Following the attack at Nanua Dighir Par puja mandap, one or two leaders of city Awami League and Jubo League, youth wing of the ruling party, appeared at the spot. But no organised efforts were taken by the ruling party leaders. Later, the violence spread to Chandpur, Noakhali, Rangpur and a few other districts of the country where temples, puja mandaps and houses and businesses of the Hindu community were attacked, looted and set on fire.
Speaking about the political and administrative failures to Prothom Alo, Cumilla city unit Awami League president and local MP, AKM Bahauddin Bahar said, “Some problems appeared as I was not in the country. But the administration, police and party leaders have maintained communication even with mayor Monirul Haque, who is a BNP man.”
Mujibul Haque declined to make any remark when Prothom Alo asked him about the role the district Awami League played on the day of the attack at puja mandap
Responding to a question as to why he didn’t mobilise party leaders and activists to save the minority community, the MP said they faced some problems in the first few hours. The leaders and activists took to the streets later.
AKM Bahauddin Bahar was in Saudi Arabia to perform Umrah. He returned to Cumilla after five days and visited the vandalised puja mandaps on 17 October. On the next day, he organised a harmony rally at Town Hall ground and came up with a controversial remark. He demanded arrest of Bangladesh Jatiya Hindu Mohajote secretary general Gobinda Chandra Pramanik who, at a TV talk show, held the MP responsible for the communal violence in Cumilla.
On the day of the attack at Nanua Dighir Par puja mandap on 13 October, Cumilla city Awami League general secretary Arfanul Haque, joint general secretary Atikullah, city Jubo League convener GS Sahid, Swechhasebak League president Jahirul Islam, general secretary Sadekul Islam and a few other leaders went there but no activist was seen accompanying them.
City Awami League relief and social welfare affairs secretary Nur Ur Rahman Mahmud also visited the puja mandap. He organised a white flag procession on the following day as part of his preparation to compete in the Cumilla City Corporation mayoral election, claimed local people.
Local political sources said generally AL leaders and activists take up position in different intersections of the city if there is any programme of the opposition party. Sometimes they hold motorcycle processions but they were not seen in the field until the evening on 13 October.
In the AL politics of Cumilla city, the family of Afzal Khan is another powerhouse against MP Bahar. Afzal Khan’s daughter Anjum Sultana is an MP of a reserved seat and vice president of city Awami League. Afzal Khan’s son Parvez Khan is also active in politics but none of this family was seen in the field that day.
Cumilla sadar upazila chairman Aminul Islam is a member of Cumilla south city AL and known as close to MP Bahar. He was also not seen in the field with the agenda to stop communal violence.
Finance minister AHM Muatafa Kamal is the president of Cumilla south city unit of Awami League. His two brothers are also in the committee. Former railways minister Mujibul Haque is the general secretary of the south city unit. His nephew is also in the committee. Local government, rural development and cooperatives minister Tajul Islam is the senior vice president of the same committee. They and their supporters have homes in the city but none of them were seen on the spot on the day of the incident.
On 19 October, Mujibul Haque and a few other leaders took part in the harmony rally that the central committee of Awami League announced.
Mujibul Haque declined to make any comment when Prothom Alo asked him about the role the district Awami League played on the day of the attack at puja mandap.
The evaluation by the government and the policy makers of Awami League is that the attacks at the temples, houses and businesses of the Hindu community in Cumilla and other parts of the country are planned incidents and part of a conspiracy. The miscreants are seizing the chance in the areas where there is AL infighting or where the organisation is shaky. The miscreants could not have been courageous if the party had strong presence in the field, the evaluation added.
* The report, originally published in the print and online editions of Prothom Alo, has been rewritten in English by Shameem Reza