An event organized to promote communal harmony in Nasirnagar, the locality in Brahmanbaria which saw attacks on Hindu temples in 2016, has created controversy after it emerged that some of the main suspects in the vandalism case had been invited to the programme.
Hindu community leaders in Nasirnagar expressed outrage after a non-government organization (NGO) called The Hunger Project arranged the event to promote inter-communal harmony. Hindu leaders said the guests included some of the people behind the attacks on the temples.
The Hunger Project said it was trying to bring the Muslim and Hindu communities together to promote peace.
The Hunger Project organized the event on February 17 at the Haripur Zamindar House of the Haripur union of Nasirnagar upazila. Shushashoner Jonno Nagorik (Shujan) General Secretary and The Hunger Project Country Director Dr Badiul Alam Majumdar was the chief guest at the event.
President of the Nasirnagar upazila Puja Udjapon Parishad Kajal Jyotidutta said, “We learned of the event through various channels. We heard that two suspects of the temple vandalism case, Haripur union Awami League president Faruq Miya and BNP advisor and former chairman Jamal Miya, had been invited to the Shujan event.”
“Why they arranged for such a debacle, I cannot comprehend. We wanted to host such an event immediately after the root incident, but refrained from doing so in fear of a possible backlash. More than a year on, when everything had more or less normalized, organizing such an event and inviting possible culprits feels like adding insult to injury,” he added.
When asked about the reaction of the Hindu community to the event, The Hunger Project Country Director and Shujan General Secretary Dr Badiul Alam Majumdar said, “The purpose of this event was to try to unite everyone. No one was invited to the event for special reasons.”
“Just because a man is a suspect in a case does not mean that he is the culprit. Our event was not an attempt to rehabilitate or call for an acceptance of the criminals, nor was it meant as a platform to scrutinize their actions. We merely wanted to bring this whole unsavory episode to an end and promote camaraderie between the Hindu and Muslim communities,” he added.
Some of the other guests at the event were Upazila Assistant Commissioner (land) Umme Salma, British High Commission Governance Team leader Ashlynn Baker, Alistair Legge of PAVE, and The Hunger Project Program Manager Shaikat Shuvro Aich.
At the event, local temple cleric Shobuj Chakraborty gave a copy of the Holy Quran to the superintendent of the local Alia Madrasa, with the latter gifting the clergyman a Holy Geeta.
It is to be noted that on 30 October 2016, miscreants vandalized and burned some 50 homes in Nasirnagar town and Haripur village over a Facebook photo that allegedly insulted the religion of Islam. A total of eight cases involving 124 suspects were filed with the local constabulary with all of them eventually being granted bail.
Shujit Kumar Chakraborty, General Secretary of the Nasirnagar Hindu Bouddha Christian Oikya Parishad expressed outrage saying, “We are mortified and disgusted by this uncouth gesture.”
The general secretary of Nasirnagar Central Gaura Mandir, Nirmal Chowdhury echoed the idea that the event was a mockery.
The officer-in-charge of Nasirnagar Police Station Md Abu Zafar confirmed that both Faruq Miya and Jamal Miya were named in the temple vandalism case and that in time, police reports will be submitted regarding their roles in the incident.