Victims of the attack on Hindu homes in Thakurpara village and their Muslim neighbours could not identify most of the people who carried out the attack, although they placed the attackers as residents of Mominpur and Hariar Kuthi, two notoriously rough neighbourhoods.
They also pointed fingers at six locals and the cleric of a local mosque for their dubious role in organising the protests.
Many people living in villages next to Thakurpara admitted they took part in the human chain organised at Soylashah Bazar to protest the controversial Facebook post on November 10. However, they denied having anything to do with the mayhem.
The human chain was meant to be a 15-minute protest after the Jummah prayers, but things went out of control when “hoards of outsiders” started showing up at the place, according to some of the participants of the protest.
The six local, who are aged between 30 and 40, are Julfikar Ahmed, Raju Ahmed, Jahangir Alam, Alamgir Hossain, Robiul Islam and Moslem Uddin.
Julfikar and Raju are brothers, both rice traders, and are said to be supporters of Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami. Alamgir and his brother Jahangir run a grocery shop. Rabiul is an autorickshaw driver in Rangpur city while Moslem is a seasonal crop trader. Imam of Soylashah Bazar Mosque, Sirajul Islam, joined them on request of Alamgir.
A youth from Lalchandpur village, preferring anonymity, told the Dhaka Tribune that Alamgir Hossain, a grocer, was the one who first showed the controversial Facebook post to others in the locality.
Alamgir also filed a case with Gongachora police station in connection with the post.
Alamgir and Imam Sirajul went to Paglapir Central Mosque in the evening of November 4 and campaigned against the Facebook post. They also showed a printed copy of the content to the people in the area.
The two men subsequently met Imams in adjacent areas, including Mominpur, Hariar Kuthi and Taraganj villages, and convinced them to exhort against the Hindu community.
Alamgir and Julfikar also reportedly used the loudspeakers of the mosques to spread hateful messages.
Nahid Hossain of Soylashah Bazaar told the Dhaka Tribune that even on the day of the attack, Alamgir had sent a boy to bring a loudspeaker from a mosque. But the boy did not show up later.
A young man who was present at the human chain said that although the event was organised by the six men, they got scared at seeing the police and disappeared from the front of the gathering.
It was a huge gathering and chaos erupted when Alamgir and Julfikar, who were well-known faces, could not be found all of a sudden.
After the key organisers left the scene, a local Imam started speaking and told the people to form a human chain. According to police sources, the Imam the participants were referring to was Olama Dal leader Mawlana Enamul Haque Majedi.
Some time later, Jatiya Party leader Fazlar Rahman and Hariar Kuthi Union Parishad Chairman Harun-or-Rashid, who is also the organising secretary of the local Awami League unit, were seen leading the human chain. BNP leader Masud Rana was also present in the bazaar area.
Police sources said they were looking for Fazlar. This correspondent tried to reach Harun-or-Rashid and his wife over phone, but found the phones turned off.
Rangpur Superintendent of Police Mizanur Rahman on Sunday told the reporters that they were arresting people on the basis of photos captured during the protest.
Villagers who were not present during the attack would not be arrested, he assured.
However, locals of the Soylashah Bazar said most men were still on the run, fearing arrest.
“The youth and men you will find in the village are mostly Hindus. Police are holding patrols everyday and the men of our village are staying outside their homes over fear of arrest,” said a woman of Soylashah Bazar. She did not want to disclose her name, saying she feared it would lead to the arrest of her husband.
Meanwhile, Additonal SP Jakir Hossain confirmed that police have arrested 24 more accused in two cases filed in connection with the attack on houses of Hindus at Thakurpara village.
The total number of arrestees now stands at 124.
The main accused of the cases, BNP leader Masud Rana, Olama Dal leader Mawlana Enamul Haque Majedi are still at large.