The local administration had informed the cabinet division on the night of October 19 over the deteriorating situation in Borhanuddin following a leaked messenger chat of ‘hacked’ Facebook profile of a Hindu youth went viral which contained invectives on Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and his daughter.

The cabinet division had advised the local administration to hold an immediate meeting with the religious and ruling party leaders to solve the crisis, said the Bhola district deputy commissioner Muhammad Masud Alam Siddique.

They held a meeting accordingly but no major steps were taken by the local police station or ruling party leaders, said an official.

The officials claimed that M Enamul Haque, the officer-in-charge of Borhanuddin police station, was aware of the developing situation in his locality as the Islamic preachers were installing a dozen of public announcement system in the area since morning.

Local police did not intervene when the preparation was on, they added. 

On Friday, Enamul could not be reached on his official phone for comments following several attempts.

On the fateful day, both the district administration and police investigators were also in the dark what really prompted the ‘sudden attacks’ on the police and administration official when they were holding a meeting with Muslim leaders at around 10:00am inside a madrassa building at Sadar school ground.

The police officials repeatedly tried to reach local Awami League leaders and ruling lawmaker Ali Azam Mukul but to no avail, the police officials said, adding that the district police superintendent finally called the local lawmaker from his personal phone at around 10:15  in the morning and sought urgent assistance.

According to the Awami League leaders, the senior ruling party leader Tofail Ahmed of neighbouring constituency in Bhola was at Ganabhaban while lawmaker of Borhanuddin constituency Ali Azam Mukul was in Dhaka.

The local lawmaker Ali Azam Mukul said he was aware of the leaked messenger chat and the related development since October 18 and called local district administration and police.

A meeting was held on October 19, where the Islamic preachers promised that no gathering would be held on October 20, he added.

‘We trusted them,’ said Ali Azam, adding, ‘In the call, which I received from the SP on the fateful day at 10:15am, he appealed for help, saying that they were in danger and were in need of assistance.’

A senior police officer who was on duty told New Age that they reached the venue where the Islamist preachers were preparing to hold the rally where a sizable crowed formed and attempted to make the people understand that the police were trying to identify the perpetrator since Biplob Chandra Shuvo’s Facebook was hacked and he along with two others was already in detention at the police station.   

Since the situation was calm, police, local administration officials along with Islamic preachers went to a nearby two-storeyed facility to continue discussion on how to pacify the crowd that gathered after arriving from different corners of the district.

The official said that at this point around 10:45am, a rumour spread among the crowd that the pir of Batamara Muhibullah was detained by the police. What actually transpired is that the pir, as per commitment to the government officials, did not turn up at the rally.

However his absence triggered many of his followers and locals to start a fight against the police, added the official.     

After 11:00am, a fierce battle between the police the agitating locals ensued that finally left four people dead.

Another senior official at the district administration also told New Age on Friday that they did not find any of the senior ruling party leaders on the ground before the clash erupted.

‘If they were on the ground, the clash could have been avoided,’ said the official while admitting that the relationship between the local police and the political leadership in the area was under strain after the new police superintendent joined four months ago.

Recalling the day of incident, the home minister Asaduzzaman Khan admitted that there was a lack of political leadership at that time of the incident.

‘We are now examining the footage to identify the actual perpetrators to find the actual reason why they carried out the attack,’ said the Bhola district police additional superintendent Mir Shafeen Mahmud.   

The police so far arrested two people from the 18 identified ‘troublemakers’ of the day and an operation was on to find the rest of them.

‘We are interrogating the two in remand,’ said the police investigator.

On Friday, the police also detained three youths of Monpura upazila for their suspicious movement.

Heavy police contingents have been deployed at the Borhanuddin town and the Border Guard Bangladesh troops were patrolling its roads, said some witnesses who said local shops also remained closed.

Road communication and launch service on internal routes in the district remained suspended since morning as the district adminstration had taken steps to evade any unwanted incident after the Juma prayer.

The internal road communication, including Bhola Sadar to Char Fashion route and ferry service between Bhola-Barishal and Bhola-Laxmipur in the district remained suspended till 1:00pm.

Besides, 500 members of the police, Border Guard Bangladesh, and Rapid Action Battalion were deployed at key points of the district and were seen patrolling the town.

Shorbodoliyo Muslim Oikkya Parishad joint secretary Mowlana Mizanur Rahman said they called off the programme in consultation with the chief guest of their Friday special prayer Mufti Muhammad Faysul Karim.

Meanwhile in Dhaka, several thousand activists under of Dhaka city unit Islami Jubo Andolon, an associate body of Islami Andolon Bangladesh gathered at the north gate of Baitul Mukarram National Mosque after the Juma prayer.

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