The Thakur and Banikya children in front of their destroyed homes at Rajganj of Begumganj in Noakhali. Shell shocked in the Jamaat-Shibir attack, they are now too scared to go out of their homestead let alone to school. Photo: Star
Residents of Begumganj upazila in Noakhali still could not get over the day of terror. All of them are on edge since some religious bigots swooped on a section of people on Thursday just because of their minority status.
The attacks on the Hindus were made here hours after the International Crimes Tribunal sentenced Jamaat leader Delawar Hossain Sayedee to death on charges of arson, rape, murder and forced conversion during the 1971 Liberation War.
Arnab Chattarjee, a class-three student of Thakur Bari of Rajganj union under Begumganj, wonders as to why his home was vandalised, his books were burnt and his family members beaten.
The entire area looks like a deserted place now. While visiting Rajganj bazar yesterday, this correspondent found almost all the shops on both sides of the streets shut. Hindu families have sent their young female members to safety. Children have stopped going to school fearing that they may be attacked on the way.
"They (attackers) will beat me the way they beat up my father and uncles," said Arnab. Whenever he sees any stranger he cringes away.
"All my books have been burnt. What will I read now," said Anni Bhattacharjee, a five-year-old girl of pre-primary class. She was seen crying and trying to bring together the burnt pieces of her books.
Like Arnab and Anni, children of Bhuiyan Bari, Mali Bari, Acharjee Bari, Aldinagar Banikya para, Kuri Bari and Kalirhat of Rajganj are struggling to come out of the trauma they have gone through.
Unidentified criminals damaged at least six temples, torched 36 houses and vandalised 40 others after looting those at Alampur and Aladin Nagar villages in Rajganj on the day. Many of the seventy-six victim families accused the Jamaat-e-Islami and its ally BNP of the attacks but leaders of the parties' district units denied the allegation.
The Hindus are now fearing further attacks while the Muslim population of the area are dreading arrests.
"The miscreants attacked my shop on that day (Thursday). Now, I have been keeping my shop closed to avoid further trouble," said Pintu Kumar Kuri, owner of a jewellary shop at Rajganj bazar.
A restaurant owner Dulal Miah said police had picked up his son on Sunday though he was innocent. Later, police released Dulal's son in the face of villagers' demand.
"People fear mass arrest."
Many families of the minority community are not letting their children and female members step out of their homes while some have sent their children to their relatives.
"My daughter is 16. A day after the violence, I have sent her to Noakhali town for safety," said Sankar Bikash Majumder.
Meanwhile, some victims have brought corruption allegations over distribution of relief.
Deputy Commissioner Sirajul Islam refuted such claims and said relief materials were being distributed transparently.
“We are distributing relief materials according to the need of the victims -- to repair their houses and bring those back to the previous condition."
The district administration has donated a sack of rice, 5kg of pulses, 5kg of potato for each of the families that came under attack on Thursday and 50 blankets, 160 bundles of tin-sheet and Tk 4.80 lakh for all.
Besides, Ekramul Karim Chowdhury, general secretary and MP of Noakhali-4 constituency, donated Tk 3.80 lakh.
Administrator of Zila Parishad has promised to donate Tk 6 lakh for repairing the six temples and Tk 50,000 for each victim family. Gandhi Asram Trust in Noakhali has bought clothes and cutlery for victim families.
Two cases have been filed in connection with the incident, accusing 71 by name and at least 1,500 others unidentified. As many as 28 were arrested till 6:00pm yesterday, said Syed Mohammad Ahasanul Islam, office-in-charge of Begumganj Police Station.
In a new development yesterday, a Hindu temple was set on fire at Lakhirpar village, Kotalipara of Gopalganj district, said Tota Mia, officer-in-charge of Kotalipara Police Station.