9 Years of Ramu mayhem: No closure, no justice
Nine years after the mindless communal attacks on the Buddhist community in Ramu upazila of Cox's Bazar, the victims are yet to get justice as no significant progress has been made in the proceedings of cases.
A number of criminal cases filed with the lower court and two writ petitions with the High Court are still pending because the lawyers concerned have not taken extensive initiatives to get the matters settled.
Two Supreme Court lawyers filed writ petitions as public interest litigations after zealots destroyed 12 pagodas and more than 50 houses in Ramu in September 2012. Following the petitions, two investigations were done in line with HC orders.
Although probe reports identified the attackers and found negligence of local officials in preventing the attack, the HC is yet to make a decision on the matter.
The Covid-19 pandemic caused further delays as regular court functions remained suspended for more than one and half years.
Besides, the HC is yet to hold the final hearing on the writ petitions and deliver a verdict on them due to reconstitution of its bench and apparent lack of willingness of the lawyers concerned in moving the petitions before the court.
Contacted, Attorney General AM Amin Uddin said the petitioners will have to pray to the HC for a quick hearing. Otherwise, disposals of the petitions will take a long time.
Asked whether the attorney general's office will take any steps, he said, "I have nothing to do at this stage. We will place arguments before the High Court when it will hold a hearing on the mater".
On September 29 and 30, 2012, a group of zealots unleashed violence on the Buddhist community in Ramu after spreading rumour that the Facebook page of a local Buddhist youth, Uttam Barua, was bearing a photo demeaning Islam.
An investigation by The Daily Star later revealed the Facebook page with the anti-Islam picture was photoshopped.
The bigots set fire to Buddhist temples, vandalising and looting more than 50 houses in Ramu. They also attacked Mushurikhola crematorium at Khurushkul village in Cox's Bazar Sadar upazila and tried to attack the houses of the Hindus in Kharulia village.
The following day, the zealots attacked and ransacked five Buddhist temples in the bordering Ukhiya upazila and damaged two Hindu temples in Palongkhali union of the upazila. They also torched and vandalised Buddhist houses in Hoaikong union of Teknaf upazila.
On October 2 and 3, 2012, SC lawyers Jyotirmoy Barua and Md Eunus Ali Akond, separately filed the two writ petitions, seeking actions against the perpetrators and the local administrative officials who were negligent in preventing the incidents.
The probe reports were submitted to the HC bench, led by Justice Mirza Hussain Haider, now retired. Before his elevation as a judge of the Appellate Division, the jurisdiction of the bench was reconstituted by the chief justice.
One of the reports submitted to the HC on May 16, 2013 found the failure of the local administration and intelligence and law enforcement agencies in preventing the attacks.
The probe, conducted by a judicial body, identified 298 people as responsible for the attacks. It also made 20 recommendations that include helping improve the competence and standards of the administration, restricting posts on social media, and awakening a sense of patriotism in people, HC sources said.
Another probe led by the police found failures of the then superintendent of police of Cox's Bazar and officer-in-charge of Ramu Police Station. While the probe committee recommended action against the then OC AK Nazibul Islam, it did not suggest any action against the then SP Selim Md Jahangir.
The final probe report, by the home ministry, mentioned that 205 people were involved in the mayhem, which was planned at least 10 days ahead.
The police have reportedly submitted seven charge sheets against 385 people to the lower court concerned in Cox's Bazar in connection with the cases filed with Ramu Police Station.
However, the people accused in the charge sheets do not include any officials in the police, local administration, and intelligence agencies.
Only some leaders and activists of Jamaat-e-Islami and BNP, including Tofail Ahmed, chairman of Naikhyangchhari upazila of Bandarban, have been named in the charge sheets.
The petitioners have also been showing apathy in moving for a hearing, causing delays for the HC to give a final decision.
"I could not take any move for a hearing of the writ petition due to overburdening of the relevant High Court benches with other cases. Besides, the court remained closed at different times due to vacations and the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. I will pray to a High Court bench after it starts full regular functions when the pandemic is over," Jyotirmoy Barua told The Daily Star on September 26.
He also said all of the accused in the Ramu violence cases are now out on bail, and there is no significant progress at the lower court concerned in Cox's Bazar.
Lawyer Eunus Ali Akond, the other writ petitioner, told this correspondent on September 26 that the HC bench headed by Justice Mirza Hussain Haider had not held a hearing of his writ petition, as the matter did not get a spot in the queue for hearing.
Without elaborating, he said he would not pray to any bench for hearing his petition, as the judges don't accept his petition for its final hearing due to an overburdened caseload.