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Facebook photo triggers violence, B'desh on high alert

October 02, 2012 17:24 IST

Officials of law enforcing agencies are still on high alert at different parts of Bangladesh, after a photo on Facebook depicting the defamation of the holy Quran triggered intense violence in the area. 

In the early hours of September 30, nearly 12 Buddhist temples and monasteries and over 50 houses at Cox's Bazar were looted and plundered.

The violence was in response to a Facebook photo where purportedly a member of the Buddhist community was seen defaming the Quran. Unidentified people had tagged the name of one Uttam Kumar Barua, a resident of Choumohoni in Ramu district, in the photo.

As found out, around 8 pm on September 29, a protest rally was organised at Choumohoni. The rally scared the Buddhist residents of the area, who contacted the local police.

Around 9 pm, the police went to Uttam's house. As Uttam had already fled, they took his family members into safe custody. Around this time, rioters from other parts tried to vandalise Uttam's house, but the police officials failed to act or apprehend any of the perpetrators, according to witnesses. But the family's Muslim neighbours managed to ward off the rioters.

Later, around 11:30 pm, another brief rally was held at Choumohoni, which was attended by local leaders of the ruling party as well as from the opposition. According to Buddhist residents of the area, the leaders declared that such defamation cannot be tolerated, but also urged the agitators not to do anything drastic.
By 12 am, thousands of people, who had allegedly come to Choumohoni on trucks and motorcycles from adjoining areas, set the 250-year-old Buddhist temple on Cheranghata road along with the Buddhist temples of Borokang and Central Shima on fire.

Buddhist households of Choumohoni also came under attack; members of the community fled and sought shelter in the houses of their Muslim neighbours. Nearly 12 temples and over 50 houses were burnt down by rioters.

On September 30, Section 144 was imposed in Ramu district. Witnesses have claimed that the police did not act against the attackers.

Later, armed forces and other law enforcement agencies were deployed in the area. Industries Minister Dilip Barua and Home Minister Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir have visited the spot to take account of the losses.

While addressing a press briefing, Information Minister Hasanul Haque Inu alleged that communal forces had been involved in the violence.

"We have information that identified communal forces of Ramu and Cox's Bazar were present during the violence. The government will find them and ensure stern punishment," he said.

However, on the very same day, rioters managed to attack two Buddhist and two Hindu temples in Patia district of Chittagong, despite a skirmish with the police and other officials deployed in the area.

In Ukhia of Chittagong, rioters have torched two monasteries, but the troops have now brought the situation under control.

At Teknaf upazila of Cox's Bazar, two Buddhist temples and five houses were set ablaze while four temples were vandalised on September 30. The attacks led to the stroke and subsequent death of an elderly resident of the area.

Shocked by the violence, several people have planned to hold protest rallies against the attacks in Dhaka while law enforcement agencies have reportedly arrested over 300 suspects.

Though the ruling party is currently pointing fingers at the opposition party, the latter has denied these allegations. Some government officials also claimed the involvement of members of the refugee Rohingya community in the violence. But the Buddhist community in Ramu district has denied such claims.

Syed Tashfin Chowdhury in Dhaka