4 years of Nasirnagar attack: Victims see no hope for justice
Recalling the violent attack at her home in Nasirnagar upazila of Brahmanbaria, Purnima Das still trembles with fear.
"I don't know whether I will be able to see justice in my lifetime as there is almost no development in any of the cases filed in connection with the incident," she told The Daily Star on Wednesday, remembering the black day of October 30, 2016 -- the day bigots carried out arson attacks and vandalism on the homes and temples of Hindus in the upazila.
Rubel Mallick, a resident of Namashudrapara, said the attackers looted valuables from their houses.
"We witnessed looting of our property and destruction of our homes. But we are sceptical that justice will be delivered," he said.
Like Purnima and Rubel, other victims of Nasirnagar don't know when the charge sheet of the cases will be submitted and the trial proceedings will finally begin.
Four years have passed since the heinous attack on the minority community in the area but those responsible are yet to face any punishment.
Following the attack, eight cases were filed with Nasirnagar Police Station accusing some 2,000 unidentified people, but law enforcers are yet to complete investigations and submit charge sheets for seven of those cases.
In one of the eight cases, police pressed charges in December 2017 against 228 suspects, including several Awami League and BNP leaders. But no hearing has taken place since then.
Police arrested 124 in connection with the case, all of whom are now out on bail, law enforcers said.
Locals and Hindu community leaders have expressed their doubts and said they have lost hope of getting justice. The legal process is being prolonged by the police, they allege.
During the attack in 2016, religious zealots swooped on Hindus, and vandalised, looted over 100 homes and 17 temples.
The attackers also physically assaulted over 100 people of the community. In continuation of the attack, the bigots set nine Hindu homes on fire on November 4, 5, 13 and 16.
Although the October 30 attack happened in broad daylight following announcements made during two rallies organised by two Islamist groups -- Touhidi Janata and Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat, police are yet to arrest the top leaders of those organisations.
The attacks were triggered by an anti-religion Facebook post from the account of one Rasraj Das.
Rasraj, a fisherman, was freed in January 2017 as police found evidence that his Facebook account was hacked or faked by someone else before the posts were uploaded from it.
In the last four years, police failed to track who actually uploaded the posts and what the motive was.
Members of the Hindu community in Nasirnagar said frequent changes of investigation officers of the nine cases have made it difficult to make any headway or submit the charge sheets.
Kabir Hossain, inspector, Nasirnagar Police Station and also investigation officer of the cases filed in connection with the attack on Dattabari in the upazila on October 30, 2016 and the attack on Rasraj Das's house in Harinber village on November 26, said: "The two cases are currently under investigation. Four officers have investigated the two cases before me."
SI Moinal Hossain Khan, investigation officer in the case filed in connection with the arson attack at Banikpara at that time, said the investigation into the case is almost complete.
"We will submit the report to the court after getting clearance from the higher authority," he added.
Zia Uddin, an assistant professor at Nasirnagar Degree College, said many people witnessed the barbaric incident in broad daylight.
"But police are yet to find the perpetrators which is very unfortunate. People have lost their faith and hope to get justice as no development was made in the police investigation," he said.
Somesh Ranjan Roy, president of the Brahmanbaria District Puja Udjapon Parishad, said, "Attack on minorities happen on different occasions due to the culture of impunity."
"I don't have any hope that the people of Nasirnagar will get justice. There is a saying, 'justice delayed is justice denied'," Rana Dasgupta, general secretary of Bangladesh Hindu Bouddha Christian Oikya Parishad told The Daily Star on Thursday.
"What the police are doing is just an eyewash," he said.