Addressing the demonstration at Shahbagh intersection, former MP and one of the presidents of Bangladesh Hindu Bouddha Christian Oikya Parishad, Ushtan Talukder, said the state, the government and the administration cannot avoid their responsibility in the attack on the minority community. Why does the administration remain silent? Why did such an incident take place especially when a government that claims to uphold the spirit of Liberation War is in power? The government’s zero tolerance policy is only in words.

Another president of the parishad, Nim Chandra Bhowmik, said he does not think there could be such attacks in different areas of the country, one after the other, if it was not preplanned.

He further said such communal attacks were carried out in Ramu of Cox’s Bazar, Nasirnagar of Brahmanbaria and in some other parts of the country, but those were not brought to book.

Another president of the council, Nirmal Rozario, said Bangladesh would face a terrible predicament if no action was taken against the communal forces.

Though the programme was supposed to continue till 12:00pm, the programmes continued until 12:45pm. Traffic movement remained suspended in the Shahbagh area from 10:30am to 12:00pm.

The parishad placed an eight-point demand from the sit-in programmes, for prime minister Sheikh Hasina. The demands include -- judicial inquiry into the violent incidents under the leadership of a retired judge of the Supreme Court, arranging jobs for family members of those killed in the attacks at puja mandaps and temples or Tk 2 million as compensation, and identifying the officials of the judiciary, administration and law enforcement agencies who showed negligence in carrying out their duties and taking punitive action against them.

The demands also include trial of people who instigated the communal violence as well as identifying and taking action against the people’s representatives who did not come forward to stop the attacks.

The parishad also demanded publishing the report of the Shahabuddin commission formed to investigate the communal attacks carried out between 2001 and 2006 and taking action as per the recommendations of the commission, reinstating the constitution of 1972, forming minority commission and enacting a minority safety act.

To press forward these demands, a road march towards the office of the prime minister in February next year under the slogan - “March towards Dhaka”- was declared. Besides, the parishad also declared a boycott of the Diwali festival during Shyama Puja on 4 November, from the mass hunger strike programme.

From 6.00pm to 6.15pm that day, anti-communal violence programmes will be held in the temples and mandaps all across the country, with faces covered with black cloth.

Manindra Kumar Nath, joint general secretary of Bangladesh Hindu Bouddha Christian Oikya Parishad, declared these programmes.

In the meantime, a mass hunger strike and demonstration was also held in Chattogram’s Andarkilla Chattar on Saturday. An eight-point demand, including the boycott of the Diwali festival, was declared from this programme as well.

At the programme Bangladesh Hindu Bouddha Christian Oikya Parishad secretary Rana Dashgupta said legal actions should be taken immediately against those who had instigated people. He also urged the prime minister to take action against the public representatives who did not come forward during the communal violence.

Eminent citizens express solidarity

Expressing solidarity with the programme at Shahbagh, former advisor of the caretaker government Sultana Kamal said, “Despite the pro-liberation party in power, the country’s image has been tarnished. We have not been able to ensure the safety of all people.”

“Communal mindsets exist within the administration,” she added.

Mentioning that there is a sense of mistrust among the people of the Hindu community, Fazle Hossain Badsha, general secretary of Workers Party of Bangladesh, said the politics for the rights of the people of all religions should be revived. There is no alternative to that.

He also blamed a section of the administration for the attack.

“It must be ensured that what happened during puja this year must not be repeated. The communal officials hiding in the administration have to be identified and tried for their inaction. A noncommunal political party and administration is a must to establish a noncommunal Bangladesh,” he added.

Bangladesh Hindu Bouddha Christian Oikya Parishad central president Nim Chandra Bhowmik is presiding over the demonstrations.

Gano Forum leader Subrata Chowdhury also addressed the sit-ins and mass hunger strike programmes. He said, “We’re offended and aggrieved by the communal attacks across the country. The government has made a business out of the spirit of Liberation War. There is state religion in the constitution, at the same time the state is being called a secular one. This is a hoax. No state can run on hoaxes.”

Speaking at the programmes, Dhaka University Teachers’ Association general secretary Nizamul Hoque Bhuiyan said we cannot tolerate the communal attacks in a country that is imbued with the spirit of Liberation War. “Justice should be done speedily,” he said.

Dhaka University teacher and Dhaka University Alumni Association (DUAA) secretary general Ranjan Karmaker said, “The rights of the people of Hindu, Buddhist and Christian communities have to be ensured in the country. Bangabandhu’s dream of ‘Sonar Bangla’ will be tarnish if this is not done. Time and again the communal forces have hampered the forward march of the country. The attack on minority communities is a political problem and this has to be faced politically.”

Speaking at the programmes, Dhaka University Teachers’ Association general secretary Nizamul Hoque Bhuiyan said we cannot tolerate the communal attacks in a country that is imbued with the spirit of Liberation War. “Justice should be done speedily,” he said.

Dhaka University teacher and Dhaka University Alumni Association (DUAA) secretary general Ranjan Karmaker said, “The rights of the people of Hindu, Buddhist and Christian communities have to be ensured in the country. Bangabandhu’s dream of ‘Sonar Bangla’ will be tarnish if this is not done. Time and again the communal forces have hampered the forward march of the country. The attack on minority communities is a political problem and this has to be faced politically.”

Teachers’ Unity Council convener Arun Kumar said an environment of terror has been created around the country. The incident at the Cumilla puja mandap was conspiratorial. The way the incident was publicised across the country, has damaged the trust and ties among the people of Bangladesh. Nobody knows when that trust will be restored among the people, or whether it will be ever restored.”

Demanding the arrest of all the people involved with the communal attacks, Bangladesh Jatiya Hindu Mohajote (BJHM) secretary general Palash Kanti Dey said, “Justice for this incident has to be done before anything else as this is a fight for survival. We must win this fight.”

Bangladesh Puja Udjpaon Parishad, Bangladesh Adivasi Forum, Bangladesh Christian Association, BJHM, Bangladesh Buddhist Federation, Association for Land Development (ALRD), Bangladesh Matua Mahasangha, Bangladesh Jatiya Hindu Samaj Sanskar Samity, Janmashtami Udjapon Parishad, Bangladesh Bouddha Samity, Bangladesh Minority Sangram Parishad, Bangladesh Hindu League and Minority Rights Forum leaders also addressed the programmes.

Besides, Bangladesh Harijon Oikya Parishad, Jatiya Adivasi Parishad, Bangladesh Adivasi Forum and Bangladesh Robi Das Unnayon Parishad leaders and activists also joined the sit-ins and mass hunger strike.