A horror, but what for?
The charred furniture frames on the driveway of the Dhaka University vice-chancellor's residence gave little hints of the destruction inside.
As one steps inside the two-storey building, going around the heap of burnt wood beside the lush green lawn, one may think the house was war ravaged.
From the master bedroom to the dining room, meeting rooms to the VC's home office room, and kitchens to toilets, everything was in pieces. Doors, windows, wardrobes, lockers, ceiling fans, lights, TV sets, refrigerators, utensils, photo frames and even teacups were smashed to bits.
The protesters who had stormed the residence in the wee hours of yesterday left almost nothing in one piece. They went to the backyard and torched two cars and vandalised two more.
They looted valuables from the steel almirahs, cupboards and trashed the food inside refrigerators and freezers.
Shards of glass, parts of doors and furniture, broken flower pots and bricks were strewn across the floors of the hundred-year-old four-bedroom building.
"Only the four people [the VC and his family members] are okay. Everything else in this house is destroyed. It was a brutality beyond belief," said a relative.
The motive behind the attack is unclear but questions are being asked and the guessing go on since the VC has nothing to do with the quota-reform movement. The role of law enforcers was also dubious as none of them could do anything to stop the hour-and-a-half-long mayhem.
The attack triggered widespread criticism and condemnation. The extent of the destruction shocked many.
Immediately after the attack, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina called VC Md Akhteruzzaman. She enquired about his family members.
After a daylong demonstration of students demanding reforms in the quota system in civil service and a nightlong clash, more than 500 people carried out the wholesale destruction in the residence from 1:00am, according to the security guards of the residence.
The protesters, however, claimed that their people were not involved in the attack. Dhaka University Teacher's Association (Duta) said the attackers were “outsiders” and termed the attack “pre-planned and politically motivated”.
Some of the attackers had masks on. Many carried sticks. A group of them scaled the boundary wall and went over the barbed wires and broke the lock of the main gate. The others then stormed the residence, the guards said.
There were five guards -- three at the gate and two inside -- along with four policemen stationed right outside.
The attackers took away the mobile phones of the guards.
The VC, his wife, and two children were on the first floor.
"We saw several hundred people trying to break in and they eventually succeeded. We saw from the balcony … ," said the VC's wife Salma Zaman.
"We saw them climb up hastily and break whatever they found. I don't have the words to express the horror," she told The Daily Star.
"We don't know who carried out the attack and why. We are grateful that we are alive," said Salma still shaking in trauma.
The attackers ripped apart the CCTV cameras first and then ransacked the guest room where the recorded footage is kept. Then they took broken chairs and a table outside and set them on fire.
The floor of the large meeting room on the ground floor was littered with broken glass. A TV set lies broken at one end. Even the fan hanging from the ceiling had its blades bent.
Broken and mangled cutleries and utensils covered the floor of the small kitchen next to the meeting room. The cupboard was empty and its glass doors smashed. The almirah next to it was empty and its doors were flung open.
Even the kitchen sink was destroyed.
There is a room which the VC uses as an office. The desk was in pieces, its drawers and documents were scattered on the floor. A showcase of medals and crests was vandalised.
"First I heard voices and then slogans. Then only sounds of things breaking. I was shaken," Md Hasan, one of the security guards who was inside the house, told this newspaper.
He hid in the store room but the attackers found him.
"They slapped me and asked me what I have on me before letting me go," he said.
Upstairs, things were worse.
In the master bedroom, three closets and two wardrobes were emptied. Clothes, valuables, documents, and broken glass were scattered all around, making it difficult to even walk.
A framed photo of the VC's mother Eron Bhanu was also in pieces. A refrigerator was leaning on a file cabinet.
All the appliances there had been smashed, damaged or destroyed.
In the small adjoining room, three more almirahs -- one of which had a locker -- dressing table and three cupboards were emptied.
The bedroom toilet was not spared. Toiletries lie on the floor and the commode was broken.
Behind the dining room, there is a small room with a refrigerator and a freezer; both were turned upside down.
Salma said, "We kept telling him [the VC] that we should leave, but he assured us that it [the protest] was not a matter of the university and he would explain that to them [the attackers] and they would leave.
"When they were breaking the gates, I requested him to call in law enforcers … ," Salma said but the VC refused saying that there would be bloodshed on campus if he did so.
When the protesters broke in, the VC and his son tried to reason with them, she said.
"I along with my daughter first hid and then fled through the backdoor,” she added.
Akhteruzzaman, in a press conference yesterday, claimed that the attack was made with the intent to kill him.
"I took the initiative to arrange talks between the government high-ups and the students … ,” the VC said, adding, "The students' demands have been relayed to the government, yet my house was vandalised.”
The protesters claimed that the attack was carried out by “criminals” with the intend to foil their movement.
Rashed Khan, of Sadharan Chhatra Adhikar Sanrakshan Parishad that is organising the movement, at a press briefing yesterday said the attackers were not its protestors and that they do not know them.
Strongly condemning the attack, Duta President Maksud Kamal said, “The attackers were outsiders and they carried out the attack wearing masks.”
"We think that such destruction in the name of quota reform movement is a planned attempt and a deep conspiracy to make Dhaka University and the country unstable," he said in a statement.
He demanded proper probe and quick trial.
He said Duta would form a human chain at Aparjeyo Bangla in DU protesting the attack.
Deputy Commissioner Maruf Hossain Sardar of DMP Ramna division said the four policemen outside the residence was outnumbered by the attackers. By the time reinforcements arrived at the scene, the attackers had left.
Relatives of the VC, a number of DU teachers and political leaders expressed shock and conveyed sympathy to the family members.