Monday, October 22, 2012
[chottala.com] Attacks On Buddhists: Ominous inaction
Attacks On Buddhists: Ominous inaction
Intelligence agencies, law enforcers acted strangely to let govt down
Despite having enough security support at hand, law enforcement and intelligence agencies did not even try to ward off or contain the violence against the Buddhist community in Ramu of Cox's Bazar last month.
On the night of September 29, it took several hours before the marauding gangs of zealots could go on the rampage over a faked Facebook page insulting the Quran.
All this time, the local police and intelligence personnel remained conspicuously inactive. They did not pass any information to the upazila and district administration about the growing outrage that culminated in the destruction of centuries-old Buddhist temples and monasteries and houses.
The mayhem could not be averted even though Ramu was better positioned than other upazilas to deal with the situation.
Unlike many other upazilas, Ramu has offices of the army and paramilitary Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB). Besides, Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI), National Security Intelligence (NSI) and Special Branch (SB) of police operate here from Cox's Bazar, a 20-minute drive from Ramu upazila headquarters.
Then there is Ramu police's own intelligence mechanism, including paid sources, watchers and informers.
"They [agencies and police] get a good amount of source money to gather information through their networks," said a civil administration official of Cox's Bazar.
However, all this amounted to nothing at the time of a real crisis.
The district and upazila administration received hardly any intelligence from the field on the evening of September 29.
Nazibul Islam, the then officer-in-charge of Ramu Police Station, had all along kept the local administration in the dark about the troubles brewing.
Likewise, Selim Jahangir, Cox's Bazar superintendent of police, gave no information to the district administration about the disturbing developments for hours.
Ramu Upazila Nirbahi Officer Debi Chanda heads the local law-and-order committee, of which the OC is the member secretary. Yet she did not get any information from Nazibul.
Debi came to know about the disturbances from Jainul Bari, the outgoing deputy commissioner of Cox's Bazar, after 10:30pm. SP Selim contacted Jainul around the same time.
It had already been nearly three hours then since the bigots began inciting hatred against the Buddhists from Ramu's busiest marketplace Fakirabazar between 7:30pm and 8:00pm.
As per section 127 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), a UNO (as magistrate) and an OC have the power to disperse any unlawful assembly or a gathering of five or more persons that is likely to disturb the peace.
Under section 129 of the CrPC, the UNO (as magistrate) has the power to call in the military to help the civil administration break up an unruly assembly that cannot otherwise be dispersed.
The OC and the UNO of Ramu did not exercise these powers.
The local administration imposed section 144 of the CrPC -- ban on all kinds of gatherings, rallies and processions -- only the following morning, whereas it could have done so much earlier or overnight.
Section 145 of Police Regulations of Bangladesh gives an OC the authority to prepare her/his constables with arms to combat a possible outrage. S/he is also supposed to inform the matter to her/his nearest magistrate.
In Ramu, Debi Chanda was the OC's nearest magistrate, but Nazibul told her nothing.
"What I lacked was information. Except that, I had everything to tackle such a massive chaos," she said.
"I had asked the officer-in-charge to arrange necessary force and to set up check posts so that no outsider could enter. But the OC did not comply."
Around 11:30pm, Debi went to Chaumuhuni Circle, where fanatics were holding rallies and processions. She found OC Nazibul there as well.
Witnesses said shoes were thrown at Debi from a procession there and no other officials present had to face such a backlash.
Instead of moving in to deal with a potentially violent mob, Nazibul made provocative statements at a rally of several hundred people.
Some officials in Ramu and Cox's Bazar too have told The Daily Star about the dubious role played by the OC.
A BGB official said the then DC told them around 11:30pm to be prepared for any situation. But the border guards got the final call for deployment at 1:20am. The army was deployed even later.
The BGB official, wishing not to be named, said many temples were torched before they moved in. When the rioters started to leave Ramu, he asked the OC to arrest as many as possible. "The OC did not arrest a single person."
Even after all this, Nazibul refused to accept any blame for the inaction of the law enforcers while talking to this correspondent on October 2, hours before he was withdrawn.
According to some locals, he had some personal grudges against Buddhists.
Lately, police bosses in Ramu and Cox's Bazar have been trying to give an impression that they learned about the violence when it was already too late. But the sequence of events that this correspondent has gathered from eyewitnesses does not bear them out.
Omar Faruk, the owner of a mobile phone servicing shop at Ramu Bazar, said police came to his outlet twice between 8 and 9 that night. They wanted to see Uttam Kumar Barua's so-called Facebook page and the anti-Islam photo.
Police picked up Faruk and his friend Abdul Moktadir around 9:00pm, according to Moktadir's mother and Faruk. Their statements suggest the law enforcers were aware of the hate campaign in the evening.
An official, on condition of anonymity, said Cox's Bazar SP did not inform DC Jainul Bari over the phone before 10:30pm.
Some serving and former admin officials in Cox's Bazar and Ramu told this correspondent that the OC could have directly requested the DC to call in troops.
Also, intelligence agencies, which usually share necessary information with the district and upazila administration, were reportedly not active that night.
"Earlier, we had never felt any coordination problem among the civil administration in Cox's Bazar and Ramu and intelligence agencies," said an official in Ramu. "But we don't know why they did not give us any information on that crucial night."
At a meeting with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in Cox's Bazar on October 8, acting DC Jasim Uddin said information from Ramu came late to the district headquarters.
He came to know about the incident around 11:00pm and then started for Ramu with the SP, a meeting source said.
SP Selim told the PM that he learned about the incident around 10:30pm and then spoke to the OC over the phone.
"The OC told me the situation was under control. He had seized the computer from the shop and sent a force to arrest Uttam," the SP told the PM. "I also contacted the local DGFI and NSI; they told me they knew nothing."
SP Selim also said that as he called again, OC Nazibul said demonstrators would end their processions at 12:30am.
He called the OC again around midnight. The OC told him protest processions were going on, but there was no violence.
People started to pour into Ramu as the local lawmaker left after addressing the demonstrators. The SP told the PM that the OC had not given him this picture.
Meanwhile, Cox's Bazar District Imam Samity President Mohammad Kamal Uddin's version has called into question the SP's claim that he learned about the agitation not before 10:30pm.
Kamal told The Daily Star yesterday that Cox's Bazar Sadar Police Station's former OC Kamrul Hasan picked him up from the town around 9:15pm and took him to the SP's office around 9:25pm.
Kamal learned about the agitation from SP Selim and Kamrul before 9:30pm.
The SP was still at his office when the attackers began torching temples and houses in Ramu around 12, he added.
Nurul Islam, Cox's Bazar Awami League leader and special public prosecutor for women and children repression prevention tribunal, was in Ramu on the night of September 29.
He called the SP five times from 10:30pm till midnight asking him to send in a force.
"The SP received my call three times and every time he said he was sending a force. But we did not see police before 4:00am on September 30," Nurul said.
On Sunday, Jasim Uddin was transferred and attached to the public administration ministry. He took over as acting DC of Cox's Bazar from Jainul Bari on September 30.
Jainul was made an officer on special duty over his alleged inaction during the communal attacks in Ramu.
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