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Bangladeshi Buddhists brace for a backlash

Buddhists, whose homes were torched a week ago by a mob, are now living in tents in appalling conditions. The weather over the last week has not helped either. The photo was taken from Merong Loa in Ramu of Cox's Bazar/The Daily Star

Publication Date : 06-10-2012


Indiscreet probes to find out attackers pose new trouble to the community

After the irreparable loss of Bangladeshi Buddhist heritage in last week's mayhem, the people of Ramu, now fear damage of community relations as time has come to disclose the names of local instigators and perpetrators.

Several government probe teams are working to unearth the names of masterminds behind the gruesome attacks on Buddhist temples and houses. They are taking statements of witnesses.

The witnesses, local attackers and victims have been living together for generations irrespective of religious belief. But now, mistrust and suspicion will reign in their neighbourhoods, locals apprehend.

The way the government bodies are conducting probes, it will not be a secret who is testifying against whom. This places the witnesses in a dilemma, they added.

An investigator from the police told The Daily Star that most of the Buddhists are scared to disclose the names of the locals whom they saw among the miscreants on the night of September 29.

A sense of insecurity is increasing among the Buddhists as some of them have already been warned by Muslim neighbours not to disclose the names.

Santosh Barua, a former member of Fatekharkul union, gave a statement to the investigators Thursday morning.

He mentioned some names of Muslim neighbours who incited and helped others to carry out arson and vandalism.

After giving the statement, while talking to this correspondent, he received a phone call.

After the conversation, Barua told this correspondent, "He [the caller] was threatening me that the consequences would not be good if I do not withdraw his brother's name from my statement."

"I will never withdraw the names as I saw them how they instigated people," he added. "That night I saw who came forward to help us and who provoked the attackers."

He said many local participants of anti-Buddhist processions are now claiming they were not there or they were there to prevent the demonstrators from destroying Buddhist establishments.

All are not as bold as Barua. Many Buddhists of Ramu told The Daily Star that they were in fear of further attacks and losses.

"Some of us have been receiving messages from our well-wishers to take care as we are helping the investigation to the displeasure of neighbours," said a Buddhist teacher preferring anonymity.

Yesterday afternoon, a former minister went to visit the ruins of century-old Sima Bihar. He talked to Buddhist victims in the open and wanted to know about the rioters.

A local leader told him that nobody would speak the truth in front of others.


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