In news of a new crackdown by state security forces, where reports of vandalism and arson attacks, terrified people fleeing their homes and tales of homes and valuables burnt to ashes, destroying livelihoods and dreams of the affected, the plight of the people of Shivganj upazila at Chapai Nawabganj has again come to the forefront of national headlines. The following is an account of the security crackdown, compiled from various instances of communication with affected locals who contacted Dhaka based newspaper Manabzamin with their stories.
According to eyewitness accounts, the combined forces of RAB, police and BGB started their operation on the morning of the 15th of January at Shivganj upazila in Chapai Nawabganj. The operation was conducted by several teams of the combined forces at different areas throughout the upazila. Vandalism and arson was carried out in the name of search operations, such that more than 30 households were burnt down to the ground along with valuable possessions. As a result of the ensuing panic, many fled the area, mostly men who feared being arrested by security forces. All shops and businesses in the area were also shut down.
Police have said that their operation in the upazila would continue for as long as it would take to make it “free from terrorists”. To the time of writing of this report, 25 activists affiliated with Jamaat-e-Islami and the BNP were arrested, according to the Shivganj police station OC. Affected families informed that security forces carried out large scale vandalism and arson in the name of search operations in several areas under Shivganj municipality, including Rasulpur, Umarpur of Shyampur, Chamabazaar, Babupur, Dhobra of Shahbajpur and Muslimpur.
In Rasulpur area, security personnel vandalized the house of Mohammad Yasin, wrecking the furniture, fridge and showcase before moving on to setting fire to his motorcycle and letting it burn to ashes. The residences of Mohammad Alam, Ekramul Haque and Abu Sufiyan from the same area were also vandalized and subject to arson. The residences of the Shyampur Union Parishad Chairman Nurul Huda, Maulana Abdul Malek, Ansarul Islam, Monglu Sardar, Joynal Abedin and Mujibur Rahman, along with 7/8 other residences were attacked and vandalized too.
Another team of the combined security forces, according to Darul Huda, a resident at Shivganj, vandalized and set fire to the his house and that of Abdul Mukim, along with attacking and vandalizing 5/6 other residences at Shahbajpur (Dhobra) area in Shivganj.
When asked about the above incidents, MM Moynul Islam, the OC of Shivganj police station, denied the involvement of security personnel in the arrest of general people or in any instance of vandalism or arson. The operation, he said, had been carried out to nab terrorists who were killing people and setting fire to vehicles, mainly trucks laden with goods plying from Shonamasjid port, all in the name of hartal and blockades in the areas of Shivganj, Rasulpur, Kansat, Dhobra and Muslimpur in the district of Chapai Nawabganj. Shivganj police station duty officer Bani Israel, executive magistrate and assistant commissioner Afazuddin denied any police involvement in vandalism and arson, the former saying that security personnel had actually helped locals to control fire that had been set by miscreants fleeing from the law enforcers.
50 residences attacked in Chapai Nawabganj, says Jamaat:
In a statement released to the media, acting Secretary General of Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami, Dr. Shafiqur Rahman criticized the excesses committed by the security apparatus against the general people and opposition activists.
He stated that security personnel had attacked about 50 homes belonging to activists of Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami and Bangladesh Islami Chhatra Shibir. He condemned the arrest of more than 400 activists of the 20 party grand alliance including the recent arrest of Labour Party Chairman Dr. Mostafizur Rahman Iran from all over the country such as Dhaka, Chittagong, Rajshahi, Khulna, Narayanganj, Sylhet, Comilla, Brahmanbaria, Kushtia, Chadpur, Rangpur, Jessore, Jhanaidah, Magura, Narail, Gazipur, Cox’s Bazar, Satkhira, Netrokona, Lakhsmipur, Noakhali, Moulvibazar, Bhola, Dinajpur, Thakurgaon, Bogra and Meherpur among other places.
He urged the countrymen to continue with the blockade till the fall of the autocratic government and the re-instatement of democracy and elections under an impartial caretaker government.