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Mobs torch two more monasteries in Cox's Bazar

Rohingyas engaged in anti-state activities: MK Alamgir

Abdullah Juberee and AKM Atikuzzaman

A member of the Border Guard Bangladesh guards a Buddha sculpture after an attack by Muslims in Cox's Bazar on Monday. 
— Reuters photoA member of the Border Guard Bangladesh guards a Buddha sculpture after an attack by Muslims in Cox's Bazar on Monday. — Reuters photo

In a fresh spate of sectarian violence, two more Buddhist monasteries were burnt down in Ukhiya of Cox’s Bazar on early Monday.
The district administration in a restrictive measure imposed section 144 of criminal procedure banning any kind of gathering in Ukhiya and Teknaf. With this, the ban on gatherings has been imposed on three upazilas of the district.
Muslim mobs torched Dipankar Buddha Bihar at Marichya of Ukhiya and damaged Pangyamitra Buddha Bihar at Khairatipara
raising the number of damaged places of worship to six in a single upazila.
In Patiya of Chittagong, more than 500 workers of Western Marine set on fire two Buddhist temples, Kalagaon Ratnankur Bouddha Bihar and Lakhera Abhoy Bouddha Bihar, and a Hindu temple, Kalagaon Nabarun Sangha Durgabari after midnight past Sunday.
The total number of damaged temples in Cox’s Bazar and Chittagong now stands at 22.
Home minister Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir on Monday said law enforcement agencies have been asked to remain alert so that Rohingyas living in UNCHR refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar could not go out of their designated areas.
‘We have intelligence reports about Rohingyas’ anti-state activities,’ he said.
The law enforcers have already been instructed not to allow Rohingyas to come out of the refugee camp areas without permission,’
Muhiuddin told reporters after inaugurating a training for the members of Special Security and Protection Battalion in the capital.
The minister said the culprits who wanted to sow the seeds of communal hatred in the guise of religion would be brought to book under the existing laws of the land.
Muhiuddin said 166 people were arrested in Cox’s Bazar and Chittagong over the rioting. Of them, 93 were arrested in Cox’s Bazar, while 73 in Chittagong till Monday morning.
Additional divisional commissioner Nurul Islam, who heads an inquiry committee, told New Age that the committee had sat on Monday reviewing the reports from the Upazila Nirbahi Officers of the troubled upazilas as well as daily newspaper reports over the violent incidents.
The inquiry committee constituted on Sunday will visit Ramu today to make an on-the-spot investigation. It hopes to submit a report in 10 days.
Meanwhile, the ruling Awami League organised a rally in protest against the communal violence. The party’s joint general secretary Mahbubul Alam Hanif pointed the finger at the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party for the flare-up and said the BNP was hatching conspiracies to disturb communal harmony.
The BNP lawmaker for the constituency, Lutfar Rahman Kajal, at a news conference denied the allegation saying levelling the allegation against him before an inquiry was a conspiracy to hide the ‘real culprits’. ‘All the processions on that [Saturday] night [when the trouble began] were led by Awami League people,’ he claimed.
The victims of Saturday’s sectarian violence in Ramu were utterly frustrated at the administration’s handling of the violence and arson.
Buddhist religious leaders, local people and witnesses to the violence said they had asked the Ramu police chief and other senior officials to take preventive measures since tension was building up from Saturday evening, but they paid no heed.
The victims termed ‘mysterious’ the silence and inaction of the officials.
 ‘Had they acted promptly with sincerity, the situation would in no way have reached this dire stage. The losses are irreparable for us and nobody on earth is able to compensate it,’ said Pragyananda Bhikkhu, assistant director of Central Sima Monastery in Ramu.
He said he had tried to reach the police chief by phone several times but he did not pick up the phone. ‘After midnight, he finally picked it up and asked me where the monastery was located. I was totally stunned by the question. This man met me in this monastery several times. He simply wanted to avoid responsibility,’ he said.
Similar allegations were made by people of the localities dominated by Bengali Buddhists, locally known as Baruas.
‘A few police men came to our neighbourhood at around 1:00am and did not bother to even blow the whistle to disperse the rioting mob. At one point the policemen retreated towards the bank of Bakkhali leaving us at the mercy of the mob,’ said Pijush Barua.
Almost all members of the Buddhist community in Ramu approached by New Age vented their frustration at the attitude of the major political parties who they said were trading blame and doing politics using them as pawn.
When Awami League and Bangladesh Nationalist Party are accusing each other of instigating the violence, locals said both the parties as well as Jamaat-e-Islami had involvement in Saturday’s incidents.
‘The ministers are blaming the opposition while the opposition chief was blaming the ruling party. Who were not there in leading the mob? All were there. They were staging a farcical rally at Chowmohani and instructing people from outside to go for arson,’ said Pragyananda.
He also alleged that a few local newsmen had also fuelled the violence by spreading rumours. ‘One of them whose wife lost the last union council polls was also seen leading the mob,’ he said adding that he might have avenged his wife’s defeat as Buddhists dominated the constituency.
The Baruas said though the administration was claiming that situation had improved a lot, they were passing moments fearing further attacks. ‘Mobs are being inspired by false propaganda and rumours. We need to guard our localities. Male adults of the community stayed in forest overnight Sunday fearing further attacks. People still gather out on the streets although there is a ban on gatherings,’ said Pulak Barua.
Shamim Ahsan, a leftist activist in Ramu, sustained injuries when he tried to resist the mob. He said that the entire administration along with criminals were responsible for the violence.
‘I appealed to all the officers to go for some action to stop the mob but they did nothing,’ he said.
Villagers in Lot Ukhiyaghona, two kilometres from the upazila headquarters, said they were still in panic as their Muslim neighbours had attacked the lone monastery in the area and looted valuables, including a gold statuette of the Buddha.
Meanwhile, the authorities of the ship building company, Western Marine, in Chittagong announced a day’s leave for Tuesday after an attack on three temples by the workers of the factory at Kalagaon in Patiya upazila.
Shakhawat Hossain, managing director of the company, said they had announced a day of leave in fear of further trouble after the arrest of 26 workers by the law enforcers.
‘We hope to resume activities tomorrow (Wednesday),’ he said, adding that they would review the situation at a meeting of the board of management at night.
Three cases were filed against more than 2,000 people in connection with the attack on the temples and monasteries.
Aminur Rashid, officer-in-charge of the Patiya police station, said that Srimat Dipananda Bhikkhu of Kolagaon Ratnankur Bouddha Bihar had filed a case on Sunday night, accusing 37 identified and four to five hundred unidentified people.
He said sub-inspector Zakir Hossain had filed two more cases accusing 39 identified and 1,500 to 2,000 unidentified people, adding that Western Marine’s 26 arrested workers had been accused in all the three cases.
The OC said that more than two thousand workers of the factory had clashed with the law enforcers at night after the arrest of 26 fellow workers, and they had to fire 200 bullets and tear gas to bring the situation under control.
The workers launched the attacks after hearing mendacious rumours of the posting of a photograph of the desecration of the Qur’an by a Buddhist youth on the Facebook.

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Mobs torch two more monasteries in Cox's Bazar

A member of the Border Guard Bangladesh guards a Buddha sculpture after an attack by Muslims in Cox's Bazar on Monday. 
— Reuters photo
In a fresh spate of sectarian violence, two more Buddhist monasteries were burnt down in Ukhiya of Cox’s Bazar on early Monday. The district administration in a restrictive measure imposed section 144 of criminal procedure banning any kind of gathering in Ukhiya and Teknaf. Full story

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