So far, eight people, including women, have been beaten to death across the country over the rumours of child abduction. Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan on Tuesday said those who are responsible for the killings will be made accused in murder cases.
Stating that those who are against the construction of Padma Bridge are spreading the rumour of child sacrifice, Information Minister Hasan Mahmud on Wednesday said ruling party leaders and activists have been asked to resist the incidents of mob beating.
Meanwhile, police found some of the arrestees in lynching cases in parts of Bangladesh having links to the ‘anti-government’ force.
Home Ministrer’s warning
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan has said no exceptions will be made for those involved in mob lynching, and spreading of rumours on the social media.
The minister issued the warning while speaking at a press conference at his office in the secretariat on Tuesday.
“We are not sitting idle. Our law enforcers are working to take legal action against those involved with mob beating by examining the footage of incidents.”
The press briefing also informed that, till now 6 people have died, while more than 10 others were injured, in incidents related to mob lynching. It also said, 9 cases have been filed so far, and 81 people were arrested across the country regarding these incidents.
“In such cases, if a hundred people are involved, the punishment will be the same. They will be brought to book if they were involved with the lynching. They will be punished as per the country’s law,” he added.
“We are trying to identify those involved with the lynching of a woman in Dhaka’s Badda area by examining the video footage. Meanwhile, some people have already been detained after they were identified from the footage,” the home minister added.
“Do not pay heed to any rumours. Do not take the law into your own hands, without knowing the facts. If in doubt, inform law enforcement by calling 999,” he said to the countrymen.
Information Minister smells politics
Information Minister Hasan Mahmud on Wednesday said without any ambiguity that “Those who had earlier said the government wouldn’t be able to construct the Padma Bridge and those who don’t want its construction spread the rumour that children are needed to be sacrificed for the bridge, triggering child-abduction panic among people,”
Talking to reporters at the Secretariat, the minister said their party general secretary Obaidul Quader discussed the matter with its leaders and activists on Tuesday at their party office. “We’ve requested our party leaders and activists to put up a resistance against those creating panic and taking the law into their own hands.”
Hasan, also Awami League’s spokesperson and its publicity affairs secretary, called upon his party colleagues to be vocal and active against mass beating over child-abduction rumours.
The minister said those involved in the killing of innocent people through mob beating will face stern legal action. “The killing of so many people or attacks over rumours of child lifting is very unbecoming and unlawful.”
He said law enforcers have already arrested 44 people in this connection. “We’ve also come to know the political identities of many of them. I’m not disclosing that for the sake of investigation.”
Besides, Hasan said, the government is taking necessary steps to prevent rumour spreading by the vested quarter while the Information and Home Ministries are working to make people aware of that.
He called upon people not to pay heed to any rumour of child lifting as no such incident has so far found correct.
As his attention was drawn to the conflict in Jatiya Party over its leadership, Hasan said it is the internal matter of the opposition party. “We’re observing it, but I don’t want to say anything about it.”
About the ninth wage board, he said the Cabinet committee will hold a meeting on it on Thursday. “After the final decision on the wage board, it will be submitted to the Cabinet.”
Police found political links
“A vested quarter has been conspiring to create unrest in the country. We can’t share the details now. We face such propaganda and Facebook posts not only at home but also abroad,” , said Inspector General of Police Mohammad Javed Patwary a press briefing at the Police Headquarters on Wednesday.
“We have found some arrestees having links with the anti-government political parties,” Patwary said in response to the queries by reporters.
No arrestees belong to the ruling party, he said.
The government urged people not to be misled by rumours, such as ‘severed human head needed to construct the Padma Bridge’. The rumour set social media ablaze. Few were arrested over the spreading of the rumour.
In the meantime, a man was lynched in Netrokona on Thursday after finding him carrying a ‘severed head of a child.’
There were several other cases of lynching in parts of the country. A woman suspected to be a kidnapper was lynched at Badda, who went there to make queries about putting her child in school. In some cases, previous rivalry led the perpetrator to provoke a mob and lynch his opponent.
Rumours sparked the lynching of at least six persons in the country over the last few days, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan said on Tuesday.
None of the lynching victims was an ‘abductor,’ Patwary said at the press briefing on Wednesday. The rumours were spread with an ill intention, he said.
Police found a person based in Dubai when they investigated the first Facebook post spreading such rumours, according to the IGP.
The officer urged people to inform police if they come across such incidents. Those involved in lynching will be named in murder cases, he said.
The story about lynching of Taslima Begum Renu
A mother visiting a school in the middle of the year to inquire about admission of her children is unusual, or at least some of the guardians at North Badda Government Primary School thought so. The assumption led to the fatal mob lynching of Taslima Begum Renu.
Their suspicion amid the rumours of child abduction arose when 42-year-old Renu said she was a resident of Ali Mor in the area, but later admitted she was living at Mohakhali Wireless Gate.
The mother of two had actually been a resident of Badda before the separation with her husband Taslim Hossain two years ago.
She was living at Mohakhali with her 11-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter afterwards.
Witnesses to the horrific incident of last Saturday said no-one was willing to listen to her when the locals, mostly youths who gathered outside on hearing that “an abductor has been caught”, dragged her out of the head teacher’s room after breaking down the main gate.
As she was being thrashed at the main gate, onlookers were busy filming the incident.
The teachers called police, but the lead attackers, with some carrying metal rods and spreading panic among the teachers, student and guardians, finished the job without paying heed to what others were saying and before the law enforcers arrived.
Three days after the incident, most shops in the area kept the shutters down while the keepers of those still open said they were not present during the lynching of Renu.
Police have arrested seven people, including key suspect ‘Hridoy’, who was seen hitting Renu with a metal stick in videos circulated on social media, over her death.
SUSPICION CREATED TENSIONS
Hasna Begum, a parent in her 30s, was waiting on the school premises as her son was in the class.
Some women asked for Renu’s identity as she was not a familiar face during the assembly of students.
“She once said she had come to hear the national anthem, but later said she had wanted to know whether she could admit her child there,” Hasna said.
“Some guardians did not like her answers as it is the middle of the year,” Hasna said.
Schools in Bangladesh admit students in December or January.
Hasna said later the confusion over her current address was created.
“She tried to tell something else about her address, but no-one wanted to listen to her,” she said.
As tension mounted, she said she wanted to meet the head teacher.
Jannat Begum, an ayah at the school, said some guardians got very angry at the time and tried to beat Renu up, branding her as child abductor.
Some others then took her to the head teacher’s room, but the locals haf already started gathering outside.
Head teacher Shahnaz Begum and Assistant Teacher Ziaur Rahman tried to stop the angry mob, but no-one listened to them and started beating Renu after dragging her from the room on the first floor.
Most people in the school with about 750 students from class one to five and 14 teachers did not realise what happened.
“We shut the doors out of panic when the people stormed the premises,” teacher Abdul Gafur Talukder told the media.
He also said another teacher he knows has stopped visiting an area he has been assigned to for voter list update out of fear as the locals have grown suspicious.
“Visiting an unknown area has really become a matter of concern,” he said.
Renu is among at least eight people killed recently following rumours that “child abductors are on the prowl to collect heads and blood for construction of Padma Bridge” spread on social media, especially Facebook.
Key suspect arrested
Meanwhile, police have arrested ‘Hridoy’, the main suspect in the lynching of a woman in Dhaka’s Badda amid rumours of child abduction.
The law enforcers arrested Hridoy in Narayanganj, Hridoy worked as a vegetable seller near the North Badda Government Primary School, where the woman was beaten to death by a mob on Saturday, locals said.
The woman, Taslima Begum Renu, a 42-year-old mother of two, went to the school to inquire about admission.
Guardians took her to the headmaster’s room for questioning on suspicion that she was an abductor.
Angry locals, who gathered outside on hearing that “a child abductor has been caught”, later snatched her away and lynched her. Police responded immediately but the woman died before they arrived.
Police started grilling three other suspects – Bachhu Mia, 28, ‘Bappy’, 21, and ‘Shaheen’, 31- in custody on Monday.
Police have also arrested two other residents of the area – Abul Kalam Azad, 50, and Kamal Hossain, 40.