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Sathkhira Burning

April 12, 2012

Like every Bangladeshi, the inhabitants of Fatehpur, a remote and tranquil village in the southern part of Bangladesh, celebrated the Independence Day. They celebrated the day differently. They staged a drama Hujur Kebla at Fatehpur High School on March 27. Everything went well on that day. But they did not imagine what was about to happen in the next few days!

Out of the blue, on March 29 one reporter, named Mijanur Rahman, of a less known local daily Daily Drishtipat carried a report that accused the drama of maligning the prophet and of blasphemy. This disinformation campaign instigated communal tensions, which resulted in attacks on Hindus. What is worst, the riot did not contain in Fatehpur; in fact, it spilled over into neighboring villages. What is interesting is that the drama was written back in 1947 by a prominent right-wing politician and novelist Abul Mansur Ahmed. It has been staging since then at various parts of the country on various occasions, but no one ever pointed finger at the drama and at the dramatist!

Mijanur Rahman soon found a cohort, Farid Uddin,the officier in charge of Kaliganj police station. Farid uddin detained Head Master of the Fatehpur High School, Rezwan Harun and Assistant Head Master, Mita Rani Hajra, on March 30.

Thousands of rioters, some of them were local people representatives, from the neighboring villages mounted attack on Fatehpur. They plundered the village and set ablaze eight houses, including those of the two school teachers. Police did not do anything.

Madness did not stop there. Rioters gutted down houses and attacked the minority Hindus of the Chakdah village, 15 km away from Fatehpur. Mobile phones had been used to coordinate the attack on the Hindus. Most of the rioters were at the age of 16 to 25 years. An indication how far Bangladeshi society has regressed in recent years. The rioters broke into the houses, took away everything valuable to the Hindu families and set fire on the houses. At least 10 Hindu families are now starving under open sky. They are so traumatized that they do not want to speak about the incident in fear of further retaliation.

But the mainstream media, except Daily Janakantha which published a detailed report on the incident of Chakdah, willfully turned a blind eye to the matter. Popular TV talk shows had ample of time to broadcast shows on Hilsa fry!

It was the minority students of Dhaka University, living in Jagannath Hall, who drew attention to the crime inflicted upon the minorities by laying siege to the Shahbag square at midnight!

It was the social media who took up the job to inform the world about the atrocities of Sathkhira!

Some Dhaka University teachers and students raised their voices and expressed their concern. The moment I’m writing this post Government cancelled the declaration of Daily Drishtipat.

But the incidents of Fatehpur and Chakdah remind us of a society, which we thought progressed in recent years, that is corroding at an alarming rate. Like less developed and regressed societies, creed and regimental belief dominate the ethnic identity in Bangladesh.

For instance, in this society people used to call each other Bhai or Da (bro) irrespective of their creed. But since 2001, a certain group emerged who started to call Hindus Dada, reminding them they are a different religious group. The term Dada, people use this term to call each other in the neighboring Indian state of West Bengal, itself is innocent and also means bro(ther). However, nowadays it is frequently used in a communal sense! Some even start to call people Dada who read weeklies published in India and who show too much interest in Indian culture. This tendency has striking resemblance to Nazi initiated campaign where the Jews were forced to wear the symbol Star of David just to remind others that the Jews were different and inferior!

The communal cracks are appearing once again on the surface and the stinky odor coming out from that crack indicates something is rotting deep inside Bangladeshi society. If people just let the society to rot one day the crack may turn into a fatal fault line!

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From → Analysis, My Thoughts

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