Whip Abdul Wahab had threatened violence on the people of Chapatola’s Malopara village before the recent election. He threatened the local Hindu minorities that they would have to pay a heavy price if they do not vote for a candidate outside of Awami League (AL). He told them that he was still part of AL and will remain so in the foreseeable future. AL did not expel him. Therefore, Hindu minorities would be wrong to think that he is no longer part of AL or that he is not a force anymore, because he had not been nominated by AL in the election. He told them, “You will make a mistake if you think that you cannot vote for anyone other than the AL candidate, Ranajit Roy, because he is one of you. You would have to pay a heavy price after the election if you make this mistake.”
He addressed leaders of the Hindu minority groups, “You cannot come out of your fundamentalist and partisan mentality so you should not expect me to be any different. The decision you make as to who you vote for will determine how I behave after the election. It is not true that only Jamaat-Shibir are fundamentalists and partisan in this country; minority groups are also the same.” Whip Abdul Wahab made these statements at an election rally held at Sundali Primary School near Chapatola five days before the election. This has been confirmed by people who were at the rally. He used his henchman to inflict violence on the four or five hundred minority families in that village for not heeding to his threats.
On 2 January 2014, as part of his election campaign, Principal Sheikh Abdul Wahab went to the village of Chapatola. He was whip of the ruling party AL, but was not selected by them in the election so he stood against the AL candidate. He also went to the village of Malopara as part of his election campaign. He held a rally outside the village temple, but most of the people of Malopara were absent. Wahab’s people tried repeatedly, but failed to make them come to the rally. As an MP of this area, Wahab had carried out many developments. He built temples and brought electricity and concrete roads to remote areas. He also gave out many government and non-governmental grants. He has a longstanding relationship with people of this area. However, he became angry that people did not turn up to his rally just because he was not contesting the election as an AL candidate. Senior members of the local Hindu community such as Dulal Biswas, Biswajit Sarkar and Somir Sarkar told Wahab in no uncertain terms that they would not vote for anyone other than the AL candidate, Ranajit Roy. Wahab told them, “I delivered on my promises. Now it is your turn to repay me by voting for me. If you reject me in favour of your own kind (i.e. Ranajit Roy), then you would have to face the consequences and I will not be responsible for that.” What transpired in the end is exactly what Wahab had threatened.
As soon as the election was over on 5 January, the people of this Hindu village had to face violent consequences. Wahab’s people took revenge on them after he lost the election. The attackers were local and known to everyone in the village. The victims of the attacks recognised and knew names of their attackers. Shukdev Kumar, a villager confirmed that the attackers were mostly supporters of Wahab. The attackers started vandalising the houses of Biswajit, Dulal, Somir, Debangshu, Sukumar, Sharjit, Ashutosh, Shanta, Nimai, Biplab, Arun, Shankar, Shimul, Sumon, Probir, Krishna, Ordhendu, Sagar, Shimanta, Pradip and over hundreds of other houses from the village of Malopara. They attacked and set fire to property in those houses. They took rice, lentils and grains and threw them outside. They went inside kitchens and completely ransacked and broke cutlery, crockery and other kitchen utensils. They set fire to mattresses, blankets and other property inside the houses. They burnt down fishing nets worth several lacs taka belonging to the villagers who are predominantly fishermen. Several hundreds of men and women were victims of physical assault. Several hundreds of frightened men, women and children took refuge in the village of Dowapara by crossing the river Bhoirov. The people of Malopara received no help from the local authorities or supporters of the local AL after three waves of attacks on their village.
Bishnupad Sarkar, who is over 50 years old said, “When the attackers started their wave of violence on the villagers, we informed the local AL members and leaders and the police on a number of occasions. We phoned the officer in charge of the local police station, but did not receive any support from them. If the police and the local AL personnel came straight away, the situation would not have been as bad as it transpired in the end.” The village chief, Debangshu Sarkar complained that they had not filed any lawsuit following the attacks because of the dirty politics which were being played out following the attacks.
Lawsuit against 300 suspects:
Meanwhile, following the attacks, the police filed a lawsuit against three hundred suspects and specifically named 39 local people and their addresses on the charge sheet. The deputy officer in charge of the Ovoynogor police station, Imdad Hossen confirmed that the majority of the suspects on the charge sheet were members of the local Jamaat-Shibir. Also, there were names of a number of supporters of the defeated candidate in the election, Principal Sheikh Abdul Wahab. The officer said that the police had started a combing operation to seize and arrest the suspects.
Five suspects arrested:
Ovoynogor police station arrested five suspects named on the charge sheet. Police arrested Hadiuzzaman of Baliyadanga village, Mohammed Ali, Robiul of Chapatola village, Tarikul and Sayed. Of these suspects, Robiul and Tarikul were active supporters of Wahab during the election. Debu Majumder of Dewapara confirmed that the remaining three suspects were involved with the local Jamaat party.
Police camp set up: After the violent attacks, the local police force set up a temporary camp in Chapatola’s Malopara village to ensure the safety of villagers and prevent any further attacks. 10 armed police officers were manning the camp under the leadership of a sub-inspector. The Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of the Khulna unit of the police force went to see the affected Chapatola’s Malopara village on Monday night. The victims of the village attacks asked the DIG to ensure their safety. They also spoke of their fear of further attacks, because those who carried out the attacks on Sunday night were freely roaming around in the localities. These attackers were not being arrested because of the dirty politics which were being played out. Therefore, the hundreds of Hindu minorities living in that village were living in constant fear of further attacks. Faced with such desperate pleas from the villagers, the DIG ordered the Jessore police superintendent, Joydev Vodro to set up a temporary police camp in Malopara right away. At the same time, one lac’s taka worth of financial aid was given to help out the victims of the village attacks. Yesterday, the assistant police superintendent, Mustafa Kamal handed out this financial aid to the affected villagers. They were also told that various other forms of assistance including warm clothing for winter would come their way from the District Commissioner.
Protest by the 18-party alliance:
Leaders of the local BNP protested against police allegations that members of the 18-party alliance were involved in attacks against the Hindu minorities in Ovoynogor. Yesterday, at a press conference held in Jessore press club, assistant general secretary of the district wide BNP, Mr Syed Saberul Haq Sabu said that the newly elected MP, Mr Ranajit Roy himself had blamed the supporters of his rival and whip of the ruling party and AL leader, Principal Sheikh Abdul Wahab. The assistant general secretary of the district wide BNP claimed that supporters loyal to Wahab had carried out the village attacks after he lost the election. After knowing all these facts, the police still went ahead and named members of the local 18-party alliance on the charge sheet and arrested them. He vehemently condemned the attacks against the Hindu minorities and called for the real attackers to be arrested and brought to justice. At the same time, he appealed to media personnel to oust those who were playing dirty politics and trying to pin the blame on members of the 18-party alliance.
Attack on Jamaat leader’s house in Ovoynogor:
On Tuesday night, there were attacks on the house of the Jamaat amir of Jessore’s Ovoynogor upazilla, Moulana Abdul Aziz and the houses of other BNP leaders and members. There were reports of severe vandalism and looting of property. The victims of these attacks complained that the attackers carried out these attacks in the presence of the joint security forces of police, Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and the Border Guards of Bangladesh (BGB). The attackers tore copies of the Holy Qur’an and hadith books. They also ransacked furniture and other property in the houses. The joint security forces did not find members of BNP and Jamaat and instead resorted to carrying out such violence. The victims of these attacks and local residents said that the joint security forces carried out an operation in the early hours of yesterday in the villages of Baliyadanga and Chapatola. They were accompanied by armed member of the local AL. During the operation, the joint security forces returned after not finding any members of the BNP and Jamaat. However, the armed members of the AL did not return. They attacked, ransacked and looted property in those houses. They vandalised the house of upazilla Jamaat amir, Principal Moulana Abdul Aziz. The criminals robbed five ceiling fans, one laptop, one desktop CPU, one fridge, gold jewellery and money. The upazilla Jamaat amir, Principal Moulana Abdul Aziz and his son, a local Shibir leader, Mahfuzur Rahman were not at home at that time. The houses of Dr Sohrab Hossen from the same village, Ayub Ali, teacher of Chapatola Madrassah, Moulana Yousuf Ali, BNP leader, Golam Kibria, Mizanur Rahman, Jamaat leader and member of the local Union Parishad, Abul Kashem Mollah and other houses were vandalised, ransacked and looted. During the attacks and vandalism, men were not around and the frightened women left their houses to take refuge elsewhere.
Ranajit – the village attacks took place following the defeat in the election:
the newly elected MP, Ranajit Roy said that those who lost the recent election were behind the attacks on Chapatola’s Malopara village. He said that the scale of violence unleashed on the poor fishermen villagers by his rival’s henchmen was indescribable. He also added that the local Jamaat-Shibir activists acted as the hired henchmen of his defeated rival. He alleged that his defeated rival along with his supporters and Jamaat-Shibir activists attacked Hindu minorities of the Malopara village and set fire to their houses. They carried out medieval style violence. He called for the attackers to be arrested immediately.
Principal Sheikh Abdul Wahab said, “Those who are making such statements have really forgotten their past. There will be winners and losers in any election. There is no guarantee that those who did not vote for me will vote for someone else in the future. I have no idea as to how and who carried out these attacks.” He called for the perpetrators to be arrested immediately.
Translated from Manabzamin