The recent attack on Hindu villages in Bangladesh was sparked not by religious rivalry. It was the result of a bitter and ongoing feud between two prominent Awami League leaders, the Daily Star, the influential newspaper of Bangladesh, has found during its investigation into the mayhem.
On October 30, a large group of Muslim men chanting religious slogans, had attacked six Hindu villages in Brahmanbaria’s Nasirnagar upazila and had vandalized at least 100 houses and 17 temples. All available valuables were looted.
A synchronized and extensive communal campaign was orchestrated for two days before the attack using a Facebook post on the wall of a Hindu fisherman Rasraj Das. The post was then shared among the locals through phones and hard copies to instigate and mobilize people, the Daily Star reported on Friday.
“Three government investigations could not find out the motive behind the attack on the Hindus in Nasirnagar and its masterminds. But interestingly, locals seem to know it all. The Daily Star has spent 10 days in the area, talking to about 100 people from different levels, and they tell one identical story: That the attacks were instigated for political gains and the issue of religious sentiment was only secondary,” the newspaper reported.
The mayhem stemmed from bitter rivalries between two Awami League stalwarts – Sayedul Haque, a five-time lawmaker and minister of fisheries, and Obaidul Muktadir Chowdhury, a former bureaucrat-turned politician.
Though Muktadir rejected the allegation, two Awami League lawmakers told the Daily Star, “Muktadir wanted to malign the minister with the hope of replacing him,” and the best way to throw Sayedul off his political track was to hit him where it hurts the most.
Sayedul, the popular politician and lawmaker from Nasirnagar (Brahmanbaria-1 parliamentary seat), was first elected in 1973 and then from 1996 to 2014. One of the main factors responsible for his repeated electoral success was the support of Hindu voters of about 45,000. The attack on Hindus was meant to upset this solid vote bank.
“It was certainly a planned attack and different vested quarters took part in it for their own interests, capitalising on the anti-Islam post on the Facebook page of Rasraj Das,” Mizanur Rahman, superintendent of Brahmanbaria police, told the Daily Star.
Sujit Kumar Chakrabarty, president of Nasirnagar Press Club and office secretary of the upazila Awami League, said that after the ground for the attack was set, everyone took part in it — local AL, BNP, Jamaat, religious bigots as well as local criminals, who mainly took part in the looting.
“Our main challenge is to find out whether the Facebook post was made deliberately or if the conspirators simply used it once they saw it in Facebook.” said Additional Superintendent of Police Iqbal Hossain.
Separate inquiries by both the Awami League and the police have revealed that the attack was an outcome of the internal feud of the party.
“After the incident, the AL sent a three-member team to Nasirnagar. The team, led by Organising Secretary Enamul Hoque Shamim, reported to the party chief that internal conflict was one of the main reasons. Speaking at a party meeting at the Gono Bhaban on November 9, Sheikh Hasina expressed anger over Muktadir’s role in the incident,” the Daily Star reported. “I won’t keep him in any committee,” Hasina reportedly said in the meeting.
Deputy Inspector General of Police of Chittagong Range Shakhwat Hossain, who is heading the investigation, told journalists that the attack took place following an internal conflict of the local AL over establishing supremacy.
Both Muktadir and Mamun have dismissed the allegations brought against them.