November 01, 2016

Bangladesh: attacks on the Hindus in Brahmanbaria's Nasirnagar Upazila

The Daily Star, November 01, 2016 

Brahmanbaria Mayhem: Role of admin in question

Two radical groups stoked anger for days; blanket looting amidst outburst over questionable Facebook post

Sunday's attacks on the Hindus in Brahmanbaria's Nasirnagar Upazila could have been averted had the local administration and police acted promptly and taken preventive measures, say victims and locals.
Tensions had been brewing in the area since Saturday, as two Islamist groups -- Touhidi Janata and Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat -- called two protest rallies for Sunday over a local Hindu youth's alleged Facebook post “hurting religious sentiment of the Muslims,” they say.
But neither the law enforcement agencies nor the administration took the matter seriously. They didn't take steps to ward off any untoward incident, a number of victims and locals told this correspondent yesterday.

The administration and police remained almost “inactive” while the religious bigots carried out attacks on temples, Hindu houses and businesses.
Armed with sticks and sharp weapons, the zealots, mostly from Touhidi Janata, went on the rampage in Duttabari, Goura Mandir, Jagannath Mandir and Kashipara Mandir. Idols at the temples were either destroyed or damaged, they said.
Police personnel sat idle during the attacks, alleged Nasirnagar Upazila Vice Chairman Anjan Kumar Dev and Upazila Puja Udjapan Committee President Kajal Jyoti Dutta -- both victims of the attacks.
Anjan said the administration and police should take responsibility for the attacks on the Hindus.
“On the previous night, they [attackers] asked all to join the protests, and announced plans to hold protest rallies… How could the administration allow them to hold such rallies,” he asked.
Kajal said both the administration and police were “unusually late” in their response to the attacks.
Abdur Rahim, headmaster of Ashutosh Pilot High School in the upazila, said, “Things could have been different if the administration had taken necessary measures to bring the situation under control.”
From the protest rally at the school's playground, members of Touhidi Janata urged locals over loudspeakers to attend their programme. They even asked shop owners to shut their outlets and join it, according to locals and victims.
In the name of protesting the Facebook post, Touhidi Janata men tried to instigate people by giving speeches over loudspeakers from different mosques for hours since Saturday morning, they said.
But the upazila administration or Nasirnagar Police Station didn't do anything to keep the zealots in check. Instead, they let them go ahead with their plots to wreak mayhem, they alleged.
Muklesur Rahman, chairman of Touhidi Janata's Nasirnagar unit, said they had organised the protest rally at the school playground but he denied the allegations that they were involved in the attacks.
“We condemn the attack and demand punishment of the culprits,” the leader of the Qawmi madrasa-based Islamist organisation told this correspondent at his Jamia Siddiqia Ramizia Madrasa office in Nasirnagar last night.
Muklesur, also imam of Nasirnagar Upazila Complex mosque, said he had no idea about the attackers wearing panjabi and prayer caps as described by the witnesses.
On Sunday noon, around 200 religious bigots attacked at least five temples, and vandalised and looted about 100 Hindu houses in several localities in Nasirnagar over a Facebook post purportedly from the account of Rasraj Das, 27.
The attackers also beat up more than 100 people.
Earlier on Saturday noon, locals handed over Rasraj to police.
Asked, Nasirnagar Upazila Nirbahi Officer Choudhury Muazzam Ahmed said some bigots from the rally under the banner of Touhidi Janata launched an attack on the Hindus in the area.
He said the administration had given permission to hold rallies upon promises from both the Islamist groups that those would be peaceful.
Under police protection, the UNO himself attended Touhidi Janata's rally that began at 10:00am on Sunday. Upazila Parishad Chairman APM Moniruzzaman Sarkar and Officer-in-Charge of Nasirnagar Police Station Abdul Quader were also present there.
“I don't see any negligence on the part of the administration,” said the UNO.  
Contacted, Mizanur Rahman, superintendent of police in Brahmanbaria, said there was a shortage of manpower at different police stations, including the one in Nasirnagar, as a large number of police personnel were deployed in different unions for yesterday's Union Parishad polls.
The SP said the DC office had already formed a committee to investigate the incident and see if there was any negligence on the part of the upazila administration.
Police also formed another probe committee to find out whether any of the police personnel was insincere in carrying out duties.
“We will take action if anyone is found guilty of negligence,” he said.
Ranjan Kumar Das, Brahmanbaria senior additional superintendent of police, said two of the victims -- Kajal and Goura Mandir Committee General Secretary Nirmal Chowdhury -- filed two cases with Nasirnagar Police Station against over 1,000 unnamed people on Sunday.
Despite repeated attempts, Abdul Quader, officer-in-charge of Nasirnagar Police Station, could not be reached over his mobile phone.
Police have so far arrested 15 people in connection with the attacks. They, however, didn't disclose their identities.
Additional police personnel and members of Border Guard Bangladesh have been deployed in the areas.
Meanwhile, local Awami League last night demanded resignation of the UNO and the OC of Nasirnagar Police Station for their “failure” to prevent the violence.
Asked, Senior Home Secretary Mozammel Haque Khan said, “A vested quarter always wants to destabilise the government. And it is the government's duty to resist such attempts.”
He said “a new group” emerged and its aim is to create troubles for political gains. They wouldn't be spared. The government would not compromise with them.
"We will resist incidents like that of Brahmanbaria. If it can be done peacefully, we will do it peacefully. But if not, we will do it by force," he added.

A few bank notes lay in the smashed donation box of the temple. Religious zealots attacked the Hindus, vandalised their homes and temples and looted valuables allegedly over a Facebook post. Photo: Amran Hossain
Yesterday, this correspondent visited the affected areas, including Kashipara, Daspara, Ghoshpara, Duttapara and Nomoshudrapara, and talked to more than 50 victims of the Hindu community and 40 locals in Nasirnagar Union.
The attackers ran amok in the areas for about three hours since Sunday noon, but police didn't turn up in any of the places on time. The law enforcers finally brought the situation under control after 2:00pm, according to victims and locals.
The attackers beat up over 100 people, including women and children, of the minority community.
Armed with locally made weapons, iron rods and sticks, several groups of religious bigots from Nurpur, Bhuban and Rosulpur areas joined members of Touhidi Janata, and carried out the attacks in the Hindu localities, said witnesses.
Chanting slogans against the Hindus, the attackers vandalised houses, and looted valuables, including mobile phones, gold ornaments and televisions. They even snatched earrings and jewelleries from a number of Hindu women.
They didn't even spare children. During the attack on a house at Mistiripara, two of the bigots hit a two-and-a-half-year-old child as he was crying during the looting.
“After the youths looted Tk 60,000 and five tolas of gold from the locker, I begged them not to take money from my elder daughter's purse, as she would need it to go to her college for the BA examinations tomorrow.
“But they took away all the money -- Tk 2,000 -- from my daughter's purse,” said Protima Das of Daspara, who was in tears.
A Hindu woman at Nomoshudrapara said, “We hid our 14-year-old daughter under the bed to save her from the attackers.”
The attackers set fire to a cattle shed there.
In Kashipara, musical instruments, including harmonium, were seen floating in a pond. The attackers also vandalised a Kali Temple in the area.
The religious zealots also set alight fishing nets of Hindu fishermen, ignoring their pleas that their livelihood depended on those, said Anurup Das of Mistiripara.