Minister Asaduzzaman Khan terms the attacks on Durga Puja pavilions premeditated
Law enforcers across the country are continuing their efforts to bring the perpetrators of vandalism and attacks on Durga Puja venues to book as Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan terms the incident pre-planned.
Multiple cases have been filed against hundreds of named and unnamed people for the attacks in Comilla on October 13 and elsewhere over the last few days while police say they are scrutinizing CCTV footage to identify the attackers.
On the other hand, rights groups, political parties and minority leaders have blamed the negligence of the law enforcers for the spread of the violence.
The home minister on Sunday said that the alleged defamation of the Holy Quran and subsequent attacks on the Hindus in Comilla was a premeditated incident aimed at destroying the communal harmony of the country.
"It appears to us that it was a motivated act instigated by a vested group," he told reporters at the Secretariat. He smelled the provocations of a “third party” in the sporadic violence in the country following the Comilla incident.
Asked about the reason behind the Comilla incident, the minister said: "We'll make it public once we get all the evidence and those who were involved in it will be given exemplary punishment. Not only in Comilla, attempts were also made to destabilize the country previously through communal violence in Ramu and Nasirnagar," he said.
"The people of Bangladesh are religious but not fanatics. We never allowed militancy and terrorism on the soil of Bangladesh. We contained militancy and terrorism through united efforts," the minister said.
Soon after the Comilla incident, four lives were lost at Hajiganj in Chandpur and some policemen were also injured, he said, adding that some small incidents also occurred in Noakhali, Cox's Bazar and Feni districts.
"No incident has been reported since Saturday night. Our security forces are working patiently based on intelligence information. Those who are trying to destroy communal peace will not succeed," said the minister.
He also described the BNP's allegation of the government's involvement in the Comilla incident as baseless. “These statements are not made based on the facts.”
‘Home minister should resign’
Dr Zafrullah Chowdhury, founder of Gonoshasthaya Kendra, said that the home minister should resign over the deaths in Chandpur.
He made the suggestion during a visit to two affected temples at Hajiganj Bazar on Sunday.
Dr Zafrullah said that the government and the Home Ministry failed to properly handle the incidents.
“The home minister is a good person, an efficient minister and a freedom fighter. But the intelligence units did not provide him with the right information prior to the incident.”
He said that the home minister had assured of providing security at all Puja pavilions but it did not happen in reality. “So, he will have to take the responsibility and resign from the post,” he said.
Countrywide hunger strike October 23
Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council has announced a countrywide hunger strike and sit-in program for October 23 demanding justice for the temple attacks and violence during the Durga Puja.
On Sunday, the platform also demanded reconstruction of the temples vandalized during the attacks as well as compensation for the victims.
The council’s general secretary, Rana Dasgupta, also demanded removal of Noakhali’s DC and SP after visiting a number of affected temples at Begumganj in Noakhali.
He said that the Hindu community could not celebrate Durga Puja last year due to the surge in Covid-19 pandemic. They thought this year’s celebration would be a bigger one.
“However, all celebrations were marred following the temple attacks and vandalism across the country.”
Khelafat Andolon chief arrested over clash
Meanwhile, police arrested 21 people, including the ameer of a faction of Khelafat Andolon Maulana Zafrullah Khan, in the cases filed over clashes in Dhaka after the Friday prayers between the police and protesters outraged by the Comilla incident.
Two cases were filed with Ramna and Paltan police stations early on Saturday on charges including assault on police, obstruction of government work and vandalism.
Twenty-one named people as well as some 4,000 unnamed persons were made accused in the cases.
Cases filed in Comilla, Feni, and Chittagong
The law enforcers arrested 43 people till Sunday evening in seven cases filed over the attack on a puja mandap at Nanua Dighipar in Comilla.
Police filed six of the seven cases while one Gourango Bhowmick filed another with Daudkandi police station.
Four separate cases were started by the police with Kotwali Model police station against 61 named and 500 unidentified people.
Besides, two more cases were filed with Sadar Dakshin Model police station against 30 named and 160 unidentified people.
In Feni, two cases were filed over vandalism and looting of two temples and shops of the Hindu people in the town on Saturday night.
On Sunday, two sub-inspectors of Feni Model police station filed the cases against 200 to 250 unidentified people in one case and 100 to 150 unidentified people in another. However, no one has been arrested in connection with the cases.
At least 40 people including OC Nizam Uddin of Feni Model police station were injured in the clashes.
In Chittagong, four separate cases were lodged against 150 named and 1,300 unidentified people over attacking the puja mandaps.
Amir Zafar Sadeq of Chittagong South District Jamaat and former general secretary of Satkania Upazila BNP Muhammad Mujibur Rahman were named as accused in the cases.
Police have arrested 93 people in these cases till Sunday.
In Sylhet, 12 people have been arrested in connection with a case filed over attacking on a Puja pavilion in Akhalia Halder Para area, volunteers and the police on Friday.
They were identified from CCTV footage and arrested from different areas of the city after Jalalabad police station Sub-Inspector Kazi Jamal Ahmed lodged the case on Saturday night.
A total of 42 named and 250 other unnamed persons were made accused in the case filed under the Special Powers Act.
‘Police’s silence helped violence to escalate’
BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir has alleged that the recent sectarian violence in different parts of the country happened due to the indifference of law enforcers as they played a silent role during the attacks.
On Sunday, the BNP leader also said their party thinks the incident at Nanua Dighipar in Comilla would not have led to such brutal inhumanity had police acted swiftly.
The same thing happened in Noakhali's Chaumuhani area during attacks on temples as the administration did not take any action though they were requested repeatedly to do so, he added.
"There has been anarchy, looting and vandalism for six hours, but they [police] were quiet.”
Fakhrul said the motive behind such communal incidents is also to mislead people and divert their attention to a different direction from the growing price hike of essentials and other problems in the country.