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Monday, October 01, 2012

Buddhist temples, houses torched in Cox's Bazar

New Age, Dhaka,
1 Oct 2012, Main news

Buddhist temples, houses torched in Cox's Bazar

Abdullah Juberee and Nurul Islam

Buddhist monasteries, Hindu temples and households in 10 villages in Ramu of Cox’s Bazar were torched by angry Muslims since midnight on Saturday, and authorities clamped a ban on gatherings for an indefinite period to restore order.
The police had to open fire on a mob at Hwaikong of Teknaf on Sunday evening as the unruly people were advancing towards Buddhist temples after hearing of a reported Facebook post desecrating the Qur’an.
Twelve persons including two policemen were injured in the violence in Ukhiya and five persons were shot.
The authorities struggled to contain the violence that continued overnight and clamped Section 144 in Ramu since Sunday morning.
People in Ramu alleged that the law enforcers failed to contain the attackers and the fire service too did not respond immediately.
The deputy commissioner of Cox’s Bazar, Jainul Bari, told New Age in the evening, ‘We’ve called in army who have joined the paramilitary troopers of Border Guard Bangladesh and police to intensify patrol in the troubled areas’.
Earlier, at least 14 Buddhist monasteries and one Hindu temple were burnt to ashes in Ramu, Patiya and Ukhiya. At least 10 Buddhist villages including Srikool, Merongloua, Cerenghata,
Ukhiyear Ghona, North Fatekharkhool, Jadipara and Askarkata under Johariana union were attacked and Purbo Merongloa, that had around 30 houses, was burned, and more than a hundred structures were damaged, reports the correspondent in Cox’s Bazar.
The additional deputy commissioner, Jashim Uddin, said, ‘The administration restricts gatherings of more than four persons for an indefinite period till normalcy returns. Cox’s Bazar’s superintendent of police, Selim Mohammed Jahangir, said the situation was brought under control by 3:00am though tension was mounting.
Onlookers and police said that mobs were mobilised near Ramu Chowmuhuni at around 10:00pm and a procession was brought out, chanting slogans against defamation of the Qur’an. They claimed that a photograph portraying a white lady stamping on the Qur’an was tagged on the profile of a youth, Uttam Kumar Barua of Cheranghata of Ramu, on the Facebook and they demanded his arrest
At around 11:30pm, the mob was strengthened and it marched towards Barua Para at around 11:30pm and began attacking the houses of Baruas and set fire to the temples.
At around 12:30am, a mob torched a 250-year-old Buddhist temple on Cheranghata road and then set ablaze the Borokang Bouddha Bihar and Kendriya Shima Bihar.
Buddhists started to flee their homes as the fire services failed to reach the spot amidst increasing violence.
Seven temples, including Saada Ching, Laal Ching, Sima Bihar, Maitree Bihar, Meronglowa Sima Bihar and Cherenghata Buddhist Temple were burnt to ashes as the attacks continued till around 4:00am.
Another mob also attacked Buddhist temple Maricha in Ukhiya thana in the morning but police and members of the BGB thwarted them. In the afternoon, another Buddhist temple was also attacked at Rajapalang in Ukhia.
Ramu is a Buddhist heritage town with more than 50 Buddhist temples including a century-old one featuring valuable statues of Siddharta Gautama, the Buddha.
A local journalist, who was hiding with his family in the neighbourhood that came under attack, told New Age that the attackers damaged and looted valuables from the temples.
Babita Barua, lecturer of Ramu College, Samata Barua, teacher of Kawarkhoop Hakim-Rakima High School, footballers Nikas Barua and Fakir Barua said the attackers had torched their houses and they could not save anything.
A number of Facebook users in Ramu told New Age that Uttam Barua did not post the photo deemed to be offensive to Islam. Rather he was tagged with the photo posted by a hate-campaign group called ‘Insult Allah’.
Uttam has been absconding since the violence spread and the local administration took his mother and sister into safe custody.
Local lawmaker Lutfor Rahman Kajal, Ramu’s upazila chairman Sohel Sarwar Kajal and other local bigwigs were seen attempting to control the rioters, said our correspondent in Cox’s Bazar.
The Minister for Home Affairs, Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir, visited the riot-ravaged Buddhist neighbourhoods in Ramu on Sunday noon and was of the opinion that the ‘heinous’ attack on minorities was ‘premeditated and deliberate’.
The minister said that traces of gunpowder and petrol were found in the burnt down monasteries, temples and houses. He assured the people that the thugs who incited the violence at instigation
of a fundamentalist axis would be traced and brought to book within 15 days, and the monasteries and temples would be rebuilt and the victims paid compensation.
Minister for Industries Dilip Barua, lawmaker Abdur Rahman Bodi, Border Guard Bangladesh’s director general Major General Anwar Hussain, police inspector general Hassan Mahmood Khandkar and Rapid Action Battalion’s director general Mukhlesur Rahman accompanied the home minister.
A five-member probe body, headed by additional commissioner of Chittagong division Nurul Islam, has been formed and been asked to submit its report in 10 working days. Other members of the committee are Chittagong’s police superintendent, Cox’s Bazar’s additional district magistrate and additional police superintendent.
Our correspondent in Chittagong reported that mobs in Patiya upazila set on fire two Buddhist temples and a Hindu temple in Kolagaon after hearing rumours of the desecration of the Qur’an.
The police and local sources said that more than 500 workers of ship-building company Western Marine launched the attack on the Kolagaon Ratnankur Bouddha Bihar, Lakhera Abhoy Bouddha Bihar and Kolagaon Nabarun Sangha Durgabari at about 12:15pm.
Aminur Rashid, Patiya’s police chief, said the workers of Western Marine
came out from the
factory after breaking open the collapsible gate and started vandalising the nearby temples. He said they damaged 16 idols in the Ratnankur Bihar, from where they also took away a small golden idol and donation box.

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