Bangladesh: Ramu Attacks – A National Shame

I have no excuse. A group of filthy animals attacked on my family. I could not do anything. I am sitting idle with the guilt of this crime. I am ashamed. I am not worthy of an apology, but I seek apology with my hands clasped together.

I am very much ashamed…feeling really bad watching the pictures of the carnage in newspaper. Let there be light among people, let these anarchy in the name of religion be stopped.

Posts like these are being put up on the profile walls of Bangladeshi Facebook users. Many from the majority Muslim community are ashamed because they have not been able to defend communal harmony. Some are seeking apologies. Some have taken to the streets in protest of the recent attacks against Buddhist temples and households.

Protests against communal attacks in front of the National museum. Image courtesy of the Facebook page of Bangladesh Secularist Humanist Movement.

On the night of 29 September, 2012, some religious extremists attacked Buddhist temples and houses in Ramu of the Cox's Bazar District. Seven Buddhist temples and about 30 households and shops were arsoned by them. Hundreds of houses and shops were ransacked. The next day Buddhist and Hindu temples in Patia and Ukhia were also attacked.

Blogger Kuloda Roy [bn] writes in Facebook about the incident:

It started in Ramu. But not in Ramu actually – in Facebook. Uttam Kumar Barua is an user of Facebook. [..] He was tagged with an image and a link was shares in his wall. The link desecrates the holy book of Islam – The Quran. Uttam said he does not know anything about it. It came from another Facebook user.

He was indicted considering the link; he is not a human, a Buddhist. So he is to be responsible for this desecration. This news spread like wildfire on mobile by the enraged people. People gathered in the night and held public meetings. They attacked the Buddist community in Ramu.

The poster of the protest against communal and racist attacks.

Many protests and rallies have been held in the country against this communal and racist attack. People gathered for making human chain to protest. An activist group called Youth for Peace and Democracy has taken an initiative to conduct a citizen's investigation.

Bloggers, online activists, journalists and members of the civil society will join the activists in this investigation. They will extend the investigation to the individual level of the victims and will try to pinpoint who are the culprits behind the attacks against minorities. They will also collect evidence and try to help the judgement against them.

Cogito has launched a campaign to protest against the attack on Buddhists by blackening the Facebook profile on October 8. Already many people have joined their campaign. Cogito has uploaded a video on Facebook (watch here), which has been shared by numerous people.

In recent times the indigenous people from Chittagong Hill Tracts have been subjected to attacks. But the incident of Ramu is different than those. Blogger Biplob Rahman [bn] has mentioned that the main instigators behind both the onslaughts bear the same political identity.

The police have already arrested 166 people [bn] on suspicion of carrying out the attacks on Buddhist temples and 17 cases have been filed. The ruling coalition and the opposition parties have blamed each other for the incidents. Many are pointing fingers towards the Islamists party Jamaat-e-Islami as the main instigator.

The minority communities have accused [bn] the local administration and the local leaders of the political parties that they did not do anything to stop the attacks. The High court has issued a rule against the administration for failing to protect the minorities.

Students protest at National Press Club in Dhaka against the attacks on Buddhists in Ramu. Image by Firoz Ahmed. Copyright Demotix (30/9/2012)

A few of those who have come forward for protests have received threats from fundamentalist groups. Sabuj Paharer raja from Sachalayatan stood with a poster in front of Chittagong press club. He wrote about it in Facebook and blogs and criticized the fundamentalist forces. He mentioned in a post of Tareq Anu [bn]:

I posted a number of status in my Facebook wall against fundamentalist forces, and a blog post in Mukto-Mona Blog. Today morning I was surprised to receive a mail in my Facebook from a “temporary mail address” quoting the idiom “The ants have wings .. only to die..”.

I went to the police station to file a complaint.

When the extremists were attacking the Buddhist temples, some local youth came forward to protect them. You can read the story here.

Update: The police has claimed [bn] that they have identified some of the perpetrators and this was a pre-planned attack. The desecrated image of Quran in Facebook was printed and circulated to instigate anger and 10 trucks were hired to carry people from distance places for reinforcement.


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