Niloy Chatterjee is the fourth Bangladeshi blogger to be attacked and killed in the last six months. Chatterjee, 40, who wrote under the pseudonym Niloy Neel, had feared for his life following the horrific murders of fellow secular-minded bloggers.
He was a critic of religious extremism and part of a movement demanding capital punishment for Islamist leaders accused of committing atrocities during Bangladesh’s war of independence in 1971. Chatterjee came from a Hindu family, but did not espouse any religion and identified as a “freethinker”.
Online, Chatterjee bravely called for justice for the late bloggers Avijit Roy, Washiqur Rahman, and Ananta Bijoy Das, all of whom fell to vicious attacks this year. Roy, a U.S. citizen and an outspoken critic of religious militancy, was murdered and his wife seriously injured by machete-wielding attackers as they left a book fair in Dhaka. Machetes have been the weapon of choice in all of the murders, including Chatterjee’s. On Friday, a group of men forced their way into his home and slashed his throat.
Chatterjee had suspected he was being followed and was aware of the danger of his situation. The New York Times reports:
On Monday, Mr. Chaterjee posted an article by an Islamist blogger with the headline, “They are not atheists, really, they are anti-Islam.” The article identified Mr. Chaterjee as a critic of Islam.
“My name is on the list,” he wrote above the link. “Save me.”
The attacks in Bangladesh follow a sickening pattern, wherein those who voice outrage or show solidarity with the murdered men on social media become targets themselves. It is a campaign of intimidation and terror that is unfortunately seeming to achieve its aims. After such violence and lack of response on the part of authorities, advocating against extremism and promoting secular values are becoming tantamount to a death sentence in Bangladesh. When Chatterjee reported earlier threats to the police, he was told his only recourse was to leave the country.
The AP quotes Imran Sarker, head of a network of activists and bloggers, as saying, “We are speechless. He was demanding justice for killing of other bloggers.” Sarker rightfully wonders: “Who will be next for demanding justice for Niloy?”