The recent violence in Bhola’s Borhanuddin upazila, which led to the deaths of four people and injuries of hundreds of others, is reminiscent of the sporadic episodes of communal violence that have often disturbed the religious harmony of our country in recent years. The incident, sparked by a concocted hate speech, caused unrest in other upazilas of Bhola and spread to Chattogram, where Hefazat activists brought out protests and vandalised public property.
What is disturbing is that a minority man had been framed by two local men who hacked his Facebook account and demanded extortion money from him; this resulted in the said Facebook post containing hate speech against Islam. Police have taken custody of both the culprits and victim. What is even more alarming is that although the representatives of Alems protesting the hate speech called off the protest at the Eidgah Maidan, a “vested quarter” unleashed violence on people, especially the government and law enforcement officials, who had been trying to find a peaceful solution. According to a report published by this daily on October 20, members of a vested quarter attacked the officials, and shot at them leaving a policeman seriously injured.
This incident poses multiple questions for us: how do we contain hate speeches in a fast-moving digital social space; what measures are we going to take to ensure security of the digital identity of social media users; who were the members of the “vested quarter” that perpetrated the attack; who armed them; why have we not been able to contain these incidents in the last seven years, since the Ramu incident? These are questions that the authorities must now ponder on in order to identify the gaps in the system that are exposing people to such meaningless violence.
According to the same report, multiple cases had been filed over the last few years in connection with incidents of communal violence in Ramu, Cox’s Bazar (2012), Ataikula, Pabna (2013), Nasirnagar, Brahmanbaria (2016) and Horkoli Thakurpara, Rangpur (2017)—episodes that have been triggered by Facebook posts; however, none of the cases have been completed. A five-member committee has been formed to probe into the Borhanuddin incident and submit its report within seven working days. We hope the government will take stringent measures and bring the culprits to book. The Prime Minister has rightly said that “if anyone tries to frame another person, measurers will also be taken against them.” In keeping with the PM’s words, we hope the concerned authorities will complete all the pending cases of communal violence in our country, and in doing so, will send a very strong message to the elements that are trying to create unrest in the country—that no one can escape the long arm of the law.