A Cumilla court Saturday sent Iqbal Hossain – the key suspect in a case of hurting religious sentiment – to a seven-day police remand as the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) has claimed to have arrested the masterminds of Rangpur Hindu village attack, including a former Chhatra League activist.
Apart from Iqbal, the Cumilla court also granted police a seven-day quizzing for another three accused Ekram Hosen, Humayun Ahemd and Faisal Ahmed in the case. The all four accused were produced before the court on Saturday noon as police appealed for a ten-day remand.
In a separate development yesterday, Law Minister Anisul Huq said Cases filed over the recent attacks in puja mandaps and on Hindu communities in Cumilla will be tried in speedy trial tribunals.
"These cases will be sent to speedy trial tribunals once police submit the investigation reports to the court," he told journalists in Dhaka.
On Thursday night, police arrested Iqbal Hossain whom they say "a drug addict and vagabond" from Cox's Bazar, and he was brought to Cumilla on Friday. In the wee hours of 13 October, Iqbal reportedly placed a copy of the holy Quran at Nanuar Dighi puja mandap in Cumilla, and took away the mace of Hindu god Hanuman – prompting communal tensions in the district that later erupted elsewhere.
"Iqbal primarily confessed to his crime. There is also evidence that suggests other three individuals were also involved," M Tanvir, additional superintendent of Cumilla police, told journalists.
"We are looking into the case closely. If they [Iqbal and the three individuals] are found involved in other incidents, separate cases will be filed against them," the police official said, adding, "The investigation will take time since this is a sensitive case, and nothing in detail can be said now".
When replying to a query about the missing Hanuman's mace, Tanvir said Iqbal had thrown it in the lake.
Closed-circuit television (CCTV) camera footage collected from the adjacent area of Nanuar Dighi mandap shows Iqbal going to a mosque beside a shrine at midnight, then to the mandap with something holding in his hands, and coming out with a mace.
Apart from placing the Quran at the mandap, police said Iqbal also instigated the agitated mob gathered centering the "besmirching of the holy scripture".
Of the other accused, Ekram called national emergency helpline 999 on 13 October morning to inform them about "demeaning of the Quran", while Humayun used to work as a muezzin.
Faisal Ahmed lives in the Nanuar Dighi area. Locals could not confirm whether he was involved in politics.
Youth confesses Noakhali attack
Police arrested 118 people in seven cases filed over Naoakhali's Chowmuhani temple attack and vandalism on 15 October.
"Law enforcers have identified and arrested the attackers after collecting and reviewing CCTV footage in and around Chowmuhani Bazaar," Mohammad Shahidul Islam, Noakhali police superintendent, said on Saturday afternoon.
"Among the arrested, a youth named Abdur Rahim Sujan, 19, gave a confessional statement to the court on Thursday afternoon. During the arrest, some items looted from the temples were recovered from his possession," said the police official, adding, their raids were on.
Shahidul Islam said four probe committees have been formed so far, and the inquiry reports will be submitted soon.
Pirganj attack masterminds arrested
Saikat Mandal, an undergraduate student, led the attack on Hindu village in Rangpur's Pirganj and set Hindu houses on fire, said Rapid Action Battalion (RAB).
A graduate student of philosophy at the Carmichael College, Saikat was a leader of ruling Awami League-backed students' wing Bangladesh Chhatra League at the philosophy department of the college. The college unit president of the organisation, Saiduzzaman Sijar said Saikat had been expelled from the organisation on 18 October.
The elite battalion said Saikat provoked the locals by spreading rumours and false posts on Facebook. On the night of the attack, the 24-year-old student's associate Rabiul Islam gathered the locals after making announcements from the mosque. Then the attack was carried out.
RAB arrested the duo from Tongi on Friday night, and held a media briefing on Saturday in Dhaka's Karwan Bazar.
At the press conference, RAB spokesperson Commander Khandaker Al Moin said, "Saikat Mandal had been using social media to spread communal hatred. He had been coming up with various provocative posts since the Cumilla incident."
"He has been instrumental in spreading rumours that led to the attack as Rabiul Islam had cooperated in spreading the statements," said the RAB official.
On 17 October, 18 Hindu houses in Pirganj were set on fire, centering on a Facebook post by a Hindu youth. Police also arrested the youth Paritosh Sarker.
RAB said Saikat had been waiting for a "turbulent time" to destroy the communal harmony. Paritosh's Facebook post plus the communal tensions centering the Cumilla incident provide him with the "timing".
In a separate development, State Minister for Disaster Management and Relief Dr Enamur Rahman visited Majhipara village at Pirganj Saturday.
"Majhipara people have returned to normal life after shaking off the shock of the communal violence," said the state minister.
Around 300 people who were affected in the arson and looting said their total loss amounts to several crores of taka. However, the affected families seemed happy with the aid provided by the government and other organisations.
"Now there is no panic or fear among the victims. Everyone has returned home. They are preparing to turn around anew," Enamur Rahman added.
Attack on JM Sen Hall puja mandap
Habibullah Mizan, arrested in connection with the attack on JM Sen Hall puja mandap in Chattogram, gave confessional statements in court on Saturday.
During his confession in the court of Chattogram Metropolitan Magistrate Shafi Uddin, Mizan said the attack was carried out by gathering local people over the alleged desecration of the Quran.
The matter was confirmed by Nezam Uddin, officer in charge (OC), Kotwali Police Station, when talked to The Business Standard.
Habibullah Mizan currently serves as a member of Jubo Odhikar Parishad and was the former convener of Chhatra Odhikar Parishad under the Bandar Police Station unit of the organisation.