Even as the Bangladeshi government promise to ‘hunt down’ the killers of Niloy Chakrabarti, a secular blogger who was hacked to death in his home on Friday; other secular groups see a sickening pattern that shows no sign of stopping. This is the fourth blogger that has been killed by unknown militants for ‘secular and atheist writing’ since 2013, all of whom were attacked by using sharp instruments. While it is generally perceived to be another outbreak of religious violence in a country that has a sizeable conservative Muslim population, this spree is rooted in the tussle between Sheikh Hasina’s government and the Jamaat-e-Islami – both of whom view the lives of secular bloggers as expendable.

Shiekh Hasina’s government is purportedly secular, yet the decisions of the war crime tribunals constituted for the 1971 war have put her under severe pressure from Islamic groups, and she is willing to make certain tradeoffs. Her situation is reminiscent of the last stages of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s regime, where he made wide concessions towards Islamic groups in a bid to appease them, a move that is the basis for some of the most oppressive laws in Pakistan. Shiekh Hasina is arresting and prosecuting secular writers despite belonging to a secular party; based on a list provided to the government by religious groups – a list that was circulated by these groups to encourage vigilante-style attacks, and perhaps the one being used to identify present victims. If she continues to target secular writers and turn blind eye towards the murders – as she has up till now – not only will the fundamental parties get momentum, their violence will be justified.

It is time someone takes a stand for secular viewpoints in South Asia. In Pakistan, India and Bangladesh, religious parties get unlimited access to public forums and spaces, while secular proponents are forced to hide. Those that don’t, like Salman Taseer, are murdered and the murder is showered with roses. Shiekh Hasina is at the forefront of this struggle. She must learn from the lessons of the past.