A Death Allowed

By Alam, Shahidul | New Internationalist, May 2015 | Go to article overview

A Death Allowed


Alam, Shahidul, New Internationalist


The fresh yellow tape saying 'Crime Scene, Do Not Cross' glistened in the Dhaka sun. It was the day after prominent secular blogger Avijit Roy was hacked to death after a book fair, following death threats from Bangladeshi Islamic fundamentalist groups. Some stubborn blood clots had refused to wash away. But there was no Macbeth-like guilt here. The hands of the government, and their conscience, had both been washed clean.

In 1987 I photographed flowers strewn on blood-stained tarmac on the other side of this road, where pro-democracy leader Shamsul Milon had been killed by police bullets. Even then, the local police station was only 200 metres away, but the heightened 'security' surrounding the book fair where Roy appeared was a recent phenomenon.

A police presence had not deterred the attackers of another outspoken free-thinker, Humayun Azad, in almost the same place in 2004. The 2013 murder of blogger Rajib Haider was in a different part of Dhaka, but the hallmarks were much the same. Hacking with machetes is the signature style of these assassins.

Remarkably, the police allowed Roy's killing because they thought it was a 'scuffle', not a murder attempt. …

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