Zealots set on fire at least 20 houses belonging to Hindus and looted their valuables following a dispute over building a mosque in the minority community-dominated area at Chirirbandar upazila in Dinajpur district on Saturday.
The incident took place at Rajapur village under Amarpur union council and its adjacent Majpara village under Abdulpur union council at 10am, although Section 144 had been in force in apprehension of deterioration of law and order situation in the area.
Eight people have so far been arrested for their alleged involvement in the arson attack and vandalism, Chirirbandar Upazila Executive Officer (UNO) Rashidul Mannaf Kabir told reporters.
However, the locals have blamed none other than the UNO himself for allegedly instigating the attack.
Dinajpur Deputy Commissioner (DC) Jamal Uddin told bdnews24.com: “A lot of people gathered suddenly and launched the attack. But no incident like killing took place as the law enforcers were ready.”
The authorities had imposed Section 144 barring all sorts of gathering in the area following tension over building of mosque, he said.
“But,” he added, “We didn’t guess that so many people would gather.”
The authorities also formed a committee, headed by Additional District Magistrate Abdul Malek, to investigate the allegation against the Upazila administration of instigating the attack.
According to the DC, 35 families living in 12 houses were harmed. “They have been provided help. The process to file a case over the matter is underway. The criminals will be held.”
Earlier, UNO Kabir told reporters that people from the Hindu community of the area had obstructed building of a mosque over a land given by one Hamida Banu at Balaibazar of Amarpur three-four days ago.
The local authorities had urged both sides to reach a consensus and imposed Section 144 fearing violence, he said. “Police were also deployed.”
“But, 1,500-2,000 people with sticks attacked the houses of the Hindus at Rajapur village around 10am today (Saturday),” he said.
The attackers also vandalised six to seven houses of Hindus at Majpara of Abdulpur around 1pm, he said.
Police brought the situation under control by charging baton and firing rubber bullets, he added.
Amarpur Union Parishad Chairman Liakat Ali told bdnews24.com that 20-22 houses of Hindus in the two villages were vandalised and torched.
“The attackers were from other areas. There were people from Parbatipur, too,” he added.
Talking about victims Prafulla Roy, Khitish Roy, Subhash Chandra and Jogeshwar, the Editor of a local newspaper Desh Barta, Chitta Ghosh, said they were attacked all of a sudden.
The attackers also torched their houses and took away livestock and even the tubewells, he said.
After visiting the place, Chitta Ghosh said, “Local people have alleged that the speech delivered while miking the imposition of Section 144 was instigative. The situation got worse after the miking.”
While miking the imposition of Section 144, the announcer said, “Section 144 has been imposed following mounting of tension, as people from the Hindu community have obstructed building of a mosque.”