Shariful Islam, from Satkhira
Several hundred Hindus and ruling Awami League leaders of Satkhira have been fleeing their homes over the last few days in the wake of massive violence unleashed by Jamaat-Shibir men in the district.
Residents of at least eight unions in different upazilas of the district are the worst sufferers of the violence.
Bishwajit Sadhu, district unit president of Hindu, Buddhist, Christian Oikya Parishad, said around 200 to 250 solvent Hindu people from affected remote villages had left their homes and taken refuge in the district town, Khulna and the capital. Some had even moved to India through legal or illegal means.
He said they were yet to prepare a list of the affected people.
The people of the minority community are fleeing, as their houses came under attacks by Jamaat-Shibir men who have been engaged in clashes with law enforcers since the International Crimes Tribunal awarded death sentence to Jamaat leader Delawar Hossain Sayedee in February.
The situation became worse after the tribunal, set up to deal with crimes against humanity committed during the country’s Liberation War in 1971, had handed down capital punishment to another Jamaat leader Abdul Quader Mollah and after his execution on December 12.
To handle the situation, law enforcement agencies have launched a joint drive in the district from Sunday to restore law and order. However, this has not proved to be enough to remove the security concern among the minority people.
Satkhira Superintendent of Police Chowdhury Manjurul Kabir is, however, hopeful that the situation would improve within a few days.
Meanwhile, Shyamol Kumar Ghosal of Agardari village under sadar upazila told The Daily Star, “I am not thinking of returning home as the situation there is still horrible.”
He gave names of at least five Jamaat-Shibir men who had looted and burnt houses and business establishments of Hindus in Agardari union. He said some of the Hindu people had faced attacks twice.
One of the worst victims of the village is Shyamol’s uncle Gopal Chandra Ghosal. His house came under attack immediately after the appeal verdict of war criminal Quader Mollah was delivered on November 26.
Around 60 masked men from nearby villages stormed his house and took away his TV, refrigerator and some furniture, and set those on fire. They also took two motorbikes of the family and set one of them alight and vandalised the other.
The attackers also wanted to slaughter Gopal and one of his grandsons but finally spared them after women of the house begged for mercy.
His nephew Shyamol, a lawyer by profession, said many Hindu families had sent their women and children to safe places while a few men stayed back to guard their houses.
Seeking anonymity, many Hindus of Agardari village told The Daily Star that their faith in religious harmony was shaken on the night of December 12, hours after Quader Mollah had been executed.
They said Jamaat-Shibir men had attacked many houses that night. They had also assaulted many Hindu people and vandalised their houses.
Subhash Chandra Ghosh, president of Zila Puja Celebration Committee and a former leader of Debhata Muktijuddho Command Council, is also among the worst victims of Jamaat atrocities.
In the morning after Mollah’s execution, around 100 Jamaat-Shibir men set ablaze his two-storey building in Debishahar village. Three of the five brothers of the family used to live there with their wives and children.
The flames gutted everything on the ground floor and partially damaged the belongings on the first floor. Jamaat-Shibir men had also torched three motorcycles, snapped the water-supply line and looted 30 tolas of gold ornaments from the house, said his younger brother Sarat Chandra Ghosh.
He said, “My elder brother [Subhash] and I are now staying in Dhaka while 12 of our family members have taken shelter at our relatives’ houses.”
Narrating the December 13 arson attack by Jamaat-Shibir activists on his house in Kulia village, Debhata upazila parishad chairman and district Awami League leader Golam Mostafa said his 80-year-old mother had implored the attackers not to set the house on fire as Mostafa had done nothing to harm them.
In reply, the attackers told her that they were carrying out the directives of their high-ups.
The activists also vandalised and set on flames the house of Debhata upazila AL president Mujibur Rahman that night.
A large number of ruling party men are living away from their houses fearing attacks on their families. At least 10 AL leaders and activists were killed in the last 30 days.
No less than 70 houses and business establishments of the Hindu community and AL men came under Jamaat-Shibir attacks during this time.
Feroz Ahmed, organising secretary of the district unit AL, said several hundred leaders and activists of the party were hiding fearing attacks.