Fear grips a community in Rangpur after anti-Hindu hate crimes

On Sunday night, hell broke loose on a small community in Rangpur. In the light of day, the violence has ended. But the Hindu community in the villages of Majhipara-Bottala and Hatibandha is still gripped by fear.

A mob angered by an allegedly blasphemous Facebook post burnt down at least 29 Hindu homes and several other structures in the two villages in the southern district.

Police and BGB have cordoned off the area and law enforcers have detained 20 people with ties to the overnight arson attacks, said Police Superintendent Biplob Kumar Sarker.

Public representatives, as well as the local administration, have assured the Hindu fishermen of the villages that they will be rehoused. But they are still struggling to process the shock.

Communal tensions were sparked by claims that a young man from the area made a Facebook post that blasphemed against religion, said Assistant Superintendent of Police Md Kamruzzaman.

Police say attackers went to the home of the Hindu youth after news spread of the alleged post. The unrest soon spread throughout the area. The youth and his close relatives fled from the scene and police strengthened security around the home after the incident was reported.

Attackers set fire to homes and businesses owned by Hindus about half a kilometre from the Hindu youth’s house, said Biplob Kumar Sarkar, superintendent of police.

Police used blanks and rubber bullets to bring the situation under control and managed to do so around 1 am on Monday, he said.

Hundreds of people vandalised the neighbourhood for half an hour, said local residents. In addition to the arson, the attackers also vandalised a local Hindu temple and looted cash and livestock. They also beat some of the locals and injured them.

Basanti Rani, whose home was damaged in the attack, said: “I don’t even have a bit of rice left. I had to eat a little puffed and flattened rice. Even if rice arrives in the area, who’s going to get it for me? What will we eat?”

A rumour about the Quran being dishonoured at a Hindu place of worship in Cumilla has ignited a series of communal attacks across the country, resulting in the deaths of six people. The Majhipara attack on Sunday was a continuation of that communal conflict.  

The Fire Service said it deployed two units from Pirganj, two from Mithapukur and one from Rangpur to douse the fire at the scene around 8:45 pm, but they only managed to tame the blaze at 4:10 am on Monday. 

By the time firefighters had brought the fire under control, 29 houses, 2 kitchens, 2 animal sheds and 20 haystacks owned by 15 people had been gutted.

The Bangladesh Chhatra League led a protest march, blaming the Bangladesh Islami Chhatra Shibir for the attack.

“Whoever is involved in the incident, will be brought to justice. I have provided some immediate assistance to the victims,” said Pirganj Municipal Mayor ASM Tajimul Islam Shamim.

The local administration has taken the initiative to resettle victims and the government will provide all types of assistance, said Rangpur Deputy Commissioner Asif Ahasan.