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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Cox’s Bazar violence: 6 pagodas burnt down, 100 houses vandalised

Source: The Independent

Ministers warn perpetrators of strict consequences

COX'S BAZAR: Authorities imposed section 144 (ban on gatherings) in the district’s Ramu upazila for an indefinite period hours after a group of people rampaged through a village of Buddhists in the area in early hours of Sunday.
A mob comprises of around 25,000 people, angered by a photograph posted in Facebook, torched dozens of homes of the Buddhist community and vandalised six 100-year-old pagodas as a sectarian violence broke out at Merunloa village in Ramu upazila here Saturday night.
Officer-in-charge (OC) of Ramu Police Station Nazibul Alam said the clash continued in the area from 11:15pm to 2:30am Sunday after a youth reportedly posted a photograph disgracing the holy Qur’an on the wall of his Facebook page.
Apprehending escalation of the sectarian violence, Upazila Nirbhahi Officer (UNO) Debi Chando slapped the ban on gathering as tension heightened in the area.
Earlier, hundreds of people stormed the houses of Buddhists at Baruapara in the upazila headquarters after they came to know about the photograph reportedly posted by Uttam Kumar Barua, 24.
Police took Uttam Kumar, a resident of Baruapara, into custody in an effort to quell the situation.
Lawmaker of Cox’s Bazar-3 constituency Lutfar Rahman Kajal, Ramu Upazila council Chairman Sohel Sarwar Kazal and Ramu Police Station officer-in-charge along with several platoons of police cordoned off Baruapara and were trying to pacify the Muslims who were vandalising, torching and looting the houses of Baruas (local terms for Buddhists) in retaliation for posting the blasphemous picture on the Facebook of Uttam Kumar Barua, also an assistant deed writer.
It was not immediately clear if there were any casualties, and authorities did not say if any of the rioters were arrested but Ramu OC said four people were injured in the midnight mayhem adding that the Buddhists got panicked and were leaving their houses for safer places.
With the help of police, the fire services managed to douse the blaze around 2:30am but the temples and the houses were already gutted by then.
Around 3:30am, units of Border Guard Bangladesh, Rapid Action Battalion, and police managed to quell the violence and take control of the situation.
Many Buddhist men and women along with their children have taken shelter either in and around the police station and its outpost or neighbouring houses to escape the wraths of Muslims.
“I left my house with my wife and children as angry Muslims stormed into my house with sticks and machetes, and started ransacking it. They also tried to torch it,” one witness Sunil Barua, 40, a businessman and resident of Baruapara said.
He along with his panic-stricken wife and children took shelter in the house of another Muslim man who is known to him.
Additional police have been called in from Cox`s Bazar town and other parts of the district to keep the situation under control.
"At least 100 houses were damaged. We called in army and border guards to quell the violence," Cox’s Bazar District Commissioner Joinul Bari told news agency AFP
Commerce Minister Dilip Barua, Home Minister MK Alamgir, and Inspector General of Police Hassan Mahmood Khandker visited the trouble-stricken area in the morning.
Later during an impromptu rally, MK Alamgir termed the violence ‘premeditated and deliberate act of communal violence against a minority.’
The minister said a committee, chaired by the additional divisional commissioner in Chittagong, is soon to be formed to investigate whether the law enforcers have performed their duty accordinly.
Alamgir, in his speech, also promised to rebuild the Buddhist monasteries and temples and compensate the victims whose houses were destroyed and bring the culprits to book within 15 days.
Barua, himself a Buddhist, warned perpetrators of strict consequence if anyone tries to violate congenial atmosphere between the two religious communities.
During exchanging views with reporters in the afternoon, Information Minister Hasanul Haque Inu said an identified vested quarter is behind Saturday’s sectarian violence in Ramu of Cox’s Bazar district and it was done to create a political instability in the country.
“This is an isolated incident …it was done by a vested quarter to destabilise the country,” he told reporters at his Secretariat office in the afternoon.
Claming that the situation is now under control, Inu said it will not be possible for the trouble mongers to destroy the communal harmony between the Muslims and other communities in the country.
Buddhists, who make up less than one percent of Bangladesh's 153 million population, are based mainly in southeastern districts, close to the border with Buddhist-majority Myanmar.
Sectarian tensions have been running high since June when deadly clashes erupted between Buddhists and Muslim Rohingya in Myanmar's western Rakhine state.
Although Bangladesh, where nearly 90 percent people are Muslims, has witnessed deadly clashes between Muslims and Hindus in the past, sectarian clashes involving Buddhists are rare.
In recent weeks tens of thousands of Muslims have hit the street across the country to protest a US-made anti-Islam mocking the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH).

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