Date: 06/01/2014

Daily Star, Dhaka, January 6, 2014

Terror on Hindus

BNP-Jamaat men vandalise 130 houses, burn another 10 in Abhaynagar

Star Report

Terror on Hindus

A man being taken to a hospital after Jamaat activists beat him up for going to a polling station to vote in Satkania of Chittagong yesterday. Photo: Anurup Kanti Das

A couple of hours after yesterday's voting ended, BNP-Jamaat men unleashed terror on a Hindu village in Abhaynagar upazila of Jessore.

They vandalised 130 houses of the minority community and torched 10 more in Malopara village because the villagers had cast their votes.

About 600 Hindus of the village swam across the Bhairab River and took shelter in Diyapara village under Sridhar union to save their lives.

Villagers and police said wielding sharp weapons and sticks some 250 Jamaat-Shibir and BNP men led by Ariful Aksu and Kashem Ali had attacked the village around 6:00pm. During the 30-minute havoc, the attackers also looted valuables from the Hindu houses.

Officer-in-Charge Emdad Hossain of Abhaynagar Police Station said the attack was made after 70 to 80 men had beat up two Hindu men, Biswanath and Shyamol, for casting vote.

To save the two and disperse the attackers, members of the joint force fired six blank shots. While leaving the scene Jamaat-Shibir men threatened the Hindus of dire consequence for casting votes defying their directives.

About an hour after the attack had been launched on Malopara, a contingent of the joint force led by Maj Anisur Rahman of Border Guard Bangladesh reached the scene.

"We were on election duty. In spite of that we rushed here to protect the villagers," Maj Rahman told The Daily Star last night.

According to Maj Anis of the joint force, several houses were ransacked and only one house was torched in the attack.

"Most of the villagers returned home," he said, adding that a temporary police camp had been set up in Malopara on villagers' request.

The villagers last night filed a case naming 100 Jamaat-Shibir and BNP men in connection with the attack.

The joint force has launched drives in the area to arrest the culprits.

Meanwhile, a handful of Hindus cast their votes in Lalmonirhat and Satkhira yesterday as the majority of the community there either feared attacks by Jamaat-Shibir or were unhappy with the ruling party for not protecting them.

The two constituencies of Lalmonirhat, where the voting took place, spread over the sadar, Hatibandha and Patgram upazilas. Minorities in these areas have recently come under attack by activists of Jamaat-e Islami, a major component of the BNP-led opposition, and its student body Islami Chhatra Shibir.

At Ghoshpara village in Patgram, only 10-12 out of 280 voters exercised their franchise in the 10th national polls.

"The remaining voters did not turn up as they were under threat from Jamaat-Shibir men of the village," said Rajani Kanto Ghosh, a voter aged 48.

He added he had stayed at home all day in fear of attacks.

Besides, Rajani said, he had no interest in the election because the ruling Awami League had not extended its support to the Hindus even after the November 28 and December 15 attacks.

Alleged Jamaat-Shibir activists beat up women and children and looted and torched shops and houses in Ghoshpara village on November 28 during an opposition-enforced countrywide blockade. At least 55 Hindu families fled the area on December 15 following threats and attacks.

Sindurmoti village in Lalmonirhat has 4,000 voters, 90 percent of whom are Hindus. But not a single vote was cast at Sindurmoti Government Primary School polling centre, reported our correspondent.

At Bawra village of Patgram upazila, some 25 Hindus cast their votes whereas the total number of minority voters is 300.

Local community leader Niharanjan Das, 56, told The Daily Star that they had not gone out to vote fearing attacks by opposition men, especially those of Jamaat-Shibir.

Gopal Chandra Barman, general secretary of Lalmonirhat Puja Udjapan Parishad, claimed that only 4 to 5 percent of the Hindu voters had exercised their franchise.

Similar cases were reported from Satkhira.

Not a single voter was seen at 4:00pm at Godaghata Government Primary School in Satkhira's Shibpur union, reported our correspondent.

The presiding officer of the polling station said opposition men had blasted cocktails there at dawn. The centre had been partially burnt the day before.

A farmer passing by, Aftab Hossain said,"They [Jamaat-Shibir] threatened us with dire consequences if we vote. Why get into all the hassle?"

Presiding officer Azizur Rahman of Agordari Kamil Madrassa in Godaghata said not a single vote had been cast though he had a list of 1,876 voters.

"How will voters of these areas cast their votes? The Hindus fled because they had been targeted by Jamaat-Shibir men. And those who belong to Jamaat-Shibir are on the run from the joint forces," said Lavlu Rahman of the area.

Meanwhile, two houses of Hindu families in Bagha upazila of Rajshahi were burnt down Saturday night.

An attack on a larger scale was made in Dinajpur on the minority community around 6:00pm yesterday, in which 30 shops, 65 houses, and paddies were torched.

Daily Star, Dhaka January 5, 2014

Fear of insecurity haunts Hindu voters

Fear of insecurity haunts Hindu voters

Star National Desk

Fear of insecurity haunts Hindu voters

Worried faces of a Hindu family of Bawra village in Patgram upazila of Lalmonirhat. Can they cast their votes peacefully today? PHOTO: STAR

Hindu voters in different places including Patgram in Lalmonirhat district and Kalaroa upazila in Satkhira district have expressed doubts whether they can go to polling centres and cast votes peacefully today as fear of insecurity still haunts them against the backdrop of Jamaat-Shibir men's recent attacks on the community.

Our correspondent S Dilip Roy visited the Hindu voters in two constituencies under Lalmonirhat district yesterday on the eve of national elections.

"Jamaat-Shibir men attacked the local Hindus on October 27 last year. Criminals again attacked the community people today [Saturday] morning and torched the traditional temple, creating panic among the local Hindus. We are now too afraid to cast our votes," Harendra Nath Roy, 65, caretaker of traditional Parapukur Shwashan Mandir at Shafinagar village of Patgram upazila, said.

"The Hindu voters in general are apprehensive about going to polling centres as Jamaat-Shibir men still pose threat. There are at least 35 thousand Hindu voters in Patgram upazila but only small portion of them, who are involved with Awami League politics, may cast their votes," said Rajani Kanta Ghosh, a local Hindu community leader at Ghoshpara village of Patgram upazila.

Schoolteacher Suchitra Rani Pal, 45, a Hindu voter at Jagotbar village of the upazila, said she is unsure about casting her vote as there is high threat to Hindu people at the village.

I talked with over a hundred of Hindu women who are not interested to go the polling centres, she said.

The administration has classified 145 of the 220 polling centres in the two constituencies as 'vulnerable', as Jamaat-e-Islami and its student wing Islami Chhatra Shibir have a good number of activists there.

Habibur Rahman, returning officer of Lalmonirhat, said the administration has made all preparations to keep the election free from violence and so, the Hindu voters can cast their votes without any fear.

Our Satknira Correspondent reports: Panicked Hindus in Kalaroa and Satkhira Sadar upazilas are still unsure about going to the polling centres for casting their votes in the parliament election today.

Several hundred Hindu families of Satkhira Sadar upazila, who left their homes during recent violence committed by Jamaat-Shibir activists, are yet to return home, even after joint forces' drives in the area.

Masked men brought out procession in Jalalabad union under Kalaroa upazila on Friday night asking people not to cast their votes, much to the worry of the Hindu voters, he added.

Daily Star, Dhaka January 3, 2014

Temple torched in Lalmonirhat

Our Correspondent, Lalmonirhat

Criminals torched Shalmara Sarbojanin Puja Mandir, a Hindu temple at Shalmara village of Bhelabari union in Aditmari upazila under the district, yesterday dawn.

Unknown miscreants sprayed petrol around the tin-shed temple and set fire to it, causing damage worth about Tk two lakh, locals said.

"The local Hindus have been doing puja at Shalmara temple for the last 20 years. We always get cooperation from the Muslims in the village for the purpose. Never before the local Hindus faced such problem," said Profulla Chandra Roy, president of the temple management committee.

"The criminals torched the temple to create panic among the Hindus in the village. We have informed the upazila chairman and police of the matter," said Subhas Chandra Roy, member of local union parishad.

Aditmari upazila chairman Sirajul Haque, also senior vice president of district unit of Awami League, said the criminals did the heinous act possibly to prevent Hindus from voting on January 5 parliament election.

Police is trying hard to identify the criminals involved in torching Shalmara temple, said Aslam Iqbal, officer in charge of Aditmari police station.