"> A medicine store vandalised and looted by pro-hartal activists at remote Shafinagar village in northern district of Lalmonirhat on Sunday night. Only the shops owned by Hindus were targeted. Photo: Courtesy"> A medicine store vandalised and looted by pro-hartal activists at remote Shafinagar village in northern district of Lalmonirhat on Sunday night. Only the shops owned by Hindus were targeted. Photo: Courtesy
Although many hartals were enforced countrywide in the past, people of Shafinagar in Lalmonirhat had little to worry about as the village is situated in a remote area, nearly 85 kilometres from the district headquarters.
So, they became numb in shock as alleged Jamaat-Shibir-BNP men vandalised local shops of Hindus on Sunday night.
Eyewitnesses told The Daily Star yesterday that equipped with various weapons, a group of 20-25, some masked, also torched the shops and took away groceries and other items worth around Tk 30 lakh.
In the nearly four-hour rampage from around 8:00pm on Sunday, the vandals did not touch any of the 32 other shops owned by Muslims.
“The Jamaat-Shibir and BNP men came chanting pro-hartal slogan. We shut our shops… They razed our shops despite our repeated requests,” he said, even a salon was not spared.
The gang moved towards a neighbourhood of some 50 Hindu families around 1:15am, according to eyewitnesses. But they could not launch an attack as the Muslim neighbours stood by the Hindus and put up resistance.
Talking to The Daily Star yesterday, many Hindu people said they were still feeling insecure amid threats from the Jamaat-Shibir and BNP men.
“We are being warned with death threats not to disclose names of the miscreants to the police or the press,” one of the Hindu people said, adding that Jamaat-Shibir men have been prowling on the edge of Shafinagar village, in Bawra union under Patgram upazila, since Sunday night.
“We never knew in our life what was hartal as it did not have any effect in our life. But this time, hartal has ravaged our means of income,” said another villager.
Sanjoy Dutta, general secretary of Bawra union Awami League, said it was pro-hartal BNP-Jamaat men who attacked and looted these shops.
Bawra Union Parishad Chairman Habibur Rahman, also local Jatiya Party leader, said he informed the incident to police on Sunday night but they didn't come till yesterday afternoon.
Patgram Police Station Officer-in-Charge Sohrab Hossain yesterday said he heard about the incident but failed to take action due to manpower shortage. “However, I will send police to save Hindus from Jamaat-Shibir men.”
Lalmonirhat Superintendent of Police Habibur Rahman said he had ordered the OC to take stern action against the perpetrators of the crime. “I have reminded him [OC] that inadequate police force is no excuse for not taking immediate action against miscreants.”
A local leader of Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council said he had informed the matter to their central leaders.
Contacted, Council's General Secretary Rana Das Gupta said the attack was part of the BNP-Jamaat's plan to drive out minorities from this country.
Bawra union BNP President Shamsul Alam denied the allegation that his party activists took part in the vandalism and looting. But he didn't make any comment on alleged involvement of Jamaat-Shibir activists.