At least six Hindu families have already left the country after Sunday’s attacks that destroyed over a dozen temples and Puja pavilions, and more than 100 houses. Around 100 people including women were injured in the attacks.
Some 3,000 Muslims took part in the series of violent attacks that were carried out in the Hindu localities of Nasirnagar following a rally over an alleged defamatory post by an illiterate Hindu youth, Rasraj Das, on Facebook even though he had apologised to the Muslims the day before saying that his account had been hacked.
A calculated assault?
On Saturday, Rasraj – an Awami League supporter – was caught, beaten up and handed over to the police by the radicals, who also vandalised and looted his house, and destroyed two Puja pavilions at his Haripur village.
The rally was organised allegedly by the local leaders of radical Islamist groups Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat and Hefazat-e-Islam through announcements from local mosques the previous day – a trend seen many times in the recent years to attack temples and houses of the Hindus and the Buddhists across the country.
It is alleged that some local Awami League leaders assisted the mob in carrying out the attack. Two of them were identified as Sheikh Abdul Ahad, former chairman of Nasirnagar Upazila, and his son Oli Mia.
Citizens point to govt failure
When some central leaders of the ruling Awami League visited the area yesterday, the affected Hindus complained to them against the officer-in-charge of Nasirnagar police, Abdul Kader, for his indifference to protect them and the temples. They also demanded withdrawal of the OC and UNO Chowdhury Md Moazzem Hossain for their inaction.
A four-member team of the Awami League led by Organising Secretary AKM Enamul Haque Shamim visited the affected temples and houses yesterday, and assured the Hindus of informing the prime minister about the situation during a closed-door meeting with the locals.
At that time, the central leaders called party’s General Secretary Obaidul Kader who said that they were ashamed of the attacks perpetrated on the Hindus, and assured them of taking necessary action, a Hindu youth who attended the meeting told the Dhaka Tribune.
Locals say that around 33% voters of Nasirnagar are Hindus and they have always favoured the Awami League.
9 held, over 1,000 charged over Nasirnagar attacks
Meanwhile, Awami League Joint General Secretary Mahbubul Alam Hanif has condemned the attacks and vowed to stand by the side of the victims. From a press conference in Dhaka, Hanif alleged that communal forces had carried out the attacks to destabilise the country.
The government would pay compensation to the victims and take legal action against the culprits, he added.
Demanding harsh punishment of Rasraj, who is now in police custody, the agitated Muslims in Nasirnagar staged protest programmes on Monday amid tight security by police and RAB.
On the other hand, the radical Muslims of Madhabpur in nearby Habiganj district were instigated by the Nasirnagar incident and attacked on two temples following a protest rally on Sunday. Another communal attack was launched on two other temples at Chhatak of Sunamganj on Monday.
Mosques used to incite attacks
The announcement of holding the protest rally on Nasirnagar playground at 10am Sunday came from the mosques of the villages in the area through megaphones saying that a Hindu had insulted the Holy Kaaba.
Local Hindus told the Dhaka Tribune that they had heard the announcements at Norpur, Asurain, Phulpur, Pandao, Capartala, Kaliuta, Guniag, and Bolapur villages. Of them, Norpur, Asurain and Phulpur are known as strongholds of radical Muslims. They also distributed leaflets in the area.
Nonchalant admin to blame
People joined the rally in groups holding sticks and brooms, chanting slogans demanding capital punishment for Rasraj and vowing to uproot the local Hindus terming them kafirs.
The upazila chairman, UNO, OC of Nasirnagar also attended the meeting and gave speeches. The upazila administration later said that they had allowed the meeting on condition that it should be peaceful.
But some of the unruly presence wanted to go violent, apparently in a pre-planned manner, and started attacking the nearby Hindu houses, temples and Puja pavilions in Kasipara, Sutrodhorpara, Ghoshpara, Songkorpara, Pascimpara, Gangkulpara and Makhalpara areas.
Witnesses said that most of the attackers were young while some took part wearing veils. They also looted valuables from the houses and temples, but were careful that no Muslim house was harmed.
Rasraj’s empty house
When the Dhaka Tribune reporter visited the damaged house of Rasraj yesterday evening, he found it vacant as his parents and siblings went into hiding. The local friends of Rasraj also did not want to acknowledge him as a friend fearing reprisal.
Some other families of the village have already left the place. An elderly person of the Hindu community told the Dhaka Tribune wishing not to be named that at least five families had crossed the border in the last two days.
He said: “Many Hindu families have left their houses and are afraid of coming back to the village. I came here to observe the situation and will go back to my relative’s house in the night.”
Local Bulu Mia, who knew Rasraj – a fisherman, said that the youth was a good person. “I think he does not know the Kaaba … How did he post a photo on Facebook when he is an illiterate person?”
In a post early Saturday, Rasraj apologised to the Muslims from his Facebook profile saying that his account had been hacked.
Bulu Mia said that they had never seen such communal attacks in the village. “The Hindus and Muslims here live together and attend everyone’s programmes.”
Asked if Rasraj had conflict with someone, Bulu said that he might have taken loan for his fishing project from some Muslim businessmen. “He shared with us that he was looking for loans.”
Local Hindus said that the attackers who vandalised the house had also looted the valuables.
People of the Hindu community including women and children said that they were scared of going out of the house fearing attacks.