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Bangladesh' No Criticism Of Attack On Salman Rushdie Strips The Writer Of The Right To Free Expression

Dissent/Writing

Bangladesh' No Criticism Of Attack On Salman Rushdie Strips The Writer Of The Right To Free Expression

The self-censorship and silence over the attack on Salman Rushdie for The Satanic Verses in Bangladeshi media and society is telling

Anger on streets: Bangladeshi activists pay their last respects to slain blogger Avijit Roy, 2015 Photo: Getty Images

Writing about this attack while living in Bangladesh puts one in a rat­her difficult position. My country’s abysmal track record of protecting writers and publishers from similar attacks in the past has pushed us down a slippery slope, where writers and journalists live in an atmosphere of fear and choose to self-censor rather than speak their minds. That’s precisely why there is an ambience of total sile­nce over the despicable attack on Salman Rushdie in the Bangladeshi media. Only news items were published on the front or back pages immediately after the attack. Rushdie then vanished from print editions altogether, and was sent to the section marked “international” or “world” in online editions. Only one English daily carried an op-ed on the subject and that piece, a reprint of a Con­v­e­rsation UK article, is written by a UK-based, non-Bangladeshi literary researcher.

Taslima Nasrin was forced out of the country in 1994 upon publication of her third novel, Lajja (Shame). She has since lived in exile. Prolific writer Humayun Azad was brutally attacked in 2003 by members of Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Ban­g­ladesh after he published his novel, Pak Saar Jamin Saad Bad, which was an allegorical depiction of how Jamaat-e-Islami, one of the main parties in the BNP-­­led coalition then in power, had collaborated with Pakistan’s occupation army in killing Hindus and freedom fighters in 1971. He died the next year. The verdict on the Azad murder case was delivered by a Dhaka court in April this year, 18 long years after the attack.

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