Chittagong, Feb 10 (bdnews24.com) -- Authorities clamped Section 144 banning public gathering at Hathazari on Friday amid mounting tensions after several Hindu temples were vandalised and torched there.
Local people claimed religious bigots of Jamaat-e-Islami and its student wing Chhatra Shibir incited the vandalism and arson of the temples from Thursday evening to Friday noon.
Tensions that boiled over into violence originated Thursday morning following rumours that a mosque had been attacked. Allegations have it that houses of Hindus in the area were also attacked. The leaders of the Hindu minority there blamed the 'indifference' of the administration for the situation. Another group of people took to the Chittagong-Rangamati road blocking traffic from Nandirhat to Hathazari Sadar upazila around 11am Friday. They also said their Friday prayers on the road.
They alleged a mosque had allegedly been hurled with brick bats from a procession of Loknath Sebashram Thursday morning. The blockaders demanded arrest of those linked with 'hurling brick bats on the mosque'.
After simmering tensions through the day, primary and mass education minister Afsarul Ameen, city Awami League president A B M Mohiuddin Chowdhury, Chittagong Development Board chairman Abdus Salam and city Awami League's joint secretary Ibrahim Hossain Chowdhury Babul went to the area and calmed the agitated locals in the afternoon.
"Tensions mounted following a misunderstanding. Security in temples and mosques in the area has been strengthened and the law enforcers have been alerted," Ameen said.
Chittagong district deputy commissioner Faiz Ahmed told reporters about the ban on public assembly through the imposition of Section 144.
"Police will take action if they see any gathering," he said.
TIT FOR TAT: THE ORIGIN
According to the local people, Hindus in the area took out a procession to celebrate the founding anniversary of Loknath Sebasram Thursday morning.
They used microphone and drums in the procession.
When the procession was passing a mosque, Muslims in the mosque forbade them to drums. At one stage, someone hurled a brick bat on the procession.
An altercation took place at once which turned into chase and counter-chase when someone from the procession responded by throwing a brick bat.
Police organised a meeting between the two parties which was allegedly delayed with ill-intention. A group of Muslims said that the meeting will be held in the mosque and the Hindus agreed.
The meeting started in the evening. Requesting anonymity, several of those who attended the meeting told bdnews24.com that a handful of miscreants vandalised a temple on the Loknath Sebasram premises when the meeting was underway.
They also vandalised seven to eight cars of the temple's visitors.
Puja Udjapon Committee convenor Ashok Kumar Deb told bdnews24.com that someone broke a windowpane of the mosque after the incident in the morning and a rumour that Hindus vandalised the mosque spread in the area.
On Friday morning, temples in the area were vandalised and shops owned by Hindus were torched and looted after madrasa students in the area gathered following an announcement through a PA system.
A bdnews24.com correspondent in Chittagong said he saw tell-tale signs of vandalism in three other temples in the area. They are the Sri Sri Jagadeshwari Ma Temple and Jagannath Bigroho Temple at Nandirhat and Kalibari Temple at Sadar upazila.
The Sri Sri Jagadeshwari Ma Temple was burnt, too.
Many of the people in the area said a quarter is provoking the incident and Zila Parishad administrator M A Salam pointed the finger at Jamaat-e-Islami and its student wing Islami Chhatra Shibir.
As the area is only three kilometres away from the Chittagong University (CU), many of the leaders and activists of Chhatra Shibir's CU unit live there.
Moreover, the largest madrasa of the country is located in the area and Shibir allegedly controls it.