Government reaffirms security assurance following four deaths during clashes in Chandpur
The authorities have deployed Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) troopers in 22 districts following Wednesday’s Comilla incident sparked by rumours and outrage on social media.
The situation remained grim in Chandpur, Cox’s Bazar, Bandarban, Sylhet, Chittagong and Gazipur after attacks and clashes on Thursday, prompting the authorities to deploy BGB troopers and large contingents of police and RAB in different parts of the country to bring the situation under control.
BGB personnel had been deployed at the request of the deputy commissioners concerned and on instructions from the Home Ministry, said Lt Colonel Faizur Rahman, BGB director of operations.
The government said a vested quarter, which wanted to destabilize the country and destroy communal harmony, was behind the incident.
Law enforcers have so far arrested over a hundred people for their involvement in vandalizing Hindu temples.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina as well as several ministers have since discouraged people from resorting to violence over the issue, and assured that everyone responsible for the chaos will be hunted down and brought to book.
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal on Thursday also said that the authorities had identified several of the attackers.
The culprits would be arrested soon, the minister said following a meeting with senior police, BGB and RAB officials on the overall situation.
"We have already detained some of the suspects over the Comilla incident. Investigation is going on,” the minister added.
How it all started in Comilla
Local sources alleged that the police and RAB, not alert to the situation, had failed to control the violence in Comilla before it spread on a large scale.
On Wednesday morning, the police received a call via 999 notifying that a Quran had been found at a Durga Puja mandap on the banks of Nanuar Dighi in Comilla.
Being informed of the issue, the district commissioner and the superintendent of police visited the spot with law enforcement officials and recovered the scripture from the place.
At around 10am, a photograph began making the rounds on social media, showing a copy of the Quran on the lap of a Hindu idol. A youth named Fayez Uddin had streamed the video on Facebook. He was arrested later.
Within just an hour, a mob visited the place and started vandalizing it.
Four cases were filed over the incident with Kotwali model police station on Thursday evening.
Abu Sayeed Al Mahmood Swapon, organizing secretary of the Awami League and parliament whip, who visited the spot with a team comprising the ruling party’s central leaders, said religious fanatics had helped escalate the issue at a rapid pace as it had been a planned move.
“Law enforcement agencies were not alert to it either. They did not have any intelligence reports,” he added.
Comilla SP Faruk Ahmed said: “We did not have enough manpower at the spot to handle the incident.”
“Lots of people had gathered there within a short time. We had rushed to the spot, but had not deployed the whole force there as some other temples in the city also needed protection at the time,” he explained.
Four deaths in Chandpur
A procession was brought out under the banner of “Towhidi Muslim Janata” in the Hajiganj municipal area of Chandpur at 8.15pm on Wednesday night.
Stones were thrown at Laxminarayan Akhra from the procession. At one stage, the police clashed with the protesters and fired some shots.
Three died on the spot, while another died at a hospital. At least 50 were injured, including police officials, according to Chandpur SP Milon Mahmud.
The four deceased are Al Amin, 18, Yasin Hossain, 15, Shamim, 19, and Bablu, 30.
Afterwards, the local administration imposed Section 144 in the Hajiganj Bazar area at 11pm on Wednesday.
Later, two platoons of the BGB were deployed to keep the situation under control.
Police have arrested seven people over the incident.
SP Milon Mahmud said: “We did not shoot at anyone. When the temple was attacked with brickbats and the police were under attack as well, 139 rounds of bullets were fired to bring the situation under control.”
Hindu temples, idols vandalized in Gazipur; 20 held
Miscreants vandalized three Hindu temples and Durga Puja venues as well as the idols inside them in Gazipur on Thursday morning.
Police have detained 20 people over the attack in the district’s Kashimpur area.
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Armed with sticks, a group of men barged into the local Radha Gobinda Temple at around 7am and vandalized the idols there, said Kashimpur Puja Organizing Council President Babul Rudra.
An hour earlier, a family temple at Paschim Para and another temple at Pal Para were also attacked by unidentified men.
Vandalism in Bandarban
In Bandarban’s Lama upazila, a group of miscreants launched a series of attacks on the upazila’s central Hari Mandir on Thursday morning, leading to clashes with the police.
Some 50 people, including the Lama police OC, were injured in the skirmishes.
According to locals, over a hundred people had attended a rally at Lama Bazar under the banner of “Towhidi Muslim Janata” before attacking and vandalizing the temple.
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Police tried to bring the situation under control and fired blank shots at one point. Those attending the rally then retaliated by hurling brickbats, which led to the clashes.
The injured were admitted to the upazila health complex.
Later, at least 40 business establishments and eight houses belonging to the local Hindu community were vandalized and looted.
Idols vandalized in Chittagong
Some miscreants vandalized idols at puja mandaps of Banshkhali and Karnaphuli upazilas in Chittagong on Wednesday.
According to police and locals, one attack took place in Chambal union in Banshkhali at around 7:30pm, while the other one occurred in Jurdha union in Karnaphuli at about 9:15pm.
Deputy Commissioner Md Mominur Rahman visited the puja mandaps on Thursday morning and gave the mandap authorities Tk25,000 each in compensation.
Attack on govt officials’ vehicles
The vehicles of the Zakiganj upazila chairman, UNO and OC in Sylhet were vandalized following the incident in Comilla.
At least 30-35 people, including Zakiganj Chhatra League General Secretary Mostafa Uddin, were injured in the clashes that took place between the police and the mob.
Attack on puja venues, Hindu homes in Cox’s Bazar
The puja venue in Kachharaimura Sheelpara was attacked on Wednesday, while Hindu households were vandalized in Mognama, said Pekua police station chief Sheikh Mohammad Ali.
Police have arrested nine people in this connection.
Our Comilla, Chittagong, Bandarban, Cox’s Bazar, Sylhet and Gazipur correspondents contributed to this report