Though a judicial probe body identifies failure of the local administration, and intelligence and law enforcement agencies as a reason behind the September 29 Ramu atrocities, rights activists and academicians claim that local political activists of different parties were directly involved in the night-long attacks on Buddhist communities.
Mentioning about the widely-spread photos and the media reports on the attacks, they allege that activists of the ruling Awami League, and the opposition BNP and Jamaat-e-Islami were seen among the attackers.
The judicial probe report was submitted to the High Court on Thursday, nearly eight months after the incident. However, the findings are yet to be made public.
However, several media outlets quoting court sources said the three-member panel found involvement of 298 people in the attacks and made 20 recommendations to avert such incident in the future.
The home ministry report, submitted in November, named 205 people as responsible for the attacks. The High Court on December 13 ordered the government to form a judicial inquiry committee after lawyer Jyotirmoy Barua challenged the ministry report. The court on Thursday fixed May 28 for further proceedings on the report.
The judicial probe report states that the attacks were well-planned. Mobs attacked the Buddhist areas and set fire to at least 12 temples, monasteries and statues, and destroyed 50 households.
The attacks were carried out spreading a rumour that the holy Quran was demeaned by a local, Uttam Kumar Barua, through his Facebook profile which was later found to be a forged one. The judicial probe report finds that Uttam was merely a victim of abuse of social media. Several investigative reports on media also revealed this.
Gonoforum presidium member Pankaj Bhattacharya told the Dhaka Tribune that some activists of the ruling party and a major portion of the opposition’s BNP and Jamaat supporters were involved in committing the atrocities.
“I remember that on the September 29 evening, I informed Cox's Bazar SP [Superintendent of Police] Selim Mohammad Jahangir over phone about the preparation of attacks on the Buddhists.
“And later when I was in Ramu the day the prime minister visited the affected area, I asked him [SP] personally ‘why did not you take any step’, he replied saying that they followed the decision of the higher authorities,” Pankaj said.
Lawyer Rana Dash Gupta said: “Not only in case of Ramu, if anyone investigates the attacks on minorities, it would be revealed that all those were pre-planned. And always, always the higher authorities such as the local administration and the law enforcers helped the mob rather than preventing them.”
Also the general secretary of Bangladesh Hindu-Buddhists-Christians-Oikya Parishad, the lawyer said when the administration and the law enforcers do not perform their duties to avert such attacks, “in a way they are participating in the crime.”
The probe committee recommended that the social network websites like Facebook and Twitter be controlled strictly.
Dhaka University teacher Robayet Ferdous said such recommendation would not help in establishing communal harmony. “Rather it can become a boomerang in this country. The history of restriction over social media in Bangladesh says it was always a tool of censorship in the name of restriction.”
He told the Dhaka Tribune: “The government should take steps in reducing the gap between the Muslims and other religious groups, if it really wants a country with communal harmony rather than an Islamic one.”
Rights activist Khushi Kabir said people should be given the scope to know who was behind such heinous crimes. The government should make it public “if disclosing of the report does not hamper the ongoing case.”