Obhoynagar reminds of ’71 horrors
Kalidasi Sarker jumped into the Bhairab River in the afternoon of the polling day with her 15-day-old baby. The 30-year-old mother must hold the baby above water while swimming across the 50m wide river, which too, she knew, she must. About 100 people had to jump into the river that afternoon as they were chased by activists of Jamaat-e-Islami and its student wing Islami Chhatra Shibir, all equipped with firearms, crude bombs, machetes, iron rods and sticks. Their only fault – they are Hindus and many of them had cast votes in the 10th national election. These were the scenario of the Chapatala in Avaynagar at the day of election, 05 January 2014.
The Muslim fundamentalist 18 party alliance lead by BNP boycotted 10th general election held in January 5, 2014. They had also publicly declared to stop holding of election by any means contrarily AL lead alliance was also determined to hold election as per schedule. But unfortunately, the government did not undertake enough precautions to uphold law and order situations though out the country. The country has witnessed an unprecedented lawlessness, BNP imposed indefinite blockade supported by hartal, street firing, blasting petrol bomb in the vehicle, etc., though out the country but scheduled general election was held amid unmatched street violence. Failing to stop election, the BNP led alliance started to attack minority’s houses, their temples were set on fire, houses were gutted side by side looted valuables, men and women were physically tortured throughout the country particularly in Dinajpur, Thakurgaon, Jessore, Laxmipur, Gaibanda, Nilphamari, Shatkhira districts. At one stage the incidence of attacks spread like highly contagious virus; encouraged by the atrocities at one place; troublemakers in other areas have also conducted similar or rigorous massacres in other areas. Most of the occurrences of atrocity were published in the daily newspapers.
Started in the early morning of January 5, the day of election; violent assaults against Hindu fisherman community living in village Chapatala, Union-Prembag, Avoynagar, Jessore, continued up to the night, with short breaks the attackers carryout massacres at least three times during the day; even after repeated request no one neither law enforcing authority nor ruling party members had come forward to stop the atrocities and thereby save minorities. After 4 days of the incidence, a team from SHAREE, a national humanitarian organization visited the spot.
During the visit the team members observed that how maliciously a village can be devastated through manmade disaster. One Mr. Biswajit Sarker a collage going student narrated that at around 10 AM while he was returning from voting center after casting his vote some of his classmates who were happened to be BNP/Jamat supporters started to beat him, they were shouting why he went to voting centre violating their boycotting call. The incident spread across the Malopara with a message if anyone dares to cast their vote the similar action will be taken against them as well. At the same time a group of people from nearby Muslim villages had also warned the Hindus not to go to voting centers for casting their votes. At one stage, groups in favor and against of holding general elections started fighting against each others. Md. Jahid, a palli Chikissak (local doctor), supporter of Mr. Abdul Wahab, an independent candidate of the MP election could manage to stop quarrellings and asked them to settle the issue through Salish. However, although it seemed that both parties have agreed with Md. Jahid but at 4 PM nearly 600/700 people from outside the area gathered near Malopara with local lethal arms like Da, Axe, hockey stick, sticks. The minority dwellers of Malopara were so scared that all members of 104 families have flown away vacating their house and properties unguarded. Most of them crossed the river Bhairab for shelter. Even then the attackers did not stop, they have mercilessly beaten men and women, vandalized every houses, temples. During attacks 6 of the Malopara residents were severely injured and subsequently admitted to hospital of which 2 of them succumbed to death.
Immediately after the massacres, Mr. Ashutus Sarker an elderly member of Malopara informed local Upazial chairman and influential leaders of Awami league (AL) lead alliance over telephone about the incidence but without any result, subsequently local people informed the incidence to the Avaynagar police station. Likewise leaders of government party; police also did not undertake any initiatives to safeguard the Hindu people from the further onslaught of the attackers. At last combined force arrived at 8:30 PM after repeated request to the police super.
Mr. Habibur Rahman Bappi Chairman of Sreedar Union Parishad and Mr. Dipu UP members has come forward to safeguard the Hindus who have taken asylum to the other side of the river Bhairab. Whereas, the chairman of Prembag Union Parishad and relevant UP members have not done anything to safeguard the lives and properties of its dwellers. The newly elected Member of Parliament Mr. Ranjit Roy visited the place on the following day.
Miss Anima Biswas aged 25 years a disabled daughter of Mr. Pagol Chandra Biswas used to earn her family’s living by sewing garments. But the miscreants ruthlessly dismantled her sewing machine in front of her. Her agony and helplessness reminded the days of 1971 sufferings. She does not understand why a group of unknown people without any reasons would mercilessly shattered her only means of livings. During the visit the team members met one Miss Binodini Roy aged 90, who was taking her lunch just outside her broken house. In replying a question what has happened she was weeping like a child, she could not believe what has happened to her home and belongings; she told that “the atrocities of January 5, 2014 reminded me the violence of Pakistani army what I have observed 43 years back during our liberation war”. Almost the similar answer was provided by Mr. Adir Saha; “in 1971 the barbaric acts were done by foreign occupational armed forces but now the same kind of cruel activities were carryout by neighbor, who will try these hooligans? Mr. Prabir Sarker a member of a joint wealthy family, informed that everything in their houses were dismantled by a gang of monsters, even pucca stairs of their house were broken into pieces by using a shovel. A police camp has been temporarily setup in the home of Mr. Krisna Sarker from following day of the incident. RAB and combined forces have increased patrolling in the village but the dwellers are still extremely scared; a group of old people think how they can live in this country if such ruthless activities are repeatedly carryout against them without any cause.
The villagers informed the visiting team that the attackers were mostly linked to the opposition Jamat-e-Islami and its forefront organization Shibir, the local leaders of these organizations are responsible for such heinous acts. The team observed with dismay that most of the residents of the village who were migrated to other places have not return yet. The village dwellers are also extremely disappointed with the ruling party as well as local administration because they did not take any initiatives neither to prevent massacres nor could provide justice to the victims of attacks. No one is known to have been held accountable for these barbaric acts. Such behavior of authorities has to be changed, as continued impunity will only encourage more discrimination and violence.
“We could not believe that people with whom we had just had tea suddenly became so different! They became part of the group of people who tried to kill us, looted our valuables and set the whole village on fire,” said a resident of the village.
More than 100 houses in Malopara were looted, burnt and destroyed on Sunday afternoon. Even homestead trees – coconut and banana – were burnt or chopped down and cowsheds were burnt, too. Idols in the houses were vandalised. Everything else was looted.
The villagers had been living in fear since Jamaat leader Delawar Hossain Sayedee was sentenced to death for war crimes on February 28 last year and guarded the village at night in groups of seven men. But their fear came real on the day of the national election.
Trends of such atrocities may be witnessed during almost every general election; Hindus have been targeted around each general election, as they are perceived as “safe” vote banks for the AL party. During the 2001 elections, crowds of attackers drove hundreds of Hindu families off their land across the country, burned Hindu homes, raped dozen of women. This pattern repeated itself in January last, just after pronouncement of schedule of 10th parliamentary election the major parties started to fight each other, as these parties have violently fought each other in the street, Hindus have been terrorized, their homes and shops sets on fire, their belonging looted, their temple vandalized, women are violated in different parts of the country namely Sherajgong, Shatkira, Dinajpur, Natore, Noakhali, Feni, Laxmipur, Chittagong, Chapai Nababgong, Rajshai, Magura and Joypur Hat. Such acts of terrorization have been continuing. Reportedly, attackers were mostly linked to the opposition Jamat-e-Islami/BNP and some ruling party AL members also participated. The daily newspapers have been regularly publishing reports about migration of Hindu families from Shatkhira trough crossing boarder.
It was clearly evident that Compared to the census report of 1901 and 2011, the numbers of religious minorities, particularly Hindus have significantly reduced in this part of the subcontinent. In 1901 religious minorities constituted nearly one third of the total population (33.9%), which declined to 22.05% in 1951 and further 19.6% in 1961 as rich and upper caste Hindus migrated to India after partition of India in 1947. Since then, it has dropped by more than half. After liberation of the country the rate of Hindus has further declined to 14.6% in 1971, 13.3% in 1981, 11.7% in 2001 and only 9% in the 2011 census.
Interestingly, after every incidence both government and opposition start to play blame game against each other but so far no one has undertaken any concrete actions to stop repetition of such carnages. The minorities became hostage to the political confrontation between governing and opposition party supporters. Authorities have miserably failed to provide neither justice nor protection for the victims of attacks-no one is known to have been held accountable for the mysterious mob violence against minorities in the recent past. Now the brutal atrocities on minority have regularly happened across the country.