A New Age (Bangladesh) Editorial
April 1, 2015
THE killing of the 27-year-old online activist Oyasiqur Rahman at Tejgaon in the capital Dhaka on Monday morning, in terms of motive and manner, is frighteningly similar to that of Avijit Ray just over a month ago or of Ahmed Rajib Haider on February 15, 2013 or the attempt to murder Professor Humayun Azad on February 27, 2004.
According to a report published in New Age on Tuesday, three Madrasa students struck Oyasiqur with machetes repeatedly on his way to work and left him dead on the spot. Unlike in Avijit killing, people present in the area reacted reasonably quickly, caught two of the assailants and handed them over to the police. Otherwise, if the killing of Avijit is taken as a pointer, the assailants would highly likely have remained at large and the police would have routinely kept dishing out their essentially hallow claims of progress in cracking the case. In any case, now that the two assailants have apparently confessed to their involvement in the killing and named their accomplice and also the person who had planned the murder, the police should arrest them and prepare a strong case for prosecution and punishment of the killers and the mastermind so as to set a prohibitive legal precedent. After all, there are innumerable instances whereby the actual killers have either remained unidentified, let alone arrested, or, even worse, been acquitted by the court of law because of sheer police ineptitude and/or negligence.
At the same time, it is imperative for the managers of the state, the government that is, and their policy planners to take a long and hard look at the education system, a particular stream of which is actually disseminating a distorted outlook of life among the students, to an extent that they are apparently willing to kill or get killed without any question in the belief that they would be rewarded in the afterlife. It is instructive that none of the assailants did even read any of Oyasiqur’s blog postings yet killed him because a ‘senior’, maybe a teacher or a student of one Madrasa or the other, told them that Oyasiqur ‘was writing against Islam and the prophet Muhammad’. One need not be an Einstein to realise that a stream of education that inspires and instigates such disdainful disregard for human life or difference of opinion must be fundamentally flawed. Regrettably, however, despite such convincing evidences and compelling reasons, successive governments have hardly tried to institute any effective mechanism to monitor and regulate Madrasa curriculum, let alone integrate the madrasas in the mainstream education system.
Notably, mainstreaming madrasa education is not a policy option but a constitutional obligation. On the contrary, these governments have, directly or indirectly, facilitated the proliferation of madrasas. According to the latest Bangladesh Bureau of Educational Information and Statistics, released in 2014, Aliyah madrasas, which are recognised and aided by the government, total 9,336, up from 6,851 in 1997. On the other hand, Quaumi madrasas, which do not have government recognition nor get its assistance, has topped 12,000 recently. These two types of madrasa together have a student population of approximately 90 lakh, almost a third of primary, secondary and higher secondary educational institutions in the mainstream.
In the end, even prohibitive legal precedents in case of the murder of Oyasiqur, Avijit or Rajib Haider could prove inadequate vis-à-vis the mindless and murderous radicalisation of young minds until and unless the ruling quarters live up to the constitutional obligation of ‘establishing a uniform… and universal system of education.’ However, in view of their proven inability or unwillingness, the pressure must come from society at large, especially its conscious and conscientious sections.