Who is Iqbal, the man behind the Quran incident that triggered violence?

Iqbal Hossain, the person responsible for keeping the Quran at the Comilla puja venue triggering attacks on Hindus, spent most of his time at the various local shrines, say his family and locals.

He was a drug addict and under the influence harassed neighbours as well as tortured family members, they say.

Son of fish trader Nur Ahmed Alam, Iqbal lives in the city’s Sujanagar area and is the eldest among five siblings.

“He became a drug addict when he was 15,” says Amena Begum, Iqbal’s mother. 

According to his mother, Iqbal had been torturing family members and harassing people on the streets under the influence of drugs.

Also Read- Police: Comilla resident Iqbal placed the Quran on a Puja idol

A yaba-addict, Iqbal spent most of his time in shrines, especially the one in Akhaura, she said.

Amena says her son became mentally unstable following an incident where he was stabbed 10 years ago.

“People used to think of him as a thief and beat him up,” she said before adding that she recently heard from the councilor that he walked away with Hanuman’s club from the puja pavilion. 

Police said on Wednesday that they have identified him from video footage of security cameras installed around the Durga Puja pavilion. The temporary puja venue did not have a CCTV camera, but footage from a security camera at a nearby house were analyzed, said investigators. 

In the footage, a man is seen taking the Quran from a local mosque and walking to the puja pavilion at Nanuardighi neighbouhood on October 13. He was later seen walking away with the club of Hindu God Hanuman.  

CCTV footage shows Iqbal with a book in his hand at the puja venue premises in Comilla on Wednesday, October 13, 2021 Dhaka Tribune

Locals said they found a copy of the Quran in the lap of Hanuman, a central character in the Hindu epic Ramayana, but his weapon was missing.

 The incident led to a large number of attacks on the Hindu homes, temples and Durga Puja venues in several places across the country. 

Comilla Superintendent of Police (SP) Farooq Ahmed said that he could not be arrested as of Wednesday.

“We came across the footage quite surprisingly and are trying to find Iqbal,” he said.

On October 13, one Iqram Hossain called 999 to report that a Holy Quran was placed at the puja venue in Nanuardighi.

Kotoali Police OC Anwarul Azim reached the scene in plainclothes within a few minutes of receiving the call. 

Also Read- Protests gain momentum against communalism

Meanwhile, another local Foyez Ahmed, streamed the whole thing live on Facebook and revealed the OC’s identity on live while he was briefing a high-level official over the matter.

“The video then went viral on several groups,” he said. 

Foyez, who has been arrested, is currently being interrogated in police custody. 

According to the police, Iqram, who made the call, was around the puja venue all night and Iqbal has been seen roaming around with the club.

Iqbal is a drifter and it’s still unknown whether he has any involvement with any political parties, said the district police chief.

Rapid Action Battalion troops on patrol by a vandalized Durga Puja mandap to avoid communal violence in Comilla town on Wednesday, October 13, 2021 Dhaka Tribune

The home minister said on Tuesday that the culprit behind the communal violence in Comilla was changing location repeatedly to evade arrest.

According to Iqbal’s younger brother Rayhan, police have been looking for his brother since Friday.

He says Iqbal might have done it at someone else’s incitement, and if he is indeed guilty, he should be brought to justice.

“I turned him out of the house 13 days ago because he slaughtered five ducks with a blade,” said Iqbal’s grandmother Rahima Begum.

Comilla City Corporation ward 17 Councilor Syed Sohel said that Iqbal used to stay near his office most of the time.

“I have known him for the last 10 years. He sometimes worked as a painter and sometimes as a daily wage worker,” said Sohel.

According to him, there were several complaints about him and the locals were exasperated with him but he didn’t have any political affiliations.

Also Read- Police: 72 cases filed, 450 arrested over communal attacks

He further said that Iqbal became mentally unstable after his first wife left him with whom he has a child.

“I think some people took advantage of his mental condition and made him do it,” he said.

Several temples and puja venues in the city came under attack in the afternoon as tension mounted after the video went viral. Many shared the video calling for attacks on Hindu sites alleging sacrilege.

Police filed four cases over the Comilla incident and arrested 41 people till now. Of them, four are reportedly Iqbal’s accomplices.

Following the Comilla incident, violence broke out at several districts in Bangladesh during the Durga Puja celebrations last week.

At least seven people were killed over the incident in different parts of the country. Police arrested over 450 people and filed 72 cases till now over the communal violence.

Hundreds of Hindus lost their homes, businesses while many temples and puja venues were vandalized following the Comilla incident.