Arson, Looting by Jamaat-Shibir

Damage in Kansat Palli Bidyut Office worth Tk 250 crore

40,000 subscribers without power supply; farmers not being able to run irrigation pumps

Charred remains of transformers and power supply equipment in Palli Bidyut Office in Kansat area of Chapainawabganj's Shibganj upazila following an arson attack by Jamaat-Shibir activists on Thursday. Inset, the burnt down office. The photos were taken yesterday. photo: star

Firefighters yesterday afternoon were able to douse a fire ignited by Jamaat-Shibir activists in Palli Bidyut Office in Kansat area of Chapainawabganj's Shibganj upazila on Thursday.
Property, documents and machinery worth Tk 250 crore have been destroyed while 40,000 electricity connections to Shibganj upazila have been disrupted, said Nurul Islam, the office's assistant general manager (finance).
He said a substation and all official documents were completely burned down and there was no knowing when restoration works would begin.
Farmers of Shibganj are suffering the most as large areas of land could not be irrigated due to the absence of electricity for the last three days.
Many electricity-dependent appliances are now inactive. People were partially detached from the rest of the country as they are unable to watch televisions and use mobile phones while food is spoiling in refrigerators.
Some 200-250 activists of Jamaat-e-Islami and Islami Chhatra Shibir carried out the arson attack and looting around 1:30pm right after the International Crimes Tribunal-1 sentenced to death Jamaat leader Delawar Hossain Sayedee.
Witnesses said the activists, armed with sticks, iron rods and sharp weapons, broke in through the main gate and started vandalising and looting the office and adjacent five residential quarters, rest house and the power substation.
Within minutes, some of the attackers doused the aforementioned areas with petrol and set those alight, said Kazem Ali Sarker, a lineman of the office.
Fire fighters from five stations, situated around one kilometre away, were able to arrive around 5:30pm as the attackers barricaded the Chapainawabganj-Sona Masjid Land Port Highway, said Chapainawabganj Fire Station Deputy Assistant Director Ohidul Islam.
Another lineman, Azizul Haque, said during the attack two jeeps, 39 motorcycles, and around 50 bicycles were destroyed.
Jahid Hasan, a messenger of the office, said they were not able to save anything and had shifted the 60 families living in the residential quarters to safety.
Irri-Boro cultivation under Shibganj and a few parts of Gomostapur upazilas have been hampered as the absence of electricity halted irrigation, causing many paddy fields to dry up.
A farmer, Mohammad Rubel Hossain, of Bahalabari village of Shibganj said his paddy field had dried up as he could not pump up water from deep tube wells due to the absence of electricity.
Electricity from the Kansat office helped irrigate 1,200 hectares of land in Shibganj by pumping up water from deep tube wells, said Abul Kalam Azad, deputy director of Chapainawabganj Agriculture Extension Office.
Farmers irrigating another 2,425 hectares of land using 1,489 diesel-run pumps are suffering due to a shortage of diesel, alleged farmers of Shibganj.
Mamunur Rashid, area manager of a telecommunications company in Chapainawabganj, said four out of seven mobile phone towers in Shibganj had run out of backup power supply and were now out of order.
The Kansat office figures say only 10,000 out of 55,000 connections are being provided electricity from Bholahat, Moharajpur and Nayagola substations.