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Iqbal Hossain who sparked anti-Hindu pogrom arrested; was seen on CCTV talking with 2 mosque attendants

Bangladesh Police has arrested Iqbal Hossain, the man who they said put a Quran inside Nanua Dighir Par Durga Puja mandap in Cumilla city in the early hours of October 13.

A team of Cox’s Bazar police arrested Hossain (35), a resident of Sujanagar area under Cumilla City Corporation, around 11:00pm yesterday, as per The Daily Star.

Iqbal Hossain collected the Quran from a mosque situated closed to the mandap and placed it at the foot of a Sri Hanuman statue late at night on October 12-13. He met with two attendants of the same mosque earlier that night, which indicates a larger conspiracy to use the fabricated ‘blasphemy’ incident to trigger the anti-Hindu pogrom.

Daroga Bari Majar, Cumilla, Bangladesh

As per CCTV footage the entire sequence of events is as follows:

Iqbal Hossain met with two caretakers of the mosque attached to Daroga Bari mazar (a Muslim Sufi shrine) — around 500 yards off the mandap – at 11 PM on October 12. The two caretakers – Hafez Humayun and Faisal – have been identified by the shrine’s chief custodian Ahmedunnabi Mashuk.

Comilla Iqbal
Screengrab of one of the custodians of the Dargabari Mazar placing the Quran in the mosque (Credit: Dhaka Tribune)

After this meeting, Hafez Humayun kept the Quran in a closet while Iqbal was seen leaving the mosque.

At 2:10 AM, Hossain wearing a T-shirt enters the mosque. He first took a copy of the Quran kept on the donation box of the mosque, then he sat down and left keeping the Quran on the floor. Minutes later, he returned, picked the Quran and left again at 2:12 AM.

Screengrab from security camera footage shows a man leaving with a book from a local mosque in the early hours of October 13, 2020 (Credit: Dhaka Tribune)

At least 10 pieces of CCTV footage showed him roaming on the main road of the area pressing the Quran against his chest between 2:10 AM and 3:10 AM. He then placed the Quran on the lap of the Sri Hanuman murti at the temporary Durga Puja venue in Nanuardighi.

CCTV collected from the eastern side of the mandap showed him loitering in the same area, holding a mace (Sri Hanuman’s gada), at 3:12am. He then walked into a narrow alley.

Screengrab from security camera footage shows a man, whom the police identified as Iqbal Hossain, walking away with a mace (Sri Hanuman’s gada) from the Nanuardighi Durga Puja venue in Comilla on Wednesday, October 13, 2021 (Credit: Dhaka Tribune)

Later that morning, on October 13, Iqbal Hossain was seen talking to a group of people in an agitated manner near the mandap.

On October 13, local resident Iqram (Ekram) Hossain called 999 to report that a ‘Quran had been placed at the Puja venue’. A policeman reached the scene within a few minutes of receiving the call. Meanwhile, another local, Foyez Ahmed, streamed the whole thing live on Facebook.

The video then went viral on several groups, triggering protests. Foyez has since been arrested by the police and is being interrogated in custody. Iqram was also seen on CCTV footage roaming in the area that night and is now behind bars.

Several temples and puja venues in the city came under attack in the afternoon as tension mounted after the video went viral. Many shared the video calling for attacks on Hindu sites on allegations of sacrilege.

Islamic speaker Abdur Rahim Biplobi (39) has also been arrested yesterday in Dhaka on charge of spreading hate speech following the Cumilla incident.

Iqbal Hossain’s family claims he is is a drug addict who spent most of his time at various local shrines. His mother Amena Begum said he became a drug addict when he was 15. Iqbal’s younger brother Rayhan said Iqbal might have done it at someone else’s incitement, and if he is indeed guilty, he should be brought to justice.

Local councillor Syed Sohel who knew Iqbal said someone might have taken advantage of his condition to make him commit this act. Bangladesh Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan also said Iqbal Hossain might have been prompted by someone to do what he did.

After the Cumilla incident, Hindu mandaps and homes came under communal attack in at least 14 districts, reports The Daily Star, although some activists have claimed as many as 33 out of total 64 districts in Bangladesh have witnessed anti-Hindu violence.

Even yesterday, three haystacks belonging to Hindu families were set ablaze at Bhimsi village of Sreemangal upazila in Moulvibazar

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