Hopefully, if this young man is arrested, the mystery behind the attacks on the puja mandap and temples will be unravelled. Until this youth is identified, speculations abound and spread their branches. Political parties blame each other and their mudslinging will continue into the future. But they do not realise that rather than embroiling in such debates, it is far more important to provide the minority community with security, to stand beside the affected persons and to bring the criminals to justice.
The political parties will also get plenty of time to calculate who will gain and who will lose in the election politics. They must put all these to one side and try to assuage the grief of the minorities. The reputation and fame which the Awami League government claims to have earned over the past 12 years in the outside world, has diminished in this single incident. From the United Nations to BJP in India, everyone has expressed concern about the persecution of minorities in Bangladesh.
The government must admit that even with their absolute control on politics, the administration and the law enforcement, they failed to protect the minorities from the miscreants. There were several assaults on the minority community, their puja mandaps, temples and statues of their deities. Their homes and businesses were attacked too.
Two members of the minority community were killed by miscreants in Noakhali. One of the killed persons was Jatin Saha who had a four-year-old child, Aditya Saha. He has been weeping since his father was killed, refusing to eat until his father returns. How can Jatin's wife and child be consoled? His wife is in a state of shock with the death of the only earning member of the family. Communal violence has widowed this woman, robbed the child of his father. How many more deep sighs of the minorities will Bangladesh have to bear?
All of us have failed. If we had humanity within us, we could have protected these people.Dr Zafrullah Chowdhury, founder, Gonoshasthya Kendra
There is a ruling party in the country, an opposition. There is the administration and the law enforcement agencies. There are the intelligence agencies, the civil society. There are conscious citizens among all strata and professions in the country. Despite all this, why did we fail to provide security to the minority? Why were their homes, temples and mandaps attacked?
Bangladesh never before had a government as powerful as the present one. It is doubtful there will be any so powerful in the future. Even so, the minorities cannot feel safe, they are not being allowed to feel so. This can't simply be dismissed as a conspiracy against the government. And no one can evade responsibility either, by claiming that this is a conspiracy of foreign powers.
The government claims that the opposition is provoking communalism. If there is proof of this, why are they not making this public? Why were three BNP men charged with attacking a temple in Chattogram when they were already in jail from much beforehand. Did they carry out the attack from within the jail? BNP and Awami League is not the issue here. Whoever instigated the attacks on the homes of the minorities, must face the law. If random cases are filed, the actual criminals will get away.
Chhatra League temporarily suspended a dozen or so of its leaders and activists for uploading inflammatory posts in Facebook. That means the problem is not within the opposition alone, but within Awami League and its affiliated bodies too. Admit this. It was no opposition party or religious leader who riled up the people in the aggressive manner which former Dhaka South City Corporation mayor Sayeed Khokon did, using incendiary language against a state minister.
The anger and grief in the words of Gonoshasthya Kendra founder Dr Zafrullah Chowdhury when he saw the faces of the victims in Jelepara of Pirganj, Rangpur, cannot be written off as anti-government speech. He said the government had failed to prevent the attacks on the minorities. He also said, "All of us have failed. If we had humanity within us, we could have protected these people."
We are imbibed with hope again when we see Muslims neighbour standing vigil all night to protect the Hindu localities, or when the local Muslim community extends help to the persons affected in Pirganj
Leader of the Hindu Christian Buddha Oikya Parishad, Rana Dasgupta, said that during the elections, the politician made lofty promises to the minorities. But once the elections are over, they do not keep their promises. Many say that the minorities have nothing to ask from BNP. But what has the party, in whom they place their trust, done from them? How many have got back the vested property of the minorities?
So far I have written about all the pain and pathos. I even felt guilty on the first day of demonstrations at Shahbagh to see such little presence of the majority community. If those who were attacked are the ones who have to protest while the majority remains silent, how far can we claim ourselves to be responsible citizens?
But when we see Chittagong University's Professor Atiqur Rahman, blindfolding himself and standing for six hours in protest, with a banner on his chest, that gives hope. We are filled with hope when we keep the teachers and students of Dhaka University's drama and performing arts department staging a street play to highlight the horror of the violence. It tells us that people's conscience is still alive. When we see leftist politicians and cultural activists standing at the demonstrations in Shahbagh and castigating the attackers, we feel that humanity hasn't completely disappeared from society.
We are imbibed with hope again when we see Muslims neighbour standing vigil all night to protect the Hindu localities, or when the local Muslim community extends help to the persons affected in Pirganj.
Rabindranath had said it was a sin to lose faith in mankind. We, too, feel that no matter how soiled politics may become, no matter how much politicians try to create divisions in society, humanity will ultimately emerge victorious in Bangladesh, the country of the Liberation War.
* Sohrab Hassan is joint editor of Prothom Alo and a poet
* This column appeared in the online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten for the English online edition by Ayesha Kabir