As many as 3,000 unnamed accused in 10 cases filed over the incident
Police were underprepared for the communal attack in Hajiganj upazila of Chandpur on October 13 despite warnings from the local puja management committee after the violence in Comilla earlier that day, locals and activists have said.
Five youths died in the clashes after police opened fire, while 33 people were injured. The injured included 23 police officials and staff members.
According to the local unit of the Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council (BHBCOP), 12 puja mandaps and several Hindu homes were vandalized on October 13 and 14.
Police said ten cases had been filed with Hajiganj police station over the communal violence. Among the accused are over 3,000 unnamed persons.
Police could not imagine what was coming
Following the violence in Comilla, the Hajiganj puja management committee became worried and asked Chandpur police to strengthen protection for their venues. However, only three additional policemen were deployed.
Local BHBCOP unit Secretary Mithun Bhadra said a significant police force and members of Ansar are usually deployed during the puja celebrations, but only a mobile team was on duty this time. The reduced security presence may have encouraged the perpetrators of the attacks.
According to locals from Randhunimura, a procession of 10-15 teenagers was seen heading from Raychow village towards Hajiganj bridge, demanding justice over the alleged desecration of the Holy Quran in Comilla.
A vendor at Hajiganj Ramganj road said Hridoy, 16, one of the deceased, was with the procession. One of the protesters told him that they were going to protest as a Facebook post had called them to action.
Local vendors and citizens from Mokimabad said the procession grew as it marched and went through at least three puja mandaps in the Hajiganj bazar area. No one stopped them due to the sensitivity of the issue.
Chandpur police Inspector (Investigation) Ibrahim Khalil said the law enforcers saw the procession being led by some teenagers before Esha prayers. The protesters did not seem to be violent, so they were allowed to continue.
However, the procession grew exponentially after the prayers. Despite the efforts of the police to maintain order, the crowd soon grew too large to control.
At one point, the protesters picked up brickbats from a construction site and began hurling them. An SI said Inspector Ibrahim approached the crowd, but he could not convince them to calm down.
When the violence began to escalate, police were left with no option other than to open fire.
The violent protesters attacked and vandalized several puja mandaps and Hindu homes while they dispersed.
Hunt for instigators underway
Hajiganj police station Officer-in-Charge (OC) Harun-or Rashid said Facebook posts from several sources had been responsible for inciting the violence.
“We suspect the posts were made through fake accounts,” he added, declining to make further comments on the instigators as they are under investigation.
He also said police were arresting people who were caught attacking police and vandalizing idols on CCTV cameras.
Local BHBCOP unit secretary Mithun Bhadra claimed people from all political parties, including local ruling party members, were involved in the violence.