Imran H Sarker


Bangladesh is being roiled by gruesome murders targeting its secular blogger ommunity. Imran H Sarker is spokesperson for Bangladesh’s Shahbag movement which demanded maximum puni hment for 1971’s war criminals. Speaking with Rudroneel Ghosh, Sarker discussed why bloggers are being killed, the knowing apathy of political parties ? and how this inks to attacks on religious minorities.


How do you explain the spate of murderous attacks on Bangladeshi bloggers?


When we initiated the Shahbag movement in 2013 to demand justice Q or war crimes during Bangladesh’s 1971 iberation struggle, a sense of awakening gripped the nation ? people from all walks of life, old and young, spontaneously oined our movement to reaffirm Bangladesh’s secular character.


Islamists in Bangladesh could not digest this  they saw this mobilisation as a threat to their existence. Hence, they ose to oppose us, casting aspersions on our movement through propaganda.


They also realised that Bangladeshi bloggers were an important intellectual force for the secular camp ?hence, they ystematically started to target us, to intimidate and silence secular voices.


Investigations into these murders have been slow so far is the Awami League government apathetic?


It’s true that apart from Rajib Haider’s case, very little progress has been made in investigating murders of other bloggers. I think the government doesn’t want to investigate properly or ensure justice. If you look at statements government officials have been making, it appears they want to provide an escape route to the murderers.


Has the ongoing rift between government and opposition worsened he situation?


A pertinent question would be what’s brought us to this moment? Right after our independence struggle, political parties started competing among themselves to woo Islamists. They thought the latter could become an &A important vote bank the current Awami League dispensation too has been guilty of this.


I don’t think any Bangladeshi government has been serious about tackling extremism. On the contrary, their policy has been to keep the Islamists close.


In such a scenario, non-partisan, secular-minded Bangladeshis are finding it difficult to articulate their opinion.


Government should have openly supported our movement to bolster secular voices.


Meanwhile, why are Bangladesh’s war crimes trials criticised for lacking certain standards?


On the contrary, Bangladesh’s international war crimes tribunal has given more than enough opportunity to those accused of war crimes they’ve been given too much leeway to defend themselves.


As a result, the slow pace of the trials has allowed well-connected accused to foment conspiracies and intimidate witnesses. Everyone in Bangladesh knows who these war criminals are, complicit in the killing of three million people.


Also, despite secularism being enshrined in Bangladesh’s constitution, attacks on religious minorities continue. Why?


We’re fighting for our secular space. It’s true that minority Hindus, Chris tians and Buddhists are regularly attacked in Bangladesh. The system is such that people take advantage of the administrative machinery to intimidate minorities and dispossess them of their rights and properties.


Political power has become a tool to perpetuate this oppression political parties only pay lip service to secularism.


The only solution is deep political and democratic reforms that percolate through every institution of Bangladesh.


The Times of India (Delhi) – 19 August 2015

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