It is no secret that democracy around the world is dying. And it is not dying alone, it is taking freedom of speech with it. Being tagged as "anti-state" in Bangladesh is very easy if one dares to speak up against the government and its decisions. Having a political opinion, as a matter of fact, is the most dangerous opinion for an individual to possess.
Only a couple of days ago, a student of the premier engineering institute Buet – Abrar Fahad, lost his life because he dared to have an opinion – a political one that apparently went against the virtues of the state, our state that preaches democracy.
Beaten mercilessly with blunt objects like cricket stumps and bamboo sticks, Abrar endured over four excruciating hours of pain before death finally came to his rescue.
His life was cut short because some 20 to 25 students belonging to the same university, which boasts prestige, excellence and merit, decided to end Abrar's life over a Facebook post that became his last.
Could Abrar have anticipated that such a harmless Facebook post, in which he merely expressed his concerns about his country's welfare, could elicit the outrage of Chhatra League members? Was Abrar's post provocative enough to have him ruthlessly assaulted to the point where death seemed a blessing?
Was it ever feasible enough to have someone killed over having their own opinions on bilateral agreements that concern the citizens of the two countries?
No, it was not. Abrar's surprisingly simple post criticised India-Bangladesh's recent agreement that allows India to withdraw water from the Feni River. He also spoke about how Bangladesh failed to make any headway with the neighbour regarding the use of our ports, water sharing and export of energy resources.
What is, however, not surprising at all is the fact that all assailants are members of the Buet unit of Bangladesh Chhatra League. These members are widely referred to as "cadres", who, regardless of any written law, act as a "shadow administration" within public colleges and universities. They assume power and control over the residential halls and get to decide what happens to the dormitories – starting from renovating activities to who can stay there, to who deserves to live and who does not.
According to numerous news reports published since the youth's murder, Abrar was called to Room 2011, also known as the "torture room", by third-year Chhatra League members for "interrogating" him under the pretext of a hunch that he might be a Shibir activist. Is merely being a Shibir member – which Abrar was not – enough to decide who gets to live and who deserves death?
Most importantly, how did the assailants assume that they could walk scot-free after committing such a coldblooded murder within the Buet dormitory premises?
Biswajit Das was murdered in a similar fashion by Chhatra League members in 2012 who "mistook" him for a Shibir member. Or have our sensible minds forgotten about his unfortunate demise as well? Are we still really going to ignore how the Chhatra League activists swooped on the protesting students of the anti-quota and road safety movements? The same peaceful movements that were bastardised by these so-called leaders and activists are the same people who have shamelessly enough called for a procession today to condemn Abrar's death that was dawned upon him by the suddenly protesting Chhatra League members. At times like this it is safe to say that hypocrisy knows no limits.
With time, the word democracy has started to lose its essence. Has Bangladesh already stepped in an era of autocratic rule where freedom of speech is not frowned upon, but is considered to be "anti-state" that is punishable by death?
These questions circle us back to the beginning – lawlessness and delay of justice giving rise to a state of orchestrated autocracy under the layers of ornamental democracy where freedom of speech can be the only reason for someone's death.
As melancholic as it is to think that Bangladesh has entered the autocratic-capitalistic era, hidden beneath the veneers of the "People's Republic", only time can tell if this is the path our beloved nation is venturing towards.
Safest are the ones in this country who are apolitical and devout followers of a totalitarian government with no individualistic views.
With all due respect, we are living in a nation of sheep, ruled by wolves, owned by pigs.
The "Shubodh" of democracy and individualistic freedom has fled long ago, leaving behind nothing but false hopes of returning on the red-tinged wings of a dove.