Hindu community under attack ahead of election

Faruque Ahmed

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Attacks on Hindu villages in the countryside have shot up in recent past at a time when election is knocking at the door and the ruling party Awami League is preparing to hold a stage managed unilateral election sidetracking major opposition BNP and its 18-party allies.

Two attacks were launched on Hindu population in a few days last week— the first one at Sathia in Pabna district and the second at Majhipara village in Lalmonirhat district in the northwest. Locals said the attackers were ruling party cadres who are routinely terrorising them.

Rhetoric
The initial rhetoric in a section of the media was that attackers were BNP-Jamaat men who led the mob to destroy their homes and temples. Because the attack particularly at Sathia were based on a religious cause built on an alleged ‘insult’ on the Prophet of Islam. But as the fact was revealed, it turned out to be a fake case and the local ruling party goons enjoying support from government ministers, ruling party MPs and other party leaders have carried out the carnage.
They were also enjoying the shelters of local administration apparently having justification on two counts. The first one is that the ruling party boys need sources of funding and they are at liberty to make out extorting anybody, they will not face any trouble— and secondly; if the victims are the members of the Hindu community, the added benefit goes to the government as it hands over the ruling party a weapon to launch fresh anti-BNP and Jamaat campaign holding them responsible for it.

Using the card
The left leaning Awami League is working to use the communal card in election as it is always at work to depict BNP and its allies as a political platform sheltering terrorism including hostile outlook to the Hindu community.
“Don’t trust them because they shelter Jamaat-shibir politics,” Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina tells almost every public meeting now as she is moving from one end of the country to another running the forthcoming election campaign.
She is also telling the Western countries at the same time that it is Jammat-BNP men who attack Hindu families and other religious minorities, and Awami League can only give them a true partner to global war against religious fundamentalism. So it is in their interest that they should help the ruling party to cling on to power.

Buddhist villages and temples at Ramu
It is in this background, the ruling party had also blamed Jamaat-BNP men for attacks and torching of Buddhist villages and temples at Ramu in Cox’s Bazaar district early this year which drew headlines in the global media. In fact the carnage started with circulation of internet materials to local people to create religious emotion showing that a Buddhist boy had distributed the internet materials containing ‘insults’ on the prophet of Islam.
The mob gathered initially under the call of local Awami League leaders. They led to them to Buddhist villages to torch their homes temples. Later the government however passed all blames on the opposition and arrested Jamaat-BNP men to show the people of Bangladesh and the outside world that it was the work of religious fanatics coming from the two main opposition parties.

Sathia incident
The Sathia incident in Pabna district had its own background. Ruling party goons were demanding tolls from a local wealthy Hindu businessman for some time and he claimed he had informed the matter to party leaders, in addition to local administration. But they overlooked it. Recently he had his daughter married and the goons renewed the demand for paying Tk 200,000 to them, failing which they had threatened him with dire consequences. But the man did not care.
On last Saturday, these goons distributed some written materials containing insults to the Holy Prophet in local market blaming the son of the businessman to have made the mischief. They went on campaigning over public address system to gather common people and later mounted attack on the village destroying over 100 homes and idols of deity in temples.

Police delayed
The businessman informed the police for help but they delayed in coming to the spot which in turn allowed the goons the necessary time to ransack the village. The question is, why police did not act in time. Similar delay at Ramu gave the critical time to the mob to destroy Buddhist homes and temples.  At Majipara, the story runs like this: A group of young men identified in a national daily as BNP activists demanded Tk 5,000 from each of the 125 families in the village; mainly fisherman to meet hartal expenses. As the villagers refused to pay, their homes were destroyed forcing them to abandon the village.
The ruling party Awami League sent a delegation to Sathia on Wednesday to show solidarity with the devastated villagers. But latest report showed two of the alleged culprits of Saturday’s attack on the Hindu community were moving with State Minister for Home Shamsul Hoque Tuku and two lawmakers from the district.
With the sate minister for Home, Minister for Disaster Management and Relief Abul Hasan Mahmud Ali and State minister for LGRD Jahangir Kabir Nanak also visited the area.
The news report in the Daily Star said: Interestingly, during the visit, the state minister claimed that his party men had tried to save the Hindu families. Mithu and Rubel, who according to villagers were among the attackers, were prominently seen welcoming the ministers and taking part in a rally protesting the Saturday’s violence. Another youth named Ani, who was also with the attackers, was seen in the programme. At Ghoshpara in Pabna, state minister Tuku said, “Our leaders and workers tried to save you risking their lives. But by the time, some damage had already been done. You stay with courage, our activists are here.”
Inspector General of Police (IGP) Hasan Mahmud Khandker and RAB Director General Moklesur Rahman were also accompanying them. The IGP enquired villagers whether they were still in panic. A woman said as long as police are with them they feel secured, but do not know what will happen when there is no police protection.
The IGP claimed that police have so far arrested 10 people. But police could not nab any of the youths who challenged Babul Saha at his shop. Babul is the man who was the target of the extortionists.
Earlier several hundred bikers welcomed the ministers at Sathia when they reached there in a helicopter. The supporters then accompanied them to the violence spot.
Pointing finger at BNP and Jamaat, Nanak told the local rally that the attack was like those carried out in 1971, in Ramu and at many other places in the country. He urged all to unitedly fight the evil forces.
Another story in the Daily Star said, a group of young men stormed headmaster Gopal Chandra Ghosh’s room in Bonogram Girls High School in Pabna on August 24, dragged him out and beat him up with sticks, iron rods and hammers in front of his pupils.
His fault was that he had refused to pay Tk 200,000 which they demanded from him. Initially Gopal did not care much and had filed a case against the men while he was still being treated for his wounds at a local clinic. But he had to give in after a month and withdrew the case when the criminals threatened to kidnap his family members, besides putting threat on his life. Gopal reportedly settled paying Tk 1.7 lakh but he denied it in public for safety.

Source: Weekly Holiday

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