A number of religious leaders, including imams, in Bhola had broken their promise to the local administration of taking all necessary steps to postpone the fateful October 20 rally.
The rally, organised to protest anti-religious messages sent from Biplob Chandra Baidya’s hacked Facebook account, was held at the Eidgah Maidan despite the promise and resulted in communal attacks.
On the other hand, the attack on police during the rally was launched after a rumour spread about the arrest of one of the religious leaders.
At a meeting with the deputy commissioner and superintendent of police of Bhola from 9:00pm till 11:30pm on October 19, six leaders under the banner of “Sarbastorer Tawhidi Janata” made a written promise to postpone the rally scheduled for the next day.
They also said they would direct imams of all mosques and principals of all madrasas to announce the postponement after Fajr prayers.
DC Mohammed Masud Alam Siddique and SP Sorker Mohammad Kayser said it was decided that no rally would take place on Sunday morning.
The Daily Star visited seven mosques in Borhanuddin municipality area and six other mosques at Maniker Haat, Baro Manika and Khayerhat villages in the upazila and spoke to all the imams.
All of them said that no one had contacted them to make the announcement about the postponement.
Sarbastorer Tawhidi Janata convener and Bhatamara pir Muhib Ullah said, “We postponed the rally at the request of the administration at the meeting with them on Saturday night. So, I did not join the rally.”
Muhib Ullah said that people from the administration said there were some risks involved in holding the rally as this was a “sensitive issue” and any untoward incident could occur any time.
He said, “At this, I agreed to postpone the rally.”
He added that it was also decided that the news of postponement would be communicated to everyone so that mosque authorities could announce it through loud speakers.
He claimed that the postponement news had reached some places of his locality. “But people were so aggrieved that they came to join the rally on their own.”
He added, “Many people were also not informed about postponement due to careless implementation of the decision.”
Two rally organisers -- Borhanuddin Bazar Mosque Imam Mizanur Rahman and Eidgah Mosque Imam Jalal Uddin -- said that a decision to postpone the rally was made, but there was still a discussion in this regard as they believed it would be impossible for them to give the announcement to all in such a short time.
“We had decided to hold a brief rally to inform everyone about the postponement,” said Mizanur.
At the meeting with the DC and the SP, Borhanuddin upazila chairman and two vice-chairmen, Imam Mizanur Rahman and Khatib of Uttar Bus Stand Jam-e-Masjid Moulana Faizullah were present.
Mizan and Faizullah had also failed to make the announcement from their mosques.
Asked why, Faizullah said, “I forgot to announce the postponement of the rally.”
PREPARATION WAS STILL ON
Organisers continued calling on the people to join the rally through loud speakers even after the meeting with the DC and SP had ended. They demanded capital punishment of Biplob even after midnight.
A key organiser of the rally, who attended the meeting with the administration, rented mikes for the rally and erected a podium.
In some places, including Maniker Haat area, people on October 20 were urged through loud speakers to join the scheduled rally at 11:00am, locals alleged.
They added that 17 mikes, supplied by Star Mike Service in Borhanuddin Sadar upazila, were set up at the venue early in the morning.
Owner of the Star Mike Service Zakir Hossain said Mizanur Rahman called him over phone on Saturday around midnight and ordered for the mikes. “I got Tk 6,500 for the 17 mikes.”
Mizanur, however, said Zakir was present at a meeting, regarding the rally, held at his mosque on Saturday evening where he agreed to provide the mikes.
He also said devotees, irrespective of party affiliation, attended the meeting that decided to organise the protest rally.
The Bazar Committee secretary, who is a local Awami League leader, was also present there, he added.
Imam Jalal Uddin said they set up so many mikes so that the announcement of postponing the rally could be heard from far.
As police came to know about the preparation of the rally on Sunday morning, top police officials and the upazila nirbahi officer went to the venue with a small police force around 10:00am, when around a thousand people had already gathered.
Police asked the organisers to end the rally quickly.
RUMOURS LED TO ATTACK
At least three witnesses said that a huge number of people started to come to the Eidgah Maidan even after the rally was called off around 10:20am on Sunday.
“The sudden calling off of the rally made them angry. Two processions from Bhatamara and Borhanganj reached the venue just after the postponement and, at one stage, a rumour spread that Bhatamara pir Muhib Ullah was arrested, which led to the attack on police,” said a local businessman, preferring anonymity.
Muhib Ullah said he heard that there were rumours of his arrest, which angered the people and resulted in the clash.
Many people who reached the venue just before the clash thought that police had dismantled the stage and some raised the issue of why the rally was cancelled before 11:00am, he added.
The police officials and the UNO took shelter in the first floor of the Eidgah mosque.
At one stage, police opened fire in retaliation after being shot at during the attack.
The clash left four people killed and over 100 others injured.