B’baria Gathering: Health minister blasts the local administration
Health Minister Zahid Maleque yesterday slammed the Brahmanbaria administration over the failure to stop the gathering of thousands of people at the namaz-e-janaza of an Islamic party leader ignoring the shutdown.
"We observed the mass gathering in Brahmanbaria where thousands of people assembled at the funeral. At this time, holding such a gathering is very damaging; we fear many people might have contracted [coronavirus].
"Such an irresponsible incident should not have happened. Here, the administration failed to control the situation," the minister said while briefing the media online over Covid-19 situation.
Ignoring the government orders to maintain social distancing and self-isolation, people from different areas flocked to Bertola village in Sarail upazila on Saturday to attend the namaz-e-janaza of Maulana Jubaer Ahmed Ansari, nayeb-e-ameer or vice-president of Bangladesh Khelafat Majlish.
From Jamia Rahmania Madrasa, where the funeral was held, the crowds spilled onto the surrounding areas and a 14-km stretch of the Dhaka-Sylhet highway.
The gathering took place although the entire district has been under lockdown since April 11, when one person died from coronavirus and seven others tested positive in a day.
Talking to The Daily Star yesterday, Brahmanbaria Civil Surgeon Ekram Ullah said the incident increased the risk of coronavirus spreading in the area.
Meanwhile, 22 eminent citizens in a joint statement expressed concern over the mass gathering, fearing it might raise the risk of further spread.
"When the number of affected people in the country has exceeded 2,000, and more than half the country has been locked down and when the government is announcing its tough stance on it, the question remains -- how the local administration allowed such a public gathering.
"Considering public health, we urge the government to take urgent actions in this regard," read the statement.
The signatories to the statement include National Prof Anisuzzaman, Oikya Nap President Pankaj Bhattacharya, Sammilito Samajik Andolon President Ziauddin Tariq Ali, General Secretary Saleh Ahmed, Liberation War Museum Trustee Sarwar Ali, Theatre Personality Ramendu Majumdar, Bangladesh Mahila Parishad President Fawzia Moslem, Women Leaders Khushi Kabir and Rokeya Kabir, Dhaka University Prof Azizur Rahman, Prof MM Akash, and Prof Rubaiyat Ferdous.
The assistant superintendent of police (Sarail-Ashuganj circle) and two police officers of Sarail Police Station were withdrawn following the incident.
Police Headquarters took the action against ASP Masud Rana, Officer-in-charge of Sarail Police Station Shahadat Hossain Titu and Inspector (investigation) Nurul Haque for failing to take proper steps to stop the mass gathering, said Imtiaz Ahmed, officer-in-charge of Special Branch of Brahmanbaria police.
Of the three, the ASP and the OC have been attached to the Chattogram range of police, Imtiaz told our Brahmanbaria correspondent.
In another development, a three-member committee, led by additional deputy inspector general (admin and finance) of Chattogram range, has been formed to investigate the incident, said Sohel Rana, assistant inspector general (media) of Police Headquarters.
The committee has been asked to submit its report by April 22, he added.
The people of eight villages -- Shantinagar, Sitaharan, Baraibari, and Bertola villages in Sarail upazila and Khariala, Bogair, and Mashair villages in Ashuganj upazila, and Malihata of Sadar upazila -- have been asked to stay in home quarantine for 14 days since Saturday evening, said Anisur Rahman, superintendent of Brahmanbaria police, adding that additional police have been deployed there.
The SP said so far as they know, most of the funeral attendees was residents of the eight villages.
Locals see it as a failure of the administration.
They said people reached Bertola village by roads and waterways.
"But how people came by these roads? Were there no checkpoints to stop them?" asked a resident of Bertola.
Abdun Noor, vice-president of Brahmanbaria Sachetan Nagarik Committee, said if the local administration had been more active, such a mass gathering would not have happened.