Bangladesh police have identified a man, Iqbal Hossain (35), who deliberately kept a Quran at the Durga Puja mandap in Cumilla that triggered a anti-Hindu pogrom in various parts of the country for one week, leaving several people dead, raped, injured and hundreds of Hindu temples, homes and shops vandalized.
Hossain, son of Nur Ahmed Alam, is from Suzanagar area of Cumilla city. Cumilla superintendent of police (SP) Faruk Ahmed said he was identified by examining CCTV footage.
Ahmed told Bangladeshi news outlet Prothom Alo on Wednesday evening that a manhunt is underway to arrest Iqbal Hosssain.
The Quran was seen at a makeshift puja mandap set up on the north bank of Nanua Dighirpar on the occasion of Durga Puja ashtami (eight day of the 10-day festival) on 13 October. After that, a group of people attacked the mandap and vandalised it indiscriminately on allegation of ‘desecration of Quran’.
From Cumilla, the anti-Hindu violence spread like wildfire to Hajiganj in Chandpur, Naokhali, Rangpur and several other districts. Hindu temples, puja mandaps, homes and businesses were torched, vandalised and looted all over the country. At least 10 Hindus were killed, including 2 ISKCON monks and 7 priests in total, and 23 women have been raped as per some reports.
A 10-year-old girl, her aunt and grandmother were all gang-raped in Hajiganj – the child died due to her injuries as per human rights activists and at least one media outlet, although police have dismissed the entire incident as a ‘rumor’.
According to Prothom Alo, several teams of police from Dhaka and Cumilla conducted investigation for the past week following the Culmilla incident. CCTV footages were analysed and identification of Iqbal Hossain was confirmed after a thorough investigation.
Police said Iqbal Hossain is a ‘vagabond’ but whether he is involved with any political party has not been ascertained as yet.
But the anti-Hindu violence hasn’t completely stopped even now. Hindus have been attacked in Ghoshaildanga, Chittagong, known for its grand Durga Puja. Stones were pelted and an unfinished pandal for the upcoming Kali Puja was destroyed. A Hindu house was burnt down in Raozan upazila of Chittagong district yesterday. Distressing videos of fanatics destroying temples and breaking murtis are pouring in.
Fabricated blasphemy allegations are a favorite tool used to unleash pre-planned violence against Hindus and other minorities by fundamentalist Islamic organizations in Bangladesh, as we have covered previously. Provocative announcements from mosques and sermons delivered during Friday prayers played the usual part they always do in such pogroms.
Police complicity and Islamist ring-leaders still not arrested
Cumilla Police has only confirmed what was widely reported right from the outset by Bangladesh minority rights watchers. A local resident near the Cumilla Durga Puja pandal where the Quran was deliberately placed had written a Facebook post that he noticed how there were miscreants placing the Quran near the Sri Hanuman murti.
Shockingly, he wrote that the police noticed but did nothing. The Hindu pandit was requesting them to stop & remove the Quran but it was too late. The administration came to stop the Hindus from continuing with Puja but they resisted and refused to stop. Then, emboldened by the administration’s attitude, the miscreants started breaking the Puja mandapa. Videos & images started popping up. Elaborate posters started appearing immediately after as part of a premeditated & well planned pogrom.
Bangladesh has faced unprecedented international outrage over this recent pogrom, unlike in the past. Although it is true that police have clashed with Islamist protestors at some places and shot some of them dead, it is also true that police response was apathetic at many places. The arrest of one Iqbal Hossain is not enough – a serious investigation must be done to prosecute the ring-leaders who planned all of this, the clerics who instigated Muslims from mosques and the politicians-police officials who gave their tacit support.
Meaningful efforts must also be made by the Sheikh Hasina government to de-radicalize Bangladeshi society. As the insightful handle @storiesofBH informs us
“Watch out when the media will try to pinpoint the entire October 2021 Bangladesh anti-Hindu riots on Iqbal Hossain, and focus on his drug addiction. It was thousands of college students, neighbours, members of administration & media who attacked Hindus & whitewashed these crimes.
It was thousands of normal people who used the opportunity of violence and chaos in entire country to attack Hindus, by fabricating more excuses. Do NOT tell us that these people were uneducated and not real Muslims. All of them attacked after Maghrib salat or Jumma Namaz
It was thousands and thousands of educated Muslims commenting on Facebook that attacking Hindus was justified because of the assumption that Hindu had defamed their holy book. It was educated and even diaspora Muslims who were calling the attacks fake news.”