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Justice eludes victims of hate attacks over fake Facebook posts

  • Published at 11:40 am November 15th, 2017
  • Last updated at 11:59 pm November 15th, 2017
Justice eludes victims of hate attacks over fake Facebook posts
In the past five years of communal violence allegedly sparked by Facebook posts defaming Islam and the Prophet Muhammad, the police have failed to deliver even one successful prosecution through the courts. In all cases, the attackers ransacked and burned houses and places of worships belonging to the minority communities following the spread of a blasphemous post on the social networking site. However, lengthy criminal investigations and trial proceedings have meant that none of those responsible for the attacks has so far been punished. The residents of Thakurpara village in Rangpur are the latest victims of such persecution. Thousands of villagers from nearby localities banded together and launched an attack on the Hindu village on November 10, looting and torching at least 30 houses. When police intervened, the attackers clashed with the law enforcers too, leaving one dead and about 20 others injured. The incident was triggered by rumours that a post from the Facebook account of Hindu youth Tito Chandra Roy had defamed Prophet Muhammad, even though his family members have claimed he is illiterate. Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan on Tuesday said Titu had been detained. Police have so far arrested 124 suspects over the violence and have pledged to detain more after analysing footage of the attack. Rangpur Superintendent of Police Mizanur Rahman told the Dhaka Tribune that they were yet to come to any conclusion about the Facebook ID that was used for the controversial post. He claimed that the Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh and its student front might be behind the Thakurpara communal attack.

Similar attacks

In one of the worst attacks on minorities that appeared to have been triggered by a blasphemous Facebook post, religious fanatics ransacked and torched houses and temples belonging to the Buddhist community in Ramu and Ukhiya in Cox’s Bazar in September 2012. A year later, unidentified miscreants attacked, ransacked and torched more than 50 houses, businesses and temples in Pabna after spreading rumors that Rajib Shaha, a Hindu youth from Bonogram’s Sahapara, had slandered Prophet Muhammad on Facebook. In October last year, over 100 people were injured when a mob attacked and vandalised 17 temples and 58 houses belonging to Hindus in Brahmanbaria’s Nasirnagar. This attack, too, was reportedly triggered by a Facebook post defaming Islam, allegedly posted from the account of an illiterate Hindu fisherman. The houses of Nasirnagar Upazila Parishad Vice-Chairman Anjan Deb and another Hindu fisherman were also later attacked. Six more Hindu houses were set on fire in the upazila.

Long walk to justice

Although many cases have been filed over the communal attacks, none of them have been resolved as yet. Nineteen cases were filed over the 2012 attack and while one was later withdrawn, the remaining cases are still being heard by a local court. Jyotirmoy Barua, a lawyer from Ramu, filed a writ petition against the inaction of police over the incident. In December 2012, the High Court ordered a judicial investigation after a Home Ministry probe failed to identify the motive behind the attacks. “The court ordered further investigation into some of the cases where it was not satisfied with the police probe,” Jyotirmoy said. “The court is recording testimonies of witnesses in some other cases but the witnesses fear for their safety. The names of witnesses were leaked from the judicial inquiry report that resulted in the witnesses being threatened [by the accused].” Jyotirmoy said the accused were well-known faces in the locality and were either out on bail, or were not listed on the charge sheet. Initially, there were about 15,000 accused in the cases but later charges were pressed against 384 persons in court. One case was filed over the 2013 attack on Hindu temples, businesses and houses in Pabna. Police said their investigation did not find evidence that a Hindu youth had slandered Prophet Muhammad on Facebook. Pabna police chief Jihadul Kabir said that the case was being heard by a district court. Eight cases were filed over the 2016 Nasirnagar attacks but police said they were yet to file chargesheet in the cases. Last November, a police investigation report said a number of people had taken advantage of the factional conflict within district and upazila level units of the Awami League to stoke communal hatred. A senior official of the district’s police said they hoped to submit the chargesheet in December. Meanwhile, two cases have been filed over last week’s attack on Hindu houses and clash with police. Titu Roy, whose alleged Facebook post is said to have triggered the attack, has been accused in a case under Section 57.