The residents of Kurmitola Bihari Camp in Mirpur yesterday blamed the local ruling party lawmaker for Saturday's attack on the settlement that killed at least 10 Biharis.
Elias Uddin Mollah, MP of Dhaka-16 constituency, however, outright denied having any connection with the arson and attack on the stranded Pakistanis of the camp.
Agitating Biharis converged on Kalshi road early yesterday, wearing black bandanas and chanting slogans against Mollah. They also burnt an effigy of Mollah.
According to the protesters, the lawmaker visited the area last Wednesday and asked the Biharis to allow an illegal electricity connection to an adjacent slum of Bengalis.
“When we refused to allow the connection, he threatened us saying, 'I will make you pay in two days' time.' And on Saturday, our homes were set on fire,” said Anju Begum, a resident of the camp.
Many other inhabitants of the Bihari settlement made the same allegation.
The camps, which were set up for the stranded Pakistanis following the 1971 Liberation War, get free electricity and water as government relief.
Mollah wanted to give electricity links from the transformer of Kurmitola Bihari Camp illegally to power around 1,700 settlements built on government land between the camp and Matikata, Biharis alleged.
“We had initially given them electricity, but then we noticed that the transformer could not take the load. Then the chairman of our camp last month got a letter from the government, inquiring about the high bills. That is when government officials came and disconnected all the illegal lines,” Mohammad Munnu Hossain, general secretary of the Kurmitola Bihari Camp branch of the Stranded Pakistani Repatriation Committee, told The Daily Star yesterday.
The chairman, Jalaluddin Bantu, said the deputy commissioner's office of Dhaka asked him not to allow the illegal electricity connections. Bantu has been in hiding ever since the attack and talked to this correspondent over the phone from an undisclosed location.
The 300KW transformer of the Bihari camp was already serving over 1,700 settlements but Mollah wanted to power another 1,700 residences of Bengalis through it, said Mohammad Bhuttu, a resident of the camp.
Locals also alleged to have seen some ruling party men accompany the police while they were raiding the Bihari camp on Saturday morning.
Contacted, Elias Uddin Mollah told The Daily Star that he had gone to the camp on Wednesday night after demonstrations by Bengalis of the slum beside the camp demanding electricity.
When he attempted to "peacefully settle" the issue through talks with some mid-level community leaders, the other Biharis foiled it, Mollah claimed.
Asked why he recommended illegal electricity connections, he said, "I only wanted a temporary solution.”
Meanwhile, law enforcers pinned the blame of the incident on the Biharis themselves.
Police yesterday produced seven Biharis, who were arrested following the mayhem early Saturday, to a Dhaka court seeking a 7-day remand for each in the murder case, one of the six cases filed in this connection.
Metropolitan Magistrate Hasibul Haque then granted two days' remand for each of them, report court sources.
Though a number of Bengalis were arrested at the same time, none of them were shown arrested yet.
“We filed six cases in connection with this incident,” said Officer-in-Charge Zia-uz-Zaman of Pallabi Police Station.
Jalaluddin Bantu expressed his shock at this.
“Why would we kill our own people?” he told The Daily Star over the phone.
The others in the Bihari camp termed the remand unfair and said they would not conduct the funeral of the 10 people who had died in the mayhem until the seven were released.
However, they buried the bodies early yesterday as those began decomposing in the hot weather.