A young monk prays before the burnt down idol of Buddha, surrounded by charred remains of the pagoda in Mithachhari of Cox's Bazar yesterday. The Pragyamitra Banbihar Pagoda along with many others was torched when criminals attacked homes, properties and places of worship of the Buddhist community there on Saturday night. Photo: Anurup Kanti Das
A motley group comprising local leaders of pro-Awami League organisations, BNP men, madrasa students and common people were allegedly behind the communal violence at Ramu on Saturday night.
Even some Rohingyas were among the attackers, who destroyed at least 12 temples and dozens of houses belonging to Buddhists in the overnight mayhem.
Shamim Ahsan Bulu, a social activist of Fatehkharpul at the upazila, tried to stop a violent procession in the area that night. He found a youth, who took part in an angry rally and later thrown a stone at him, to be a Rohingya.
Some other witnesses said they too had seen Rohingyas in processions around Saturday midnight.
There is a big Kawmi madrasa, Jama'aetul Ulum Al Islamia, with the central mosque of Ramu. Many say a procession had come out of it to join a rally of vandals.
Its principal denies any involvement of anybody from the madrasa in the anti-Buddhist campaign.
But Habib Ullah, a teacher of this madrasa, said they joined a procession around 9:00pm and came back at 11:00pm. They did not take part in vandalism, he claimed.
Nine teachers and 70 students of the madrasa had joined the demonstration, he added.
Habib said he did not see any derogatory picture of Quran, but joined the agitation just hearing about it. He later received the photo over his mobile phone.
Nazibul Islam, officer-in-charge of Ramu Police Station, also played a dubious role Saturday night.
Instead of taking instant step to ensure security of Buddhists, he was seen on the stage of a rally that night. The rally was organised to protest the Facebook posting of the anti-Islamic photo with which a Buddhist youth was tagged in.
The OC even made some provocative comments.
“I am a Muslim. I also should have joined the procession. But I am serving the law. I too am pained. Uttam [the Buddhist youth] will be arrested. Please have patience,” a madrasa teacher, Ramjan Ali, quoted the OC as saying.
Ramjan's version was corroborated by many others.
Nazibul Islam was withdrawn from the police station yesterday, but until afternoon, other officers of the station knew nothing about it. They also did not know that Section 144 that bars gatherings has been called off.
Meanwhile, four cases have been filed against 11 named and 300 to 400 unnamed persons for vandalism and sacrilege of destroying shrines.
These figures compare starkly against as many as 2,500 accused in another case filed for assaults on on-duty policemen during the violence.
Police have named same 11 persons in the four cases for vandalism and also arrested them. But the investigation officer had no clue as to who they are or how they came to know that these 11 were involved in the vandalism.
Police so far have arrested 169 people till yesterday evening in connection with the communal violence. Of the arrested, 60 were picked up by the Ramu police alone.
None from the Ramu Police Station and the district police administration was willing to say anything about the profile of the detainees.
Also, names of some local political leaders came as participants of the Saturday night processions.
Hafez Ahmed, member of a pro-ruling party organisation called Ulema League, took part in a protest rally on Saturday evening and issued provocative statements to incite the attacks.
He left his house yesterday since his picture showing him in the procession appeared in a newspaper.
Some others saw Abul Quasem, local leader of BNP-backed student body Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal, in another rally. Quasem says he went there to cover the event as he is a journalist as well.
Nurul Islam Salim, president of Ramu Press Club, joined another rally at Chaumuhuni station, witnesses said. He could not be reached over the mobile phone by these correspondents.
UTTAM OUT OF TRACE
Another case was filed against Uttam Kumar Barua for posting of the Facebook photo insulting Quran.
Uttam and his wife have no trace since Saturday night, but police arrested his mother and sister from their house at Fatehkharpul area of Ramu.
These correspondents yesterday found the residence of Uttam's mother locked. There were signs of attack on the teen-shed wooden house. A group of demonstrators had tried to ransack it.
The neighbours who know the 25-year-old youth well have a very positive impression of him.
Many men and women from Muslim and Buddhist community said they never saw anything wrong with Uttam, except his marriage which his parents could not accept. The family wanted him to get married after his sister's wedding.
Neighbours still can't believe that Uttam, who used to work as an assistant deed writer at Ramu, can spread such a derogatory picture.
Uttam has been living with his wife and child separately since his wedding more than tree years ago.
A year ago he shut down his computer kiosk at Ramu Bazar.
Interestingly, most of the locals, to whom The Daily Star talked over the last two days, said they didn't see Uttam's Facebook account but heard about a picture showing Uttam with his feet on the Quran.
But the much-talked picture was circulating like wildfire from mobile to mobile via Bluetooth.
This picture was also copied by some demonstrators and showed to the others on Saturday evening.
Rumour was spread that Uttam put his feet on Quran, but these correspondents saw the picture, shows white feet -- wearing nail polish -- on the Quran.
The Daily Star could not verify whether the image was doctored.