Panchagarh Correspondent, bdnews24.com
Published: 13 Feb 2019
Shops and houses belonging to members of the Ahmadiyya community in Panchagarh have been attacked by followers of several religious organisations.
At least 21 people were injured during the attack at Ahmadnagar on Tuesday night after resentment grew among Sunni groups about a ‘Jalsha’ or annual convention planned by the minority Ahmadiyyas.
Faced with the protests from conservative groups, the district authorities after a series of meetings had on Tuesday cancelled the three-day Jalsha that was scheduled to start in Ahmadnagar on Feb 22.
But followers of groups including the Khatm-e-Nubuwwat Shongrokkhon Parishad descended on the streets of Ahmadnagar, the part of the town where members of the minority Muslim sect have their homes and businesses.
Police fired teargas shells and rubber bullets to bring back order while the attackers demanded the cancellation of the Jalsha. Of those injured in the violence, one person has suffered critical injuries, said Panchagarh Central Hospital resident physician Pradip Kumar Banik.
Since early February, followers of conservative groups were protesting the Jalsha under the banners of Khatm-e-Nubuwwat Shongrokkhon Parishad, Iman Akida Raksha Committee, Islami Jubo Samaj and local Towhidi Janata. Their campaign was supported by Hefazat-e Islam chief Allama Shah Ahmad Shafi.
On Tuesday night, protesters began demonstrating at Chowrangi intersection, Dhaka-Panchagarh Highway and other points of the town, said Panchagarh Central Police OC Abu Akkas Ahmed.
Mohammed Golam Azam, additional deputy commissioner, was announcing the decision to cancel the Jalsha from the loudspeaker of the Panchagarh Bazar Jame Mosque around 11:00pm. He urged the protesters to go home and avoid “attempts of provocation”.
The traffic in those areas came to a halt from 9:00 pm to around 11:00pm. Shops and business centres were shut amid fears of violence.
But despite the announcement and police efforts, a group of protesters went to Ahmadnagar and attacked the houses and the Ahmadiyya convention site, said OC Abu Akkas.
“We took along Municipality Mayor Towhidul Islam and leaders of the organisations in the movement and told the protesters about the decision to cancel the convention. But they were still confused and continued to protest by putting up blockades.
“Later, some of them crossed the Karotoa River and attacked the convention site in Ahmadnagar,” said Anwar Sadat Samrat, general secretary of district wing of the Awami League.
At least 40 members of their group were injured in the two-hour long attack, said Taher Jugol, president of the Ahmadnagar Muslim Jamaat. The women of the community were dragged outside of their homes and physically harassed, he said.
Some houses were also torched, he added.
“They have tried to create unrest by staging protests even after the decision to cancel the convention. The perpetrators will be punished following investigation,” said Panchagarh Deputy Commissioner Sabina Yasmin, while visiting the injured in the hospital.
The Ahmadiyya sect, a minority group in Bangladesh, has been subjected to many attacks by religious fanatics. One person was killed in a suicide bombing during a midday prayer session at an Ahmadiyya mosque in Rajshahi’s Baghmara in 2016.
Hefazat-e Islam, a madrasa organisation based in Chattogram’s Hathazari, has been pressing the government to declare the Ahmadiyyas ‘non-Muslims’.
Majid Ali, additional deputy inspector of police (Rangpur Range), Superintendent of Police Giasuddin Ahmad visited the scene and the injured at Panchagarh Central Hospital.