For Bonogram bazaar in Santhia upazila, about 40 kilometres from Pabna sadar, the day started with the usual hustle and bustle. But things started to change around 10:00am as a group of people began distributing photocopies of what they said was a “Facebook page”.
They claimed one Rajib Saha had maligned Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) in the page. “None was given the chance to ask whether or not it was a faked Facebook posting,” said an eyewitness.
Rajib, son of Babul Saha, a shop owner in the bazaar, is a class-X student of Bonogram Miapur High School. Soon, hundreds of people stormed Babul Saha’s house in Bonogram. Unable to find the boy, the mob got hold of Babul and took him to the bazaar. There, he was warned that he and his son would be tried for “defaming the prophet”.
Despite protesting repeatedly that his son was innocent, Babul was mercilessly hit and kicked upon. At one stage, some locals intervened to save him and confined him to a shop. In the meanwhile, another gang, more aggressive and violent, set fire to Babul’s house. Later, more gangs joined in to attack the predominantly Hindu village and vandalised about 26 homesteads.
On information, over 150 Rab and police personnel arrived at the bazaar. As they brought Babul out of the shop, the mob started throwing brick chips and other objects at them. It took the law enforcers over an hour to rescue Babul and take him into their custody at Ataikula Police Station.
Talking to The Daily Star at the police station, Babul claimed the men who attacked his house belong to local units of BNP and Jamaat. Asked about his son, he said Rajib was on the run to save life. “He was preparing for SSC examination. He can’t do anything like what the people here are alleging,” he said, adding the boy is a meritorious student.
Meanwhile, people from different villages blockaded the Pabna-Dhaka highway for over five hours till 5:00pm.
As police tried to remove the barricade, the violent crowds attacked them with brick chips and sticks. The cops had to charge batons and fire several teargas shells. All the top police and district administration officials were on the spot trying to defuse the crisis.
The way the Hindu houses in Bonogram were attacked yesterday bore an eerie similarity with the communal violence against the Buddhist community in Ramu on September 29 last year. A Buddhist youth, Uttam Barua, was framed with a fake Facebook page carrying anti-Islamic contents to incite the communal violence.
Yesterday’s incident also followed the trend of recent Jamaat- Shibir-BNP attacks on the Hindu minorities across the country.
Locals of Bonogram said some known faces of Jamaat, Shibir and BNP led the attacks throughout the day. Rajib’s classmate Rocky said, “We are sure the allegation against Rajib is cooked up by a vested quarter.” The Daily Star has found that the Facebook page whose photocopies were used to incite the attacks on the Bonogram Hindu community has no links with Rajib.
The name of this page, written in Bangla, denigrates the prophet and therefore it is unprintable in the newspaper.
Opened on September 14, the page got 420 “likes” as of yesterday evening. It does contain hateful posts, majority of which was issued by the administrator. Some people gave negative reactions to these posts, asking others to refrain from liking this page.
In fact, there was no single comment supporting the posts. Interestingly, the page itself gave 30 “likes” on other pages that include “Ami Gorbito, Ami Musalman”, “Sammilito Islami Mancha”, Hadith of the Day and several other Islamic pages.
Again, it likes Atheist Bangladesh Fans and Dhormockery, Gonojagoron Mancha and Imran H Sarkar and at the same time Amar Desh acting editor Mahmudur Rahman.
It also likes a page called Moulavibazar High School. Additional District Magistrate Munshi Muniruzzaman said so far they did not find any substance in the claims made against the schoolboy.
He said steps would be taken against the culprits under information technology act after probe. “We know who attacked and vandalised our houses.” Paritosh Kumar, a resident of Bonogram Sahapara. But he would not mention any name. Around 250 Hindu families live in Bonogram village, he said, adding that some 25 to 30 houses were completely ravaged. “Many other houses were also attacked.”
Bishnu Saha, 80, said she had never imagined anybody would destroy her house this way. Chandan Kumar Chakrabarti, president of Hindu Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council, said, “Conspirators are out to create a situation so that the Hindus can be attacked.”He said a party involved in communal politics might have been behind the Bonogram violence.