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‘Cumilla incident preplanned, politically motivated’

Published : 22 Oct 2021 10:37 PM | Updated : 23 Oct 2021 01:00 PM

Locals, police and high-ranking government officials believe that the incident at the Puja Mandap at Nanua Dighir Par in Cumilla can’t be the work of just a vagabond. This is a premeditated incident and the conspirators are behind the scene. 

They believe that the vagabond youth named Iqbal Hossain, who was arrested for allegedly keeping the Holy Quran at the Puja venue, was used as the Pawn. Other individuals or any vested quarter has played a vital role in orchestrating the incident in a bid to disturb the communal harmony in the country.  

Many believe that the vested quarters, who are unable to face the ruling party politically, designed the plot to tarnish the image of the government and create an undesirable situation in the country. 

Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal has said he believes that Iqbal ‘was tasked’ with placing the holy Quran on the lap of an idol. ‘The whole thing appears to be pre-planned. Investigators don’t believe that the vagabond youth had acted without any instruction or instigation. Iqbal was most likely instructed to do the misdeed by others to stoke up communal tensions,’ he added. 

Rana Dasgupta, general secretary of the Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council, said that this could not be the work of a vagabond. 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 bring them in the spotlight. He called upon the government to track down the masterminds.

Police said that they would be able to know the motive as Iqbal has already been arrested. 

The police arrested Iqbal from Cox’s Bazar on Thursday night. Earlier, he was identified as the man who kept a copy of the Quran at the Puja venue. He was brought to Cumilla on Friday noon. Cumilla police confirmed that he was the key suspect Iqbal

Additional Superintendent of Police (ASP) in Cox’s Bazar Rafiqul Islam said that Iqbal was nabbed from the sea beach around 10.30pm on Thursday. 

Three friends, who are activists of Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL), played a vital role behind the arrest. 

Anik Rahman, a Masters’ student in management at Noakhali’s Chaumuhani Government SA College, claimed that he and his two other friends named Mehedi Hasan Mishu and Saiful Islam Saif had caught Iqbal and handed him over to the police. 

Noakhali district BCL president Asaduzzaman confirmed that the three students are the BCL activists.

Noakhali (Begumganj Circle) ASP Shah Imran confirmed that Iqbal was arrested from Cox’s Bazar on the information provided by the BCL activists. “On Thursday evening, BCL activists Anik and Mishu contacted me and gave me the information about Iqbal. Later, I informed the Cumilla and Cox’s Bazar police of the matter.” 

Talking about Iqbal’s arrest, BCL activist Anik said, “On Monday night (October 19), we went to Cox’s Bazar. On Thursday morning (October 20), we went out to visit Darianagar. While spending time with my friends, Iqbal also joined us and sang along. Then that night I saw pictures on television and Facebook and became sure about Iqbal.”

Mehdi Hasan Mishu, a Masters’ student in accounting of college and a BCL activist, said they saw Iqbal again when they went to Sugandha Point in Cox’s Bazar sea beach on Thursday night. “Then we made friendship with him. At one stage, if he wanted to run away, we fed him breakfast and cigarettes and kept him tactfully. When asked about his name at the time, he told us that his name is Iqbal. Then we tactfully took a picture of Iqbal and contacted the ASP of Noakhali and sent the picture to him. Later at about 10:30 pm, police came to the sea beach and arrested Iqbal.”

After the arrest, a team of detective police led by Additional SP Sohan Sarkar went to Cox’s Bazar and brought Iqbal to Cumilla. He was initially taken to the Police Lines for interrogation.

Additional Superintendent of Police (ASP) in Cumilla SM Tanvir Ahmed said that they identified Iqbal as the prime suspect of the incident at Puja venue after scrutinising the footage of closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras.

Communal tensions swept Cumilla as police recovered a copy of the Quran from the Puja Mandap on October 13.

Perpetrators vandalised the mandap after the incident, and violence on Hindu communities subsequently erupted in several districts, including Chandpur, Noakhali, Chattogram and Rangpur. Zealots vandalised Hindu temples and set houses and businesses of the religious community on fire.

Iqbal Hossain, the 35-year old reported a drug addict, is the son of Nur Ahmed Alam from Sujanagar area of Cumilla city. Police identified his involvement after analyzing the video footage of surveillance cameras at the Puja venue, said Comilla SP Farooq Ahmed.

A CCTV footage shows Iqbal going to the mosque beside a shrine as well mosque at midnight, then to the mandap with something holding in his hands, and coming out with a mace that belongs to an image.

Another CCTV camera footage shows that at 2:10am on October 13, Iqbal came out of the shrine with the Holy Quran and approached the Puja Mandap. The distance from the shrine to the mandap is around 500-600 metres.

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 the Puja Mandap. The distance from the building to the mandapa is 100-120 metres.

After 3:12am, Iqbal was seen leaving the spot. Investigators suspected that Iqbal could have committed the offence at some point of that one hour from 2:10am to 3:12am.

Earlier, Iqbal’s mother Amena Begum told the media that her son started taking drugs at the age of 15.