Many of the affected people, who became homeless in a fire in the capital’s Pallabi early Monday, suspect the fire to be an act of sabotage by vested quarters.
They think that the pace at which the fire spread and engulfed several hundred shanties was possible only if flammable materials were used.
‘Small fire occurs in the slum routinely only to be put out with water stored in the shanties. But such a disastrous fire is only possible if flammable objects are used,’ said Mohammad Shahin, a rickshaw puller residing at the slum since 2005, on Tuesday.
The fire razed Shahin’s shanty, which sheltered his six-member family, among about 8,000 shanties burnt down.
Mohammad Belal, a painter, said they had four shanties for their families of 18 members in the slum of about 10,000 families.
‘Many things (suspicion) come to mind... quick spread of such a massive fire is not possible unless somebody sets the slum on fire intentionally,’ he said.
Belal said there was a dispute among the slum leaders recently.
Last month, a group of slum leaders ousted another group, he informed.
‘The aggrieved group could do it out of anger,’ he guessed.
Asked about the identity of the people they suspected, the slum dwellers refused to give their names, but said there was only one leader there, that is, Elias Mollah, the local lawmaker.
‘He chooses the leaders who will collect the fund (rent of shanties)’, said a slum dweller.
‘The leadership brings money that motivates them to go for even anarchy in the slum,’ he said.
The Fire Service investigators who started probing the fire said they could not be confirmed yet about how the fire originated and how it spread to the entire slum.
Debashish Bardhan, Fire Service deputy director, who is heading the probe team, told New Age that they just started working on Tuesday and could not determine the cause of the fire.
Lawmaker Elias Mollah, however, denied any allegation of sabotage.
He told reporters that it was merely an accident.
Elias said he was providing foods for the victims and would continue it until the situation would become normal.
‘I would try to allocate government fund for them,’ he said. The slum dwellers were seen collecting garbage from the rubble on Tuesday.
‘Waking up, we saw the fire... we could not save anything,’ said Mujibur Rahman, a construction labourer.
‘We just saved our lives,’ he said.
Elias Mollah made a list of 7,000 victim families.
The slum leaders were updating the list on Tuesday afternoon.
Syed Shah Alam, a slum leader, said the lawmaker assured them of arranging some fund for them.
He (Elias) also provided foods for them on Monday and Tuesday, he said.
Communist Party of Bangladesh expressed concern about the fire at the slum.
In a statement on Tuesday, the party president Mujahidul Islam Selim and general secretary Shah Alam demanded investigation to find out if it was an act of sabotage.
It demanded that if it was proved to be an act of sabotage, the government should identify the perpetrators and confiscate their property to distribute it among the victims.
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