Police have arrested four schoolchildren in two cases filed over the wanton destruction of Hindu homes by an angry mob in Rangpur on Friday.
Police fired rubber bullets and tear shells after an angry crowd ransacked a Hindu neighbourhood in Thakurpara village over a rumoured Facebook status defaming the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), allegedly posted by a local man named Tito Chandra Roy.
During the police action, one person was killed and 20 others including four law enforcers were injured.
Among the injured who are currently undergoing treatment at Rangpur Medical College Hospital under police guard, eight have been named as suspects of which four are minors.
After visiting the hospital, the Dhaka Tribune learned that one of the boys is a sixth grader, while the three others are seventh, ninth and 10th grade students.
Police have accused them of being Jamaat-Shibir activists. However, relatives of the boys claimed that the children had no idea about what was going on during the violence.
The mother of the arrested sixth grader said police told her on Saturday that her son is a suspect in the attack.
“My son was injured by rubber bullets while returning home from private tuition. Instead of arresting children, the police should track down the true masterminds behind the attack,” she said.
A relative of the arrested seventh grader said the boy was standing in front of his home and watching the crowd gathering on the streets.
“He was injured as the police started firing indiscriminately at the mob, and bystanders later took him to the hospital,” the relative said. “The boy was injured by the police, and then named among the arrestees for involvement in the attack.”
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The details given by relatives of the other two suspects are almost the same.
The local police chief, however, has claimed the injured boys and the one man who died in the attack were all part of the same faction.
“Hamidul Islam is a Jamaat activist and so are those injured boys undergoing treatment in the hospital,” Rangpur Superintendent of Police, Mizanur Rahman said.
Visiting the scene of the attack on Monday, Jatiya Party Secretary General Ruhul Amin Howlader expressed his deep concerns about police naming children as suspects. “The administration must ensure that no innocents are harassed over the mob attack,” he said.
Meanwhile, Rangpur Additional Superintendent of Police (Special Branch) ABM Zakir Hossain told the Dhaka Tribune that 124 people had been arrested over the incident in the past three days.
He added that drives to track down more culprits will continue.