April 13, 2021

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Facebook status, or land grabbing the reason for the attack?

For several years now, there have been incidents of communal attacks in the country centered on Facebook status. Apparently it is being practiced without resistance. Recently, many Hindus have been attacked in Noagaon village of Shalla upazila of Sunamganj. We already know that 90 houses and 10 to 12 temples have been vandalized. Many have moved away in fear. Women and children cannot stay at home. Two women told the BBC they had fled before the attack and taken refuge in a nearby dam. Not only them, many women took refuge there to save their lives. From there, they witnessed the destruction of their homes. The attackers ransacked almost every house for an hour and a half. At that time no one came forward to help them. (BBC March 17)

According to various newspapers, Hefazat-e-Islam organized a rally called Shane Risalat on March 15 in Dirai. Jhumon Das posted a status on Facebook following a statement made by a Hefazat-e-Islam speaker at the rally. Hefazat also held a rally after the protest. Jhumon Das was arrested. But even then the local Hindus could not escape the attack.
The first communal attack in Bangladesh centered on a Facebook post took place in 2012. A communal attack took place in Ramu on the night of September 29 that year, alleging that the Holy Qur’an had been desecrated. Soon after, violence spread in Ukhia and Teknaf upazilas. Many Buddhists in Ramu and Ukhia were injured in the two-day violence, and 19 Buddhist monasteries were damaged. At this time also a number of Buddhist families left the area and the country. Uttam Kumar Barua, who was accused of giving status on Facebook, has not been traced since the day of the attack.

Four years later, a similar attack took place. The incident took place on October 30, 2016 at Nasirnagar Sadar in Brahmanbaria based on the Facebook status of a person named Rasraj Das. One person from Harkali Thakurpara village was killed in the attack, and at least 300 houses, temples and idols were vandalized in eight nearby Hinduparas. The attackers set fire to many houses. Here too, the status account is shrouded in mystery. Because, Rasraj, who is accused of giving this status, is a fisherman by profession. He doesn’t know how to run Facebook; He has no idea what the password is. There were so many incidents surrounding the post, nothing was known about it later. But the reality is that many have left the area in panic.

Exactly one year after the attack on Nasirnagar, on November 10, 2016, a similar attack was carried out at Gangachara in Rangpur, killing one person. The next incident was last year. One of the Bangladeshis living in France posted a status on Facebook about the incident, which led to the attack and vandalism of Hindu houses and places of worship in Muradnagar, Comilla in 2020. Then the incident of Sunamganj happened in 2021. Apart from this, such incidents are also happening in small ethnic areas. No statistics are published on how many people leave the area or the country after such attacks every year.

As the reader will notice, the background to each attack is a Facebook status. In some cases whose ID is fake. Religious minorities fled the area immediately after each attack. Sometimes leaving the area, sometimes leaving the country. Even in the case of Brahmanbaria, when the government announced that those whose houses had been demolished would be given “better” houses, many of the victims said they did not want new houses. It will not ensure their safety, it will not erase the memories of their fears.

The good relations that existed between people of all communities in the area before the attack never returned. Confidence in each other is lost, the place is no longer comfortable and safe for them. For the safety of life so many are forced to leave the area or country quietly.

The important question here is, who, or why, carry out these attacks? What is the purpose behind this? If we take into account a few more things, we can see that violence against women has become important in each attack separately. And when that happens, the affected families become even more frightened. That’s when they make difficult decisions like leaving the country or leaving the area.

An analysis of the causes of such communal attacks, which occur almost every year, shows that these are not mere incidents of inclination. Behind this is the politics of land grabbing. The attackers are not ‘ordinary’ people either, their main goal is to seize land by carrying out communal attacks with the tickling of religious sentiments. In most cases, as we have seen, the attackers are indulged because the state is silent. Encourages the affected people to apply constant pressure until they decide to leave the land. Many times they save the land from the attackers at a nominal price. In the constant pressure and heat of power, they know that they will no longer be able to stay in their ancestral home.

Despite the continuation of communal attacks, the government has so far taken no effective action other than verbal warnings. Because, the two main political parties of Bangladesh Awami League and BNP are using religion for their political needs from time to time. They also silently give political exposure to these attackers.

That is why the communal attacks that take place almost every year show that we are just talking about ‘religion belongs to everyone, festivals belong to everyone’ or ‘the state belongs to everyone’. So instead of looking for the source of the ghostly status, focus on identifying the attackers, then you will understand that the main place is not the Facebook status, but the land grabbing. The most important thing is to stop it.

Zobaida Nasreen is a teacher in the Department of Anthropology at Dhaka University
[email protected]

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