A man was killed and 20 others were hurt after police fired rubber bullets and teargas shells as violence flared up in Horkoli Thakurpara village of Rangpur yesterday over an alleged Facebook post “demeaning Islam”.
At least 30 Hindu houses were burned and vandalised as religious zealots ran riot in the village in the afternoon and staged demonstrations blocking Dinajpur-Rangpur highway.
Law enforcers took action triggering a clash that left seven policemen, among others, injured.
The deceased was identified as Habibur Rahman. He died of bullet injuries at Rangpur Medical College Hospital (RMCH) where 11 of those wounded were undergoing treatment.
Police arrested five people over the incident.
Titu Chandra Roy, son of late Khogen Roy of the village, “made the Facebook post” on November 5, said Jinnat Ali, officer-in-charge of Gangachara Police Station.
Alamgir Hossain, a trader from nearby Lalchandrapur village, under the district's Gangachara upazila, filed a case against Titu the same day, the OC added.
Titu, now in his 30s, has been living in Narayanganj with his wife for around four years, local sources say. This newspaper could not reach him for comments.
It also could not be verified whether anyone else was handling his Facebook account or if it was hacked.
The day the case was filed, a group of 20 to 25 locals met at Lalchandrapur and discussed the alleged Facebook post, sources said, adding that those people fixed November 10 for a demonstration.
Yesterday, thousands from several villages gathered in front of a mosque in Shayela Shah Bazar area after Juma prayers and then staged agitations on the highway, leaving hundreds of vehicles stranded for over an hour.
In Horkoli Thakurpara, the rioters, many of them carrying sticks, torched 20 houses of eight Hindu families, including that of Titu, and vandalised about 10 others.
“I could not understand why my home was burned down," said Titu's mother Jiten Bala.
The OC said as the mob went berserk, police fired teargas shells and rubber bullets to disperse them and restore law and order.
Later in the day, Saifur Rahman, assistant superintended of police of Rangpur, said the situation was now under control.
The Rangpur district administration formed a three-member investigation committee headed by Abu Rafah, additional district magistrate. The committee has to submit its report within seven working days, said Deputy Commissioner Muhammad Wahiduzzaman.
In October last year, religious zealots carried out a synchronised attack on the Hindus in Brahmanbaria's Nasirnagar upazila, destroying around 100 homes and at least five temples and looting valuables.
The violence was triggered by a Facebook post purportedly from the account of one Rasraj Das for "hurting religious sentiments of Muslims".
Rasraj, a fisherman, was freed on bail several months ago as police found evidence that someone else, not him, posted the “anti-Islam” content through either hacking or faking his Facebook account”.
In September 2012, fanatics attacked the Buddhist community in Cox's Bazar's Ramu, claiming that a Buddhist youth “insulted Islam” on social media. An investigation by The Daily Star found the Facebook page was photoshopped.