The Attack Upon Humayun Azad:
An Appeal From Mukto-Mona
[critical editing by Cliff Walker]
Dear Mr. Walker,
Recent events in Bangladesh have perturbed the minds of many expatriate Bangladeshis all over the world. On February 27, 2004, one of Bangladesh's most liberal writers, the honorable member of Mukto-Mona, Professor Humayun Azad was attacked in front of the Bangla Academy in Ramna, Dhaka. This was reported in many vernacular newspapers on February 28, 2004.
At about 9:30 P.M., this group of assassins came out from the Bangla Academy compound with Professor Azad. They crossed the main road. The professor was talking to them for few minutes. Three of the young men from the group entered the dimly lighted park while two followed Professor Azad. All of a sudden, these two men started to strike Dr. Azad in the neck region. The place where this incident happened was not desolated. There was a Chatpati vendor there. (The Chatpati is a sharp knife used in the villages of Bangladesh for slitting bamboo.) Three eyewitnesses came forward and gave a detail account of the attack on Professor Azad. The color photo of Dr. Azad taken just after the tragic incident also revealed that most of the wounds due to hacking were localized in the area of Professor Azad's head and neck.
The police took the injured professor to Dhaka Medical College's Emergency Room for immediate treatment. We sent a letter to our Prime Minister in the wake of the attack on Humayun Azad. According to our opinion, the attack on Professor Azad is not an isolated event. One may recall that only a few days before Humayun Azad was attacked, Delowar Hossain Sayedi, the leader of the fundamentalist organization called Jamaat-E-Islami, had made a provocative speech lashing out against the writings of Professor Azad.
As far as I know, nobody protested against his speech at the time.
To expect a response from the political parties of Bangladesh was out of the question, but even the writers and cultural activists were mute! It's unfortunate that Bangladesh society has become very intolerant of late. Only a few years ago another Bangalee writer, Poet Shamsur Rahman, was attacked by some hit-men in his own house. The attackers could not do more harm then because of the immediate action by Rahman's neighbors.
The fanatic Mullahs in Bangladesh have also issued threats against Taslima Nasrin, another valiant writer of our forum. She took up the woman's rights issue and wrote against the riots in days after the demolition of Babri Masjid. Additionally, many other freethinkers, educationists, prominent members of the civil society, and even some well-respected politicians such as Dr. Kamal Hossain have either received physical threats or had their civil rights grossly violated. A list of such persons who lost their lives, endured such attacks, or received death threats from extremists is now available at the Mukto-Mona web-site (www.mukto-mona.com).
Bangladesh is now at a crossroad. The government should apprehend the perpetrators of this crime and attempt to bring a swift end to this kind of attack upon intelligentsia. Free speech is a hallmark of liberal democracy. Bangladesh society should "go the extra mile" in fostering free speech in the four corners of our ancestral land.