POLITICAL party in power, although pledged to ensure communal harmony, have failed to dispense justice to the survivors of communal violence. Seven years have passed since the violence in Ramu, Cox’s Bazar that destroyed 12 pagodas and about 50 houses on September 29, 2012. The violence later spread to Ukhia in the district and nearby Patiya in Chittagong where Buddhist monasteries and other religious establishments were damaged and hundred-year-old manuscripts were torched. The probe reports of the government later termed the attack as ‘planned’ and ‘premeditated,’ concerned citizens meanwhile considered the incident as the darkest episode in our history. Witnesses alleged that during the course of violence law enforcing agencies played the role of an onlooker. A hearing on the probe report in the High Court is now due for six years since the submission of the report on November 6, 2012. Eighteen cases filed with three police stations in the tourist district following the attack still remain pending and 483 people arrested in this connection are free on bail. When asked about the delay in trial process, the district public prosecutor simply blamed the uncooperative attitude of the witness. In this situation, it is not surprising that the leaders of the Buddhist community in Ramu and nearby area are frustrated and consider unresolved grievance is an obstacle to improving inter-fate relationships.
In the aftermath of the communal attack in Ramu, the government effort was more focused towards speedy relief and rehabilitation of the community. Within a year, under the supervision of the Engineering Corps of Bangladesh Army and Border Guard Bangladesh in Cox’s Bazar Buddhist temples and people’s homes were reconstructed. The aggrieved community appreciate the rehabilitation efforts; however, they rightfully think that the work of rebuilding community will remain unfinished until the perpetrators of such heinous crime are brought to book. Rebuilding community, as many human rights activists have suggested, also involves taking actions against the members of law enforcement agencies, their role as silent spectators created room for the escalation of the violence. Similar negligence is observed in other similar cases of communal violence in Bangladesh. Worst of all among these recent communal attacks took place on October 30, 2016 when about 200 houses and business establishments and 22 temples belonging to Hindu community were vandalised and robbed at Nasirnagar, Brahmanbaria. Altogether, eight cases were filed with Nasirnagar police station for the attack, but there is hardly any progress in the procedure. Earlier in July, Police Bureau of Investigation submitted a charge sheet in a case filed for arson attack on Santals at Gobindaganj, Gaibandha on November 6, 2016, but excluded the names of the suspected police personnel who were seen torching Santal home during the violence. The failure to ensure effective redress and exclusion of suspects with influence, in these cases, amounts to institutional impunity.
For the current political party in power to prove its mettle for communal harmony, it must break this cycle of institutionalised impunity and ensure that investigation of the cases related to violence against religious and ethnic minority communities are done without political and other party influence.
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