Local MP Mashrafe Bin Mortaza believes the attack was part of a conspiracy against him. He called for the “conspirators” to fight him “face-to-face, not behind his back”.
A group of Muslims began demonstrating in the neighbourhood after Jum’a prayers on Friday against a Facebook post in which a college student, Akash Saha, allegedly insulted Islam.
The protests turned violent in the evening. The attackers torched the house of businessman Gobinda Saha and vandalised those of Tarun Saha, Dilip Saha, Paran Saha and several others, and the shop of Akash’s father Ashok Saha.
The assailants also targeted Digholia Akhrabari Sarbojonin Durgapur Temple and two family temples.
On Sunday, the villagers were still cleaning up the mess with police patrolling the area.
“If someone had done something wrong, they should’ve been punished. Why burn our homes?” asked Gobinda.
He said he saw people marching in the area during the protests, but he never thought they would carry out an arson attack.
“The government is helping us to repair our homes, but I still shiver whenever I think of that night.”
“We, the Hindus and the Muslims of this area, have been living together through many ups and downs for a long time. Nothing like this had happened before,” said Palash Saha.
Md Reazul Islam, an additional superintendent of police, said the attackers were outsiders.
He described a particular Waz Mahfil, a religious gathering, as the first attack. Radical Islamist group Hifazat-e Islam’s leader Maulana Mamunul Haque was invited to the Waz although the home ministry banned him from such programmes after violent protests on several occassions, said Mashrafe.
The organisers had not asked for permission from police and the administration, but they wanted Mashrafe to get them the green light when Mamunul arrived, putting him in a tight spot, Mashrafe wrote in the Facebook post.
He faced a dilemma at that time: if he asked the authorities for the permission, people would say he went against the government’s decision; if he declined the organisers’ demand, they would say he was against Waz Mahfil.
“Now they have played it from the opposite angle. They put the Hindus and me in danger by attacking them.”
“I request you [the conspirators] to fight me face-to-face. I will welcome you.”
“But please don’t harm ordinary and helpless people to make me suffer. Let people be at peace.”