Even a week ago, the Hindu community of Thakurpara village in Rangpur would never have imagined that the Muslims of their neighbourhood would launch a violent attack on them over a post from a sketchy Facebook profile.
But a little after Jumma prayers last Friday, the Hindu families, both shocked and surprised, had to flee their homes running for their dear lives right as the attack unfolded before their eyes.
Pashuram Chandra Roy, who lived in the village’s Sadar upazila section, has lost everything in the attack on his home. He claimed that the attackers stole some Tk30,000 and a sack of rice while burning his cow to death, before vandalising and setting his house on fire.
Under the circumstances, he said, he does not know how he will survive with his five-member family.
He told the Dhaka Tribune that it was around 2:30pm on Friday when he saw a big crowd of Muslims heading towards Paglapeer, a neighbouring village. “All of a sudden they started shouting and then I heard them launching the arson attack.”
“Seeing this many people coming towards my home, I panicked and started running south from my house. After a while, I was heading towards a bamboo clump to hide inside it when someone pushed me from behind and I fell. I got so scared seeing hundreds of people coming from behind, all I could do were close my eyes and wait for the worst to come.”
Suddenly someone pulled my hand and took me inside the bamboo clump, saving my life. When I opened my eyes, to my surprise, I saw a Muslim man who lives in Horkolli village
Pashuram continued: “Suddenly someone pulled my hand and took me inside the bamboo clump, saving my life. When I opened my eyes, to my surprise, I saw a Muslim man who lives in Horkolli village. I could not recall his name, but remembered that he was a relative of Shamsul of our village.”
He said the man kept him safe until the chaos dialled down.
Shamsul’s name came up again when this correspondent talked to another victim, Manik Chandra Roy.
Manik said tension at Thakurpara had running high few days before the attack. “Some villagers had sent their families to their relatives’ homes and some others stayed back. Most of them were men, protecting their homes and belongings.”
“But when the attack started, rest of the Hindu families, including men, women and children, fled the village and took shelter in either neighbouring Horkolli or Bontapara, both Hindu-majority villages.”
He said the attackers had taken many of their cows when they were chased by the law enforcers. “But Shamsul, his relative Aynal Haque and his nephew saved most of our cows. They had also sheltered a number of Hindu villagers during the attack.”
Aynal told the Dhaka Tribune that he had heard about a human chain protest scheduled after the Jumma prayers. But he did not go and decided to come home. “It seemed pointless to me and, fortunately, my decision helped me save my Hindu neighbours.”
He said he and at least 10 other Muslim villagers got together and started chasing away those who were stealing cows in the midst of the chaos. “We had managed to recover 16 cows during that time.”
Aynal also said that the Muslim women of the village had also given shelter to many Hindu women in their houses.
“This [attack] is not Islam. Islam teaches us to live with everyone in a friendly and respected society in peace. People who are mentally unstable only can do these things to other human beings,” he added.