Attack on minorities on the pretext of Facebook post insulting religion has become a familiar tactic, claimed a citizen delegation that visited Noagaon village in Shalla of Sunamganj on March 26 and 27.
The attacks in Pabna’s Santhia in 2013, Cox’s Bazar’s Ramu in 2012, Brahmanbaria’s Nasirnagar in 2012 had the same pattern; even though police have arrested the persons behind the Facebook posts, most of the investigation is still incomplete, and the real culprits have never come under justice, the delegates said at a virtual press conference organised for sharing the fact-finding of the visit.
On March 16, Jhumon Das, a young man from Noagaon of Shalla posted a Facebook update criticising Hefajat-e-Islam joint general secretary general Mamunul Haque, which caused a stir among Hefajat supporters near Noagaon.
That very night, thousands of people gathered following announcements from local mosques. When Hindu residents of the area fled, the attackers destroyed 80 houses and eight temples.
Expressing grave concern over the administrations’ negligence in taking adequate security measures, they claimed that the local administration could have prevented the attack, as they were informed about the announcements.
The delegates went to the house of 40-year-old Shudha Rani Das and found numerous signs of machete attacks in her tin walls. She told the team that when they saw them coming armed with machetes and local weapons, she escaped the house leaving rice boiling on the stove.
Upon returning, she found all her belongings were destroyed. She had some gold jewellery which was also missing. A television she bought a few days ago was broken into bits, said Dhaka University Mass Communication and Journalism professor Dr Robaet Ferdous, who was one of the delegates, and presented the keynote paper at the press conference.
Jhumon Das’s mother Niva Rani Das told the delegates that she heard that Jhumon, the youngest of her four sons, wrote something on Facebook and police arrested him for that. “I don’t know why they attacked us,” she said.
15-year-old SSC candidate Shrabony Rani Das said when she saw the attackers coming towards their house, she fled with her parents to the nearby haor. When she returned, she found everything in her house was broken, while her books had been torn to pieces and set on fire.
Freedom Fighter Anil Chandra Das told the team he felt the attack was not less than 1971’s and it was unimaginable for him that a freedom fighter in an independent country faced such disrespect.
CPB central committee secretary Ruhin Hossain Prince said that it seems that there is a planned attempt to build a trend of communalisation in our society and the administration had failed to take the kind of action it could have taken after such incidents.
He also said that this communal force can not grow without the help of political parties.
Mentioning the constitutional rights of every citizen, Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal central leader Tanima Siddiqui said, “The minorities are also citizens of this country. We are not being able to keep the promise that the state has made in the constitution that it will not discriminate against anyone.”
Executive Director of Citizens Initiative Zakir Hossain, veteran farmer leader Amar Chand Das, Development agency ALRD assistant project coordinator Advocate Rafiq Ahmed Siraji, IED assistant coordinator Harendra Nath Singh, Bangladesh Adivasi Forum’s information secretary Dipayan Khisha, Sammilito Samajik Andolon’s Parvej Hashem and some journalists were the other members of the delegation.
Supreme Court lawyer Advocate Subrata Chowdhury said none of the incidents that have taken place in the last decade — especially between 2001 and 2016 — have been brought to justice, adding that the government’s zero-tolerance has now become a “100 percent tolerance.”
The delegation also made eight-point recommendations, including: bringing back confidence of the people of Noagaon through a dialogue between Hindus and Muslims arranged by the local administration; ensuring that farmers are able to harvest Boro paddy peacefully; police accepting the case of Jhumon Das’s mother, and ensuring necessary actions against those involved as instigators and bringing them to justice.
It further recommended providing cash assistance to students for buying food, books and other materials; ensuring security so that SSC candidates can sit for exams, along with special measures for security of women and children, especially those who are still in trauma; proper compensation for victims; establishing a police check post in Noagaon; and departmental disciplinary action against all the officials who have failed to prevent this incident.