Attacks against Hindu households and a temple in Homna Upazila of Comilla took place after rumours were spread over loudspeakers that two youths had defamed Prophet Muhammad.
Locals and police said teachers and students of eight madrasas in the upazila led the Sunday attacks on Hindus at Baghsitarampur village.
Twenty-eight families have been affected in the attacks.
A mob of nearly 3000 were involved in the attacks and they looted belongings of the Hindus, most of whom are poor farmers and fishermen.
Villagers said a call was made from the loudspeakers at Jamia Arabia Islami Emdadul Ulum Madrasa at Rampur village, near Baghsitarampur, to launch the assault on the Hindus.
Before the attacks, leaflets were distributed for last several days in the madrasas claiming that two Hindu youths had slandered the prophet in a Facebook post on Apr 27.
Police arrested Principal of Bagmara Madrasa at Muradnagar, Nuruzzaman over the attacks. However, the main accused, Nazrul Islam, who took the lead distributing leaflets, is still at large.
Police, locals and victims said three people of the neighbouring village first alleged that two Hindu youths of Baghsitarampur had defamed the prophet.
A meeting was held on Saturday night over the allegation and later postponed until Sunday afternoon. But before the meeting, people were mobilised through loudspeaker calls to launch the attacks.
A victim, Indrajit Das, told bdnews24.com that Al-Amin, Rabiullah and Giasuddin of Uttar Parha (of Baghsitarampur) “came to our locality and demanded trial for Udbhab Das and Srinibash Das because he had slandered the prophet”.
Local union council member Nayeem Ullah said: “The attacks happened when we were preparing for the (Sunday) meeting. We couldn’t sense the attacks.”
He said he saw Rampur Madrasa teachers Maulana Hedayet Ullah and Maulana Shah Alam leading the attackers.
Police said the madrasa teachers and students were preparing for three-four days to carry out the attacks.
Comilla Additional Commissioner of Police Nazrul Islam told bdnews24.com: “Nazrul Islam, in a letter sent to the eight madrasas, said that the prophet was slandered. He initiated the task of mobilising the madrasa teachers and students.”
He also said it was Nazrul, a third-year student of English department at Comilla Victoria Government College, who called on the people over loudspeakers to carry out the attacks.
The police officer said they had information that he was involved in the politics of Bangladesh Chhatra Dal or Islami Chhatra Shibir, student fronts of the BNP and Jamaat-e-Islami respectively.
Villagers said the attacks continued for around 30 minutes.
Farmer Durgapada Das told bdnews24.com: “I was working in the field at noon. Suddenly I saw a group of people coming in procession from Chander Bazar. They all were wielding sticks. Most of them were in Panjabi, pajama and cap.”
He said he rushed to his house and alerted all against the imminent attack.
“Later, some people in the Hindu locality took shelter in the paddy fields and some in the Muslim locality.”
Homna Police Station OC Aslam Shikder said most of attackers were teachers and students of madrasas in and around Rampur.
Forty-seven Hindu families live in Baghsitarampur village.
This correspondent saw most of the houses in the Hindu locality ransacked and image of the temple broken during a visit to the village.
An attack victim, Monti Rani Das, told bdnews24.com that her marriage date was fixed for May 9 and her father arranged Tk 20,000 and two bhoris (11.66 grams) of gold for the marriage, but all were looted during the attacks.