The administration's parallel reality
12:00 AM, December 04, 2016 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:30 PM, December 04, 2016

Brahmanbaria Attacks

The administration's parallel reality

Idon't know what I would be going through if I had been a Hindu resident of Brahmanbaria's Nasirnagar, and now recently of Bochaganj, Dinajpur, where at least 10 Hindu houses have been torched, if my house or that of my Hindu relatives or neighbours had been attacked by a few hundred frenzied men who unleashed their hatred by vandalising, looting and setting everything on fire. I don't know, because lucky for me, I belong to the majority group, a group that has all the power to declare that someone had 'hurt its religious sentiments', and therefore attacking the community he is part of, is completely justified. Perhaps, if they really knew me, I too would belong to some other minority to hate but that's not what we are talking about now.

I don't know but I can imagine the sheer terror when they came and turned lives upside down, leaving neighbourhoods devastated, humiliated, places of worship desecrated. I can imagine the feeling of helplessness in the realisation that the local UNO allowed the initial processions to take place without ensuring adequate security, that the OC did not send enough police to the area and that almost eighty people were arrested after the incidents (that continued despite heavy deployment of security forces), most of whom, locals of the areas say, have nothing to do with the attacks.

But nothing can compare with the utter shock and frustration at the findings of the latest district administration probe report that announces that there was no negligence on the part of either the police or the administration with regard to preventing the attacks from happening. This despite the two police probes earlier by the Police Headquarters and Brahmanbaria district police that concluded that the negligence of duty of the UNO and OC concerned had allowed these attacks to be so 'successful'. At least a hundred homes and several temples came under this vicious attack of bigotry.

The shock turns to utter outrage at the ludicrous findings of this latest probe report of Brahmanbaria's administration. According to it, no one has been identified as the mastermind behind such an organised, synchronised series of attacks. It is as if suddenly a few hundred men, outraged by a Facebook post, decided to swoop on Hindu homes and temples and managed to carry out arson, looting and destruction with the administration and police having absolutely no knowledge of the incidents. The report's most 'profound' conclusion is that the person who posted the fake Facebook post that instigated the attacks, should be identified and that 'religious harmony must be maintained through exchange of views among political and religious leaders'.

Are you serious?! Last week Jahangir Alam was arrested for hacking Rasraj Das's account and posting the fake post. Jahangir, who runs a cyber café in Hoirinbazar (Rasraj's hometown), made copies of the fake post and distributed them. He also beat up Rasraj with his accomplices and handed him over to the police. Rasraj, a fisherman with little or no education, least of all, photoshop skills, was arrested earlier for a crime he did not commit. The arrest of Jahangir Alam has been reported by this paper and others based on information given by the Brahmanbaria police. So why this beating about the bush in the latest administrative probe report when the instigator has already been arrested?

It seems the Brahmanbaria administration has a parallel reality that is completely different from ours and even that of the police probe committees. If we are to take its probe report for real it would mean that hundreds of men who took their time in organising, taking out processions and finally carrying out systematic attacks on these homes and establishment – in broad daylight, by the way – are impossible to be identified. It would mean the allegation of locals and a prominent human rights lawyer, that the UNO was seen with the protesters and made comments that actually precipitated the situation (as reported in this paper), is a figment of their imagination. It would completely invalidate the possibility of political rivalry within the ruling party that led to these attacks, as found by two police probes. It would also imply that no one really knows who those 78 people arrested for their alleged involvement in the attacks, are.

Unfortunately, all that we are left with is a whole lot of information that apparently is of no use to the Brahmanbaria administrative probe. We know who tapped into the minds of bigots and greedy land grabbers. We know that Jasraj, the Hindu fisherman, did not put up the Facebook post and so there is no reason for him to be in custody, rather he should be compensated for the trauma and defamation he has gone through. We know that the UNO and OC and other influentials tacitly allowed these attacks to happen. We know that the danger is not over, as most of those arrested have been declared innocent by locals so the real culprits are on the loose. We know, most frighteningly, that those who did mastermind these horrible assaults that have left Nasirnagar's Hindu community devastated, exposed and helpless, are not afraid of the presence of the police (and other security forces), that they feel a sense of invincibility (because no one has been accused) that will allow them at any time to brew up a storm with a rumour that could create another wave of panic among those targeted.

If I were a member of the Hindu community in Nasirnagar or Bochaganj, these facts, that are in complete contradiction to the Brahmanbaria administration's probe report, would make me shudder in fear and desperately wonder: Who can I turn to for help?


The writer is Deputy Editor, Editorial and Opinion, The Daily Star.

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