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2012 Chirirbandar violence refers to the attack on the minority Hindu community by fanatic Muslims in Chirirbandar Upazila of Dinajpur District in the Division of Rangpur, Bangladesh on the 4th August,2012.

Background

There was a temporary mosque in the Balaibajar locality of the Rajapur village under Amarpur union council of Chirirbandar Upazila . The owner of the land was Professor Hamida Khatun of Chittagong Metropolitan College. She wanted to make the mosque permanent. The foundation stone of the mosque was laid one week before the incident. But there was an old Kali Temple about 200 yards distant from the mosque. Again Rajapur village is a completely Hindu dominated village. There is no Muslim in the locality. So the Hindus requested Professor Hamida Khatun to build the Mosque 500 yards away. But she denied and with the help of the Chirirbandar Upazila Parishad chairman and a Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami leader Aftab Ali Molla gave inflammatory speech to agitate the local Muslims. [1]

The dispute over the mosque began on July 27 when Hamida with the said committee of the mosque went there to lay the foundation for a pucca building. The location of the mosque is very close to a Hindu temple and closely surrounded by three other temples.

Locals had protested the step as they found the foundation had extended over the road and feared that their rites would be hampered. They also believed that building the mosque by grabbing public land in an area where muslims are hardly found is nothing but a shield of saving other shops of Hamida, parts of which were allegedly built by encroaching portions of the road.

On August 31, construction of the mosque restarted and again it was stopped by the locals as a wall was about to be constructed two feet inside the road. Besides filing a general diary by the initiator of the mosque, negotiation was started from the day.

Later, there was a meeting on Friday, August 3, at the Chirirbandar police station between the parties. In presence of the additional police superintendent Shirin Akhter and local leaders of the ruling party and its different chapters, the meeting decided that the mosque would be built leaving the road space.

The hindu representatives had no objection with the decision. As Hamida was not in Chirirbandar, the contending parties were supposed to sit in the police station on the next day at 10:00am to finalise the decision.

The meeting, however, could not be held due to the crowd that gathered leading to the violence the next morning.

While negotiations were going on, some vested quarters were active to dissipate the wrong message regarding the incident. A letter, addressed to the upazila chairman, was reportedly read out in different mosques over the next few days, and especially during jumma prayers.

The letter contained malicious words about hindu people, their alleged obstruction in the construction of the makeshift prayer room into a pucca mosque, attempted assault on Hamida Khatun and looting of tube-well and tin of the mosque. Finally seeking justice, the muslim devotees were requested to sign the letter.

Learning the scheme in the muslim dominated areas nearby, local hindus informed the administration, law enforcement agencies and the local ruling party leaders about their terror. Due to the tense situation, around late night of August 3, upazila nirbahi officer (UNO) Rashidul Mannaf Kabir declared section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure at Balai Bazar and the areas within 500 yards radius of the spot from 6:00am to 6:00pm on August 4. [2]

Attacks

The violence is said to have brewed on Saturday the 4th August,2012., in spite of Section 144 being imposed there.

On August 4, around this spot of Balai Bazar area, outsiders began to gather at around 8:00am. As locals and the police had already taken position earlier in the morning, the mob could not come close to the spot of the mosque.

In about an hour, the gathering turned into a mob of thousands of people, some carrying sticks. Union Parishad chairman Liakat Ali Shah tried to calm the mob while saying on microphone that the contenders are about to reach a solution and they should go back to their homes.

Though the gathering was well inside the prohibited area of 500 yards of Balai Bazar, the police neither arrested anyone, nor did they try to dissociate them by charging baton or through other means.

When the situation was almost under control, as Liakat tells Xtra later, two nasimans (human hauler) joined the mob and the situation again deteriorated. Police and union chairman requested Hamida to help calm the situation and gave her the police microphone. Rather than doing this, she allegedly charge the authorities and vowed to lay the foundation of the mosque.

At one point around 10:00am the mob rushed across the arable land to the Kabirajpara of Rajapur village. The miscreants burned some 23 houses and looted valuables including cattle, gold and cash, recently earned from selling of jute.

The police finally acted to bring the situation under control. They fired tear shells and arrested eight people from the spot. However, Hamida Khatun during this time allegedly tried to lay foundation bricks with the help of her aides.

After a short break, the scattered mob at around 1:00pm again set ablaze seven houses of Majhpara of Abdulpur, across Balai Bazar.[3]

“The attackers also vandalized six to seven houses of Hindus at Majpara of Abdulpur around 1pm. Police brought the situation under control by charging baton and firing rubber bullets,” said Chirirbandar Upazila Executive Officer (UNO) Rashidul Mannaf Kabir. However, locals say that he is behind unleashing of the attack. While announcing the imposition of Section 144, he is said to have announced, “Section 144 has been imposed following mounting of tension, as people from the Hindu community have obstructed building of a mosque.” Another report given by Amarpur Union Parishad Chairman Liakat Ali the attackers were from other areas like Parbatipur. However, according to Dinajpur Deputy Commissioner Jamal Uddin, no killing has taken place. “A lot of people gathered suddenly and launched the attack. But no incident like killing took place as the law enforcers were ready.” He said that 35 families living in 12 houses were harmed. “They have been provided help. The process to file a case over the matter is underway. The criminals will be held.” [4]

Police had to fire bullets and lobbed teargas shells to control the situation.

Aftermath

The incident triggered panic among the members of the Hindu community in the locality.

‘Was section 144 for the Hindus only?’ asked Jogen Chandra Roy, a farmer of Kabirajpara. His house, three sacks of paddy, one sack of wheat, 18 to 19 mound of jute were burned in the fire while the attackers looted four of the five cows he had.

‘There were 40 to 50 police personnel in the area. If they had tried, nobody could have attacked the village,’ he said, while adding sorrowfully, ‘While our houses were set on fire, they were laying the foundation of the mosque.’

‘They knew that the people would gather at Balai Bazar after they were instigated by campaigns during the days prior to August 4 in the mosques of the surrounding areas. There was no initiative to disperse the raging mob. Why should we think that the incident was not a planned work?’ asked Nareshchandra.[5]

The Awami League put the incident down to the upazila administration's lack of prompt action and BNP and Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami's provocation. BNP, however, pointed the finger at the ruling party lawmaker's failure to act responsibly. [6]

On August 7, Subhash Chandra Roy, son of Satish Chandra Roy of Rajapur village under Chirirbandar upazila of Dinajpur, filed a case against 200 people, including Aftab Uddin Mollah, Jamaat backed upazila chairman of Chirirbandar upazila and former Ameer of district unit of Jamaat. Dinesh Chandra Roy, son of Debi Prosad of Abdulpur village, filed another case on August 9 accusing 44 people, including Aftab Uddin Mollah. Both the cases were filed under the Speedy Tribunal Act.

Police submitted two charge-sheets with the magistrate court on 2 September accusing 198 people, including Chairman of Chirirbandar Upazila Parishad.

Police found involvement of a total of 198 people, including Aftab Uddin Mollah, former Ameer of district Jamaat and upazila chairman of Chirirbandar in Dinajpur. Tariqul Islam, OC of Chirirbandar police station said that Aftab Uddin Mollah remained absconding since the incident took place on August 4. Besides, police arrested 24 persons in this connection. They are now detained in Dinajpur jail, while 20 other persons got bail after surrendering to the High Court, he added. However, the OC informed that a total of three cases were filed in connection with Rajapur attack. “We are going to submit another charge-sheet within a few days”, he added. Police and the members of RAB have been patrolling the area to avoid any further untoward incident.[7]

References

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