Amid concerns over the rising threat of militancy, unidentified assailants attacked a baul akhra (den) in a remote Chuadanga village early yesterday, leaving four bauls, including two women, injured.
Of the injured, Abdur Rahim, 65, Rashida Khatun, 60, and Bulu Begum, 50, were badly hacked.
Condition of the other, Bakso Mondol, 50, could not be known since he has been out of trace.
All of them are followers of Lalon Fakir (1774-1890), a mystic bard who sang for secularism and humanism throughout his life.
Police could not say what the motive was. “We are investigating the incident,” Rashidul Hasan, superintendent of police in Chuadanga, told The Daily Star.
Mukul Hossain, who leads a community of about a hundred bauls and established the akhra in Ektarpur village of Jibannagar upazila, Chuadanga, alleged they came under attack also in 2014. “They beat up our six bauls back then.”
The victims of yesterday's attack had come to join a two-day Sadhu Sanga (a gathering of Bauls) at Mukul's akhra. The event ended Saturday night.
Around 1:30am yesterday, eight to 10 attackers carrying sharp weapons swooped on the bauls, including the four, who were asleep at a tin-shed room of the akhra, said police and locals.
Hearing screams, locals rushed to the spot and took Rahim, Bulu and Rashida to Jibannagar Upazila Health Complex and then to Chuadanga Sadar Hospital.
Rahim and Bulu were later shifted to Kushtia Sadar Hospital while Rashida was referred to Dhaka Medical College Hospital.
Their condition was critical, said doctors at the Chuadanga hospital. Rashida and Rahim suffered injuries in throats and faces, said Anisur Rahman, one of the doctors.
With injuries in her body, Bulu broke her right leg trying to save herself.
Rashida, wife of Fazlur Rahman, is from Bhabanipur in Jhenidah Sadar upazila and Abdur Rahim and Bulu are from Poradah in Mirpur upazila of Kushtia.
Bulu's relative Alamgir Hossain said she regularly visits Ektarpur and performs Baul songs.
Bakso Mondol, who is from Kotchandpur upazila of Jhenidah, has been missing since the incident.
Bulu and other bauls confirmed to The Daily Star that Mondol was injured but they could not say where he was now.
The attack comes amid a series of secret killings carried out by suspected militants across the country.
Over the last two years or so, suspected militants have attacked and killed university professors, writers, publishers, secular bloggers, gay rights activists, foreigners, policemen and members of religious minorities, including Shia and Sufi Muslims, Christians and Hindus.
This year, at least 20 targeted attacks left over 40 dead.
Machete-wielding assailants killed Prof Rezaul Karim Siddiquee of Rajshahi University on April 23 and Sanaur Rahman in Kushtia on May 20. Both were avid lovers of folk and Baul music.
Mukul Hossain said it was unclear exactly why they were being targeted.
A follower of Lalon, he regularly visits the bard's historic akhra in Kushtia. Inspired by Lalon's philosophy, he founded the Ektapur akhra on a piece of his land in 2008.
He has been arranging a fortnightly gathering at the akhra where bauls from adjacent districts join regularly. They spend night there and sing Lalon songs.
“Some locals started calling us anti-social and anti-Islamic but they could not oust us as I own the land,” he said.
Mukul further said he filed a case with Jibannagar Police Station over the 2014 attack “but none of the attackers was arrested”.
Mukul alleged locals were putting pressure on him not to discuss yesterday's incident with journalists.
Humayun Kabir, officer-in-charge of Jibannagar Police Station, confirmed filing of the case.
He added they were investigating yesterday's attack.
Dhiru Baul, president of Baul Parishad of Chuadanga, alleged police inaction regarding previous attacks led to recurrence of such incident.