
Though the perpetrators remain at large, some Twitter accounts allegedly linked to an extremist Islamist group claimed responsibility for Das’ murder, warning that “another target” was being planned.