It has been a month since the attacks on the Hindu community in Nasirnagar upazila of Brahmanbaria district, but police have yet to learn the exact motive behind the post of the controversial image on Facebook that incited the violent attacks.
Three investigation reports have been submitted to the authorities concerned, none of which has been able to identify who instigated the attacks or why. However, they maintain that religious sensitivity coupled with instigation by local leaders caused the attacks.
A mob attacked Hindu-dominated localities in Nasirnagar on October 30, injuring more than 100 people and damaging at least 17 temples and Kali Puja pavilions and over 50 houses over the Facebook post. Six more houses of Hindus were set afire in the upazila a few days later, followed by an attack on the house of Nasirnagar Upazila Parishad Vice-Chairman Anjan Deb and an attack on a Hindu fisherman’s house.
Speaking to the Dhaka Tribune, Nasirnagar police station OC Abu Zafar said they had yet to dig out information that could shed light on the events that led to the attacks.
Asked if organisers of the rally to protest the post – from where mobs went and started the attacks – had been interrogated or arrested, he said police had not interrogated them yet, but they were in touch with them.
When asked why they had not been arrested, the OC said they had arrested the primary suspects and were busy with other tasks in the case as well as raising awareness against communal violence in the area, before avoiding speaking on the issue any further.
However, Inspector General of Police AKM Shahidul Hoque said the orgsnisers have to face the charges for the attacks as they arranged the rally in the first place.
One of the reports, submitted by a probe committee from Chittagong police range to the Police Headquarters on November 14, estimated that around 20 people directly or indirectly instigated the attacks.
“The findings show that a number of people took advantage of the factional conflict within the district and the upazila-level units of a political party and stoked communal hatred,” said Mohammad Sakhawat Hossain, additional deputy inspector general of police in Chittagong range.
Additional Superintendent of Police Iqbal Hossain said public hype over the Facebook post, which was fuelled more by aggressive comments by local leaders, led to the situation.
He further said organisers of protest held the gathering by taking only verbal permission from then upazila nirbahi officer Chowdhury Moazzem Hossain, which is mentioned in another probe report submitted by Brahmanbaria district police on November 24.
Abdur Rahim, headmaster of Ashutosh Pilot High School and brother of Awami League’s grassroots leader and Union Parishad Chairman Abul Hashem, acquired the permission, sources said.
Asked about police’s passive role on the day, Iqbal said he would not call it negligence, but
“I would not say that police’s failure to stop the attacks from happening was a result of their negligence. They could not properly assess the situation and act accordingly, or else the losses could have been minimised,” he told the Dhaka Tribune yesterday evening.
Around 100 policemen, some 60 from the police lines, were present at the protest venue.
The third report was submitted by a probe committee of the district administration on November 14.
When contacted, Brahmanbaria Deputy Commissioner Rezwanur Rahman declined to comment on the findings as it was being assessed by the authorities concerned.
But sources in the deputy commissioner’s office said the report found no evidence of negligence on part of both police and the administration.
Police’s announcement of a Tk1 lakh reward for information over the attacks did not get any response either, said Nasirnagar OC.
At least eight cases have been filed over the attacks so far, and 101 suspects have been arrested, including Rasraj Das, whose Facebook profile was used to post the image, Jahangir, whose cyber cafe was used to upload the photo, and Billah Miah, a truck driver who hired two of the trucks to carry some of the protesters to Nasirnagar for the rally on October 30.
Meanwhile, several affected Hindu families told the Dhaka Tribune that the compensation they received from the deputy commissioner’s office was inadequate compared to the losses they had suffered.
The deputy commissioner’s office provided Tk5,000 to each of 51 affected families and Tk10,000 to each of the affected temples, and gave them 114 bundles of tin sheets.