Nur E Emroz Alam Tonoy:
In a bid to silence the critical voices, yet another name has been added to our very list of martyrs of free thoughts in Bangladesh.
The tragic murder of poet and publisher Shahjahan Bachchu will definitely now, at least, for a few days dominate the conversations of the concerned circles- lambasting terrorism and condemning religious fundamentalism in particular- but unfortunately, from the prior experiences we all know that the robust discussions and angry dialogues won’t bear any result- neither an assurance of a trial, nor put an end to these savage killings.
But, still, it’s a conversation worth having, and anger worth unleashing.
Whenever such a crime occurs our obvious tendency is to blame the terrorists, which, of course, is rightful, but in the meantime, we should probably pay equal attention to a vicious aspect of our culture, that is, due to our overwhelming exaltation of ignorance a chronic disease is spreading in our social and political landscape: in the last few decades, partly due to the rise of the religious hard right, and partly because of political surrender to them, our society has become extremely anti-intellectual.
And this is not just denial of science, knowledge, and critical literature, it’s a worrisome trend of explicit hostility towards intellectuals and freethinkers.
It has become so severe that at times it seems that this nation is on a suicidal mission of destruction of the progressive fabric of its own society, which in the past few years has become more evident than ever.
Poet Shahjahan Bachchu is the latest inclusion to this horrific series of evidence. A few months Dr. Muhhamad Jafar Iqbal was attacked. Dr. Humayun Azad, Professor Rezaul Karim, Philosopher Randipam Basu, author Avijit Roy and many more were on the list much ago.
In fact, in recent years no other country of the world has recorded more hostility towards intellect than that of Bangladesh, not even Pakistan or Iran.
But, the most despicable evidence of all is that none of these killings was dealt with properly through the criminal justice system.
This, sadly, has become a country, where after the death of Nazimuddin Samad the senior government officials told us that part of the investigation would be “to see whether the murdered writer Samad has written anything objectionable,” where police during the national book-fair given authority of deciding which books to be published and which to be sold.
And when they get away with such actions without a strong civil protest, it is beyond a dispute that creativity and knowledge have become an irrelevance in our society.
This aversive of reason and intellect trend is dangerous.
Because when a nation abandons knowledge and intellect it exposes itself to irrationality, and becomes an easy prey of the hate-mongers motivated by hateful communal-sectarianism. Thus peace and prosperity disappear. Examples are not too far, in fact, in our region- Afghanistan, and Pakistan.
Unlike those countries, Bangladesh today has become a flying economy, recording higher than expected growth almost every year, and a model of development.
Yet, we cannot really deny the fact that the most of the social problems that are holding us behind- child marriage, gender equality, communal hate crimes, population growth, investment in cutting-edge science and education technology, and so on- rooted in the unequivocal acceptance of ignorance by a large part of our society.
Many would rightfully argue, this violent culture of killings of the intellectuals and state-sanctioned injustices that follows the killings can well and truly take the entire nation to a downfall.
Because development demands people with intelligence and the point of effective development, as it is understood, is to create and to protect knowledge, and to eradicate ignorance, not to endorse it.
It is simply not possible to build a prosperous nation without an informed, enlightened, and rationally thinking population.
And if we truly are to become an advanced nation, our society, as well as the government, has a defining question to answer: should they keep allowing ignorance and violence towards knowledge to define our culture and lose the confidence of the brightest of the nation which might lead to a mass-migration?