Ananta’s Visa to Schengen
Ananta Bijoy Das was one of 84 secularist bloggers threatened in a “hit list” published in a Bangladeshi right-wing newspaper in 2013. He was hacked to death by extremists on May 13, 2015 while on his way to work. Ananta contributed writing to the secularist blog Mukto-Mona. In all, at least four secularist bloggers have been murdered in Bangladesh in 2015 and the Bangladeshi government continues to call secularist bloggers “blasphemers.”
Anisur Rahman wrote the following story about the circumstances of Ananta’s death. He has been unable to publish it in Bangladesh, where harsh “blasphemy” laws are used to persecute those who criticize religion.
— I want to stay here for some more days.
— What’s the benefit? Why do you want to stay?
— I am not that old, to have to leave my life here. I just graduated from university. I have not yet married. My mother has many dreams for me. My father has big expectations.
Photo: Magnus Hjalmarson
In 2007, Anisur Rhaman was one of Bangladesh’s emerging poets, the youngest member of the National Poetry Council of Bangladesh. He was also a journalist and dissident. He left the country in 2008 during Bangladesh’s political crisis. With support from the Swedish Writers’ Union, Swedish PEN, and ICORN, Anisur achieved permanent residency in Sweden, where he still lives.
— So what? Tell your story yourself.
— Strange! Why did you say that, despite being God? Should I not think of my parents?
— You should think of your parents. I guess you love to do things that go beyond custom. You walk in the opposite direction of the trends of the time.
— God, if you say that, they will be inspired.
— Who are they?
–Strange. Don’t you know them? How could that be? Is God idle?
–You are crossing your limit.
— Sorry, God.
— All right. Carry on. Who are they?
— To be honest, I have never seen them myself. They threaten to kill me. They send me letters. They warn me.
— Is it true? How? Why?
–They say that when I speak I cross the line.
–I cannot figure out what their line is. They say they follow your path, the path of God.
— No, never.
— That’s confusing to me. I cannot figure it out.
–Even though you’re God, you cannot … what will we do?
–Skip it. Let me ask you: Are you frightened?
–Why wouldn’t I be?
— Is there any point to being afraid? You have only got one life. You will either survive or die.
— I see, it’s as if you were echoing their voice.
–What do you mean?
— They say if you survive, you are the fittest. If you die you are the martyred on your pilgrimage.
— That’s it. That’s right. Why do you blame them if you, the liberal secularists, claim survival of the fittest?
— God. Do I have the capability to argue against to your points?
— How can I know? You run a paper called The Argument, don’t you?
— Is there anyone who can challenge your power?
— …What are you getting at?
— That’s why they are using your name as an excuse to threaten me, to slaughter people.
— Does it help them?
— I can see that it works. It works like a toxin. The police do not say anything, and neither do the military nor the envoys from the East and the West.
— Are you sure?
— I am sure, God your Excellency.
— Then you must understand.
— What must I understand?
— The meaning of decentralization of power.
— I understand that a little bit.
–This means relinquishing freedom from single central control to different local or regional authorities.
— Go on….
— The meaning of democracy exists in this decentralization. After the colonial era, I did the same: I decentralized my power. You are enjoying consequences of it. As a result, many counter-Gods have emerged. They are using their power for their own purposes. They forget that there exists a Super God beyond their God-ship. They become their own Gods.
— Do you mean Obama, Osama, Putin …?
— Do hold that power in their hands? Osama is gone; how could you forget?
— But al-Qaeda, ISIS?
— That’s my point.
— Can you tell then who is handling the power?
— Do you know weapon? Do you understand business? Have you ever drank alcohol? Have you ever been drunk?
— What are you saying, Excellency?
— Why are you being so coy? It’s nothing to be shy about. I do know everything. I can imagine, I can guess and come to a realization.
— That’s great God. You know so many things, you see all, but, how can it be that you do not see they threatening me to kill?
— Calm down. Do not lose your temper; do not cross the line.
— Sorry Excellency.
— It’s all right, don’t be afraid.
–I am a bit afraid, indeed.
— You have no reason to be afraid of me.
— I am not afraid of you. I am afraid of those who are using your name as an excuse.
— You can find the loopholes of democracy there.
— Please give me a way out. I want to survive.
— You want to survive, you can survive. But? What’s the benefit of it?
— What’s the benefit of dying?
— Well, you have to die first to know.
— You say that as though you would allow me to return after my death.
— If I say that truth now, you will begin to declare you are a God yourself.
— Are you afraid of loosing your power, Excellency?
— Power is a fact: when one gets it in his hands, he let his hands be idle. If he gets power in his feet, he finds it to be a football.
— I see that, Excellency. But those who are threatening to kill me are a bit different.
— Leave them. Do your job. Are they more powerful than me? If you are a believer or an atheist, no matter; never forget that you are a human-being.
— Excellency, if you could tell the same towards them — I mean the people who are threatening to kill me.
— Are you telling me what to do?
— Sorry, God.
— Don’t be afraid, Ananta.
Ananta had been talking to God in his sleep. When he awoke, he found that he was lying on a bed in a charity house in heaven. Beside his bed, he discovered his bag, and inside it he founds two letters: one was an invitation from Swedish PEN to take part in a seminar on Freedom of Expression in Stockholm; the other was a letter from the Embassy of Sweden in Dhaka, refusing his visa.
–Hello, Ananta, good morning.
–Good morning. You are…?
–I am God.
— Yes, you were just talking to me in your dream. Now it is real. How are you, Ananta?
— So my fear had a reason. Now you can see the truth: they ran their knives across my neck.
— So what? What’s the problem? I did not forget my commitment.
— I don’t understand you. What are you saying?
— How do you not understand, you sweet boy? This is the power of God. You wanted to go to Sweden. But you could come here instead. Is Heaven less of an opportunity than a Schengen Visa? What do you say, Ananta?