Iqbal Hossain, a reported drug addict believed to have placed the holy Quran at a puja mandap in Cumilla that instigated a spate of communal violence, was caught in at least four closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras – one of which was installed to guard fish farming pond.
As police reveal CCTV footage of Iqbal suspiciously roaming around the makeshift mandap at midnight, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal on Thursday said there had been a nationwide manhunt to capture Iqbal, and his apprehension will unravel everything.
The minister believes the suspect "was tasked" with placing the Quran on the lap of an idol at the mandap. "The whole thing appears to be planned," the home minister stated, adding that investigators do not believe that Iqbal had acted without any instruction or instigation.
Rana Dasgupta, general secretary of the Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council, also urged the government to track down the masterminds.
"This is a premeditated incident. The conspirators still remain out of the scene. The state, local administration and the government have to take the responsibility to put them in the spotlight," he said after a meeting with Deputy Minister for Education Mohibul Hasan Chowdhury in Chattogram.
Communal tensions swept Cumilla as police recovered a copy of the Quran from a puja mandap in the Nanuar Dighi area on 13 October.
Perpetrators vandalised the mandap over the reported besmirching of the holy scripture, and violence on Hindu communities subsequently erupted in several districts, including Chandpur, Noakhali, Chattogram and Rangpur, leaving at least six dead and many injured. Zealots vandalised Hindu temples and set houses and businesses of the religious community on fire.
The CCTV footage shows Iqbal going to the mosque beside a shrine at midnight, then to the mandap with something holding in his hands, and coming out with a mace that belongs to an idol.
A part of the footage seems to be from a high quality camera as it automatically zooms in and follows the roaming man by readjusting the focus. But police say the high-quality video is from one of the three cameras of Haji Salim – an amateur fish farmer who installed the surveillance system on top of his building in a bid to fend off fish thieves at night.
At 2:10am on 13 October, Iqbal came out of the shrine with the holy Quran and approached the Nanuar Dighi puja mandap, both Haji Selim's camera and the shrine's CCTV camera show. The distance from the shrine to the mandap is around 500-600 metres.
"The man who committed the incident in Cumilla has been identified by CCTV footage. The videos show he went to the mosque adjacent to the shrine around midnight. Videos show he entered the mosque at least three times," Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal told journalists on Thursday at the Secretariat while sharing some leads in the investigation.
"There were two mosque keepers [khadeem] with whom he talked," said the minister.
Another CCTV footage shows Iqbal walking around with the mace of the god Hanuman on his shoulder at 3:12am. Police collected the footage from a residential building on the west side of Nanuar Dighi. The distance from the building to the mandapa is 100-120 metres.
After 3:12am, Iqbal was seen leaving the spot. Investigators suspect Iqbal could have committed the offence at some point of that one hour – from 2:10am to 3:12am.
However, the home minister yesterday told journalists that law enforcers after a close scrutiny came to the point that Iqbal had brought the holy Quran from the mosque and placed it at the mandap. He then took away the idol's mace.
"Iqbal is not using a mobile phone. Those who sent him may also be hiding him. However, there has been a maximum effort to hunt him down as soon as possible," said Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal.
Iqbal, son of a fish trader at Laskarpukur of Muradpur union in Cumilla, is the eldest among five siblings. He went to school up to class five.
Earlier, her mother Amena Begum told the media that her son started doing drugs at the age of 15. Ten years ago, Iqbal was stabbed in the stomach during a fight with his friends which caused him to bleed profusely and he has been abnormal since then. He was beaten by the locals on allegations of theft several times.
A new name surfaces
So far, five cases have been filed with Cumilla Kotwali police station over the communal tensions and attacks.
Two cases were logged under the Digital Security Act – one by police and one by the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB). Besides, two cases were filed by police under the Special Powers Act and another for hurting religious sentiments.
So far, 44 people have been arrested in the cases. Police investigation focuses on three people – Iqbal Hossain who was caught in the CCTV footage, Ikram Hossain who called the national emergency helpline 999, and Humayun Kabir whose name seemed to have emerged recently. Ikram is now in police custody while the manhunt is on for Iqbal.
Police said Humayun Kabir is from Barura upazila of Cumilla and was a religion teacher at a school in Cumilla city. He is a supporter of the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat.
No evidence was found to suggest Iqbal and Ikram were involved in any political activities. The families said both of them are just drug addicts.