MORE than two weeks have passed since the disputed January 5 election to the 10th Jatiya Sangsad was held, but attacks on Hindu population in some parts of the country are continuing unabated. A house owned by an Awami League leader from Hindu community at Tambulpur in Rangpur was set on fire by unknown miscreants last Friday. On the same day, at Srirumkathi of Nazirpur in Pirojpur, a Hindu temple and idols were vandalised. Smashing of idols also took place at Harulia village of Barhatta upazila in Netrakona. These are but a few of the recent incidents of violence targeting the Hindu community.
One wonders if these incidents have any relevance to the election. The question of relevance arises because the common perception is that Hindus become the target of politically motivated attacks before and after each general election. It is presumed that since Hindu voters favour a particular party during elections, goons of the rival political camps attack Hindus in a calculated manner to intimidate them into keeping away from the voting centres. But then what is the purpose of these recent attacks so many days after the election?
Serious doubts arise if these attacks have anything to do with elections. Further intriguing is the fact that Hindu temples and other places of their worship are also being targeted systematically. Why is that? What connection does it have with elections? To all appearances, in a bid to fish in troubled waters, a quarter is out to giving a communal colour to these incidents of attacks on Hindus. Whoever is behind such an evil design, vultures are always on the watch to grab the lands and properties the panicked Hindus may leave behind in their flight. The symbiosis between these two types of criminal elements is the reason why there is no let-up of the attacks in sight.
There is pattern in all these acts of violence against the Hindus. The criminals, more often than not, choose the weaker sections of the Hindu community who are poorer, less educated and less able to protect themselves against such onslaughts.
In the recent attacks at Malopara in Abhoynagar upazila of Jessore in which scores of houses were ransacked, looted and set on fire, the victims were mostly poor fishermen. Similarly, in the incidents of outrage against two housewives in Monirampur of Jessore, the victims belonged to the cobbler (Rishi) community, an ultra-poor segment of the Hindu community surviving on the margins of society. The miscreants, whatever their political identities are, find it easier to prey on these people as they have practically no power to resist such attacks. Predictably, the government as usual held the activists of opposition political parties for the attacks and outrage. But when it came to apprehending the culprits, the progress has been nothing worth mentioning. According to some inhabitants of Malopara, the miscreants are so powerful that they burnt the car of the local MP. Is it then believable that the local administration, especially the police, has no inkling of who those attackers might be? It is not hard to understand why the local police are so slow, if not helplessness, to take swift action against the perpetrators of the vandalism and looting in Malopara. Why are those criminals so powerful? The government's instant answer to any attack on Hindus as being the work of rival political activists is only complicating the police's effort to catch the criminals.
The government has no explanation as to why these poor people have not yet got justice and why they are still so insecure, rather in a state of panic, so much so that they have sent their young women to other places to protect their honour. Are these people not citizens of this country? It's a shame for us all. The same is also true of Rishi families of Manirampur who do not feel it safe to keep their wives and young women in their own homes.
As noted in the foregoing, places of worship belonging to Hindu community have been ransacked, damaged, desecrated and set on fire in almost all the Hindu majority districts or localities. Such attacks have been going on for about a year. In some places, villagers have been forced to mount night vigils to protect their temples.
The plotters' attempt to give a communal twist to the attacks has failed, as in many places Muslim and Hindu villagers together have been guarding the temples as well as the affected villages. In fact, there is no communal disharmony among the local population. The masterminds active behind these evil missions have so far been carrying out their activities unchallenged, because the government has been more interested in getting political mileage out of the incidents than apprehending the real culprits.
The miscreants are few in number. Even so, they appear powerful, because no real effort has been taken to ferret them out. The government must allow the police to conduct their investigations into the attacks on Hindus and their places of worship professionally and dispassionately. The political identity of the criminals, if any, should be of lesser priority.
The writer is Editor, Science & Life, The Daily Star.