Facing security threat, Shahbagh leaders allege 'smear campaign'

FP

After the February 15 killing of Ahmed Rajib Haider, one of the Shahbagh Square leaders who was stabbed to death while he was returning home from the protest site at about 9 pm, Bangladesh security agencies have issued alerts to at least 15 "Prajonmo" (new generation) leaders who have been spearheading the movement against war criminals. The leaders have all been given security cover.

Meanwhile, the inquiry into Rajib's death has not made much headway. The killers were masked and could have been hired for the job, say locals.

The needle of suspicion points to fundamental "Islamist" groups, as an online campaign tried to justify the killing by saying the victim an avid blogger was posting anti-Islam writings.

"We are being punished twice. First we lost our son. Now comes the accusation that he was an anti-Islam blogger. But he had never written anything sacrilegious," says Khurram Haider, the victim's uncle.

The nameplate outside the house reads, "Mrs Nargis Haider", Rajib's mother. But she is not at home. Most of the family members are staying in their countryside home at Kapasia, in Gazipur.

Khurram lives just a few yards away from Rajib's deserted house, where about half-a-dozen policemen from the local police station are on round-the-clock vigil.

Inside Rajib's room, a big poster of Sachin Tendulkar adorns the wall. "A laptop was his 24-hour engagement. He would be glued to the screen, even while eating," says Khurram.

In one corner, there are three empty bottles. "Rajib used to store drinking water in these bottles as he did not like plastic bottles. But unfortunately, a story was spread that he used to drink liquor, which he did not," says Khurram.

"A smear campaign is on in cyberspace to paint many of us as anti-Islam. The Jamaat and other Islamist groups have a large number of full-time online workers who are busy creating fake IDs and pages in our names, where they upload highly objectionable stuff to brand us as anti-Islam," says Khaledur Rahman Shakil, convenor, War Crime Trial Stage, and one of the key figures behind the Shahbagh Square movement.

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