Digital Crusaders of Democracy: Story of Bangladeshi Bloggers


Few days back, the internet and socialmedia was abuzz with Ananya Azad receiving death threats from Hefazat-e-Islam. From The Guardian to IBTimes, almost every media organisation carried out the news about death threats received by Azad. But who is Ananya Azad?

Ananya Azad is a young, dynamic and fearless blogger from Bangladesh who writes on issues pertaining to freedom of expression, women’s rights and the religious fundamentalism in Bangladeshi society.

It would be surprising for many that Azad’s father, a very prominent Bangladeshi writer Humayun Azad was attacked in 2004 for being critical of religious hardliner groups in Bangladesh. Like father like son, Ananya has now become the latest entrant on the hit-list of the radicals.

Ananya Azad standing next to a picture of his father Humayun Azad
Ananya Azad with a picture of his father Humayun Azad in the background

Ananya recently received a Facebook message which said, “You would be the next person. So be careful.”

The threat comes at a time when Bangladesh, which is usually known for its rich cultural heritage and a vibrant history has of late been shrouded under violence by some radical outfits.

Various bloggers who have been critical of a number of social ills ranging from religious fundamentalism to even subjugation of press freedom have been silenced by staunch Islamic forces.

In February, Bangladesh-born American blogger, Avijit Roy, was brutally killed with machetes and knives as he walked back from a book fair in Dhaka along with his wife. Avijit was known for his writings and blog Mukto Mona which were critical of religious fundamentalism and social evils associated with it.

A similar horrific attack took place in March, when Washiqur Rahman, 27, was hacked to death by two men with knives and meat cleavers just outside his house as he headed to work at a travel agency in the capital city of Dhaka.

The latest victim of the Islamic hardliners was Ananta Bijoy Das, a 32 year old blogger, who met the same fate when was killed by four masked men using machetes and cleavers on his way to work in Bangladesh’s Sylhet city.

At the Book Fair of Immortals of the 21st (of February), popularly known as Ekushey Boi Mela in Dhaka this year, Azad released his book “Shohitotyo Bonam Bohugamita”. Azad who usually writes for various websites and portals and has been associated with the anti-war criminals movement in Bangladesh has taken a break due to the looming threat and also advice from some close friends.

But Azad has continued to voice his concerns through his writings on social media and a close community of like-minded people within his sphere. Azad has been writing about the law and order deterioration in Bangladesh due to anti-social elements but better known for being a strong critic of religious fundamentalists and political propagandists.

Speaking to Janta Ka Reporter Ananya Azad said,

“I am here to speak for the people and write for the voiceless. And I will uphold the truth till my death.”

When asked about his fight (against religious fundamentalism) and how he would try to win it, he said,

“The fight is against those who treat religion as a political weapon and those who mistreat or subjugate others in the name of religion.”

Azad is also known for speaking on women’s issues. He says,

“Those who use religion as a tool to confine women to a certain environment or subjugate them, my voice is for those oppressed ones.”

Azad reiterates that those who wear the cloak of religion and foster political instability in the country, will face a tough opposition from liberal and secular voices.

Speaking to us, Ananya Azad also mentioned about certain sections of hard liners who are hand in glove with terrorist organisations and want to bring about a ‘Talibanization” of Bangladesh.

Azad says, ‘Freedom of speech and expression along with liberal thinking is being hampered. Some dream of converting Bangladesh into Pakistan but I vow to keep fighting these communal forces, not with weapons but my pen.”

In the last few years, Bangladesh has witnessed the brutal killings of many bloggers. Last year, Reporters Without Borders, had reported that a group calling itself Defenders of Islam in Bangladesh had published a “hit list” of writers it saw as opposing Islam and termed them as ‘nastik’ or atheist. Reports suggest that out these 84, nine have already been killed while many others have been attacked or assaulted. But until fearless and strong voices Like Ananya Azad and many of his likes continue to oppose the evils of society through their speech and writings, no one will ever succeed in distorting the social fabric of Bangladesh