Too scared to be elated
Witness Ashish Chowdhury's home is under lock and key. Many residents of Jagotmollopara in Raozan of Chittagong have left their homes fearing violence and backlash after the verdict delivery in Salauddin Quader Chowdhury's case yesterday. Salauddin was found guilty of killing at least 32 people of the neighbourhood which is also his home village. Photo: Anurup Kanti Das
They lost their loved ones for him and so seeing the perpetrator being punished should have relieved their grief.
Instead, they were frightened.
Salauddin Quader Chowdhury led the Pakistani occupation forces in 1971 in the mass killing of people in two villages -- Jagatmallapara and Unasatturpara in Raozan.
The man was sentenced to death yesterday. As the news spread, an eerie calm descended on these villages with the residents confining themselves to their houses in panic. There was no sign of celebration in the Hindu-dominant villages.
The Daily Star approached at least 20 families in Jagatmallapara village but most of them were unwilling to speak on the verdict -- in fear. Those who agreed to talk about the verdict asked not to be named.
"We are scared," said one of the villagers.
Hindu voters could never exercise their franchise during the Pakistan era, due to Fazlul Quader Chowdhury. His son Salauddin continued his legacy and unleashed a reign of terror in the post-liberation era to deter the Hindus from voting, he said.
"We don't know what will happen in the future and who will come to power," the villager said.
But there were celebrations in other areas of Roazan and Rangunia, known as Salauddin's strongholds.
Ordinary people, freedom fighters and activists of the ruling Awami League and its associate organisations, celebrated the judgement of the war tribunal by distributing sweets. They also marched in procession at wards of the two upazilas, hailing the verdict.
"The verdict freed Raozan from taint,” said Kiron Lal Acharya, a veteran freedom fighter.
“Salauddin, his father and the whole family through their dirty communal politics spread communalism in the area. They are against the spirit of our Liberation War," said Kiran, adding that the verdict was long cherished.
Followers of Salauddin chased activists of Chhatra League, a student body associated with the Awami League, around 1:30pm when a procession passed by them in Parua union of Rangunia.
On the Chittagong-Kaptai road, the henchmen of the BNP leader set fire to four motorcycles of BCL men, said Chandan Chakrabarty, officer-in-charge of Rangunia Police Station. A few other incidents of vandalism and arson took place in Raozan and Rangunia.
At least 10 vehicles were torched and five others vandalised in Chittagong and the capital in protest at the verdict.
A car was vandalised and two autorickshaws were torched at Pomra Bazar in Rangunia around 2:00pm, said Sub-inspector Munir of the police station.
Another group set fire to a pick-up van at Ziabazar of Raozan, the birthplace of Salauddin, said SI Tuton Mazumder, in-charge of the Noapara police camp in Raozan.
Meanwhile, police, Rapid Action Battalion and Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) were deployed at different points of Raozan and Rangunia to avert any untoward incident.
In the guise of passengers, several young men set a mini-bus ablaze at the New Market intersection in Chittagong city around 2:10pm, said Mohiuddin Selim, officer-in-charge of Kotwali Police Station.
Attackers torched a city bus parked beside the Station Road around 2:00pm, police said. Eight cocktails were also blasted.
Col Salauddin, commanding officer of BGB Chittagong sector, told The Daily Star that six platoons of BGB had been deployed in Sitakunda upazila and three platoons in Rangunia.
BGB troops were also deployed in Fatikchhari upazila, he added.
A total of 1,495 police personnel were patrolling Fatikchhari, Sitakunda, Rangunia, Hathazari and Rauzan upazilas with 350 more put on stand-by to avoid any untoward incident, said Rabiul Islam, assistant superintendent of police.