On 11 June 2018, writer and publisher, Shahzahan Bachchu was allegedly killed by Islamic extremists in his home village of Kakaldi in the Munshiganj district of Bangladesh, according to reports.
“We are deeply saddened by the news of Shahzahan Bachchu’s death and remain concerned at the growing state of violence toward artists and cultural actors who are being targeted for their expression. Authorities in Bangladesh must do more to ensure that all voices in the country are protected and allowed to be heard safely and without consequence,” Freemuse Executive Director Dr Srirak Plipat said.
Bachchu, who had formerly served as district general secretary for the Communist Party of Bangladesh, owned the Bishaka Prakashani publishing house, which specialised in poetry.
Though the motive behind the killing is still under investigation, both close friends and local police have insisted that Bachchu had been a target for extremists for quite some time. SM Kamal, president of the Munshiganj unit for the Communist Party of Bangladesh, told Dhaka Tribune that “his name was among the list of progressive personalities that the extremists had prepared for execution”.
In October 2017, Freemuse, along with Bangladesh-based Drik Picture Library, PEN International and PEN Bangladesh, submitted a report to the UN Human Rights Council on the violent and dangerous situation writers and artists are facing in the country.
Notably, between 2013 and 2015, six Bengali bloggers and publishers who wrote on issues regarding religion, secularism, atheism and justice for war crimes, were killed by Islamic fundamentalist groups. Since then, attacks have widened to include civil society actors, academics, students and religious figures.
You can read more about the state of artistic freedom in Bangladesh in Freemuse’s The State of Artistic Freedom Report 2018.