Reflections of the village dwellers

The opinions of Bangladeshi villagers on the Holey Artisan Bakery attack

By Morshed Ali Khan

At a small village near Mangalmajir Bazar in Shariatpur, 70 kilometers south of the capital, across the river Padma, a dozen people sat lazily at a tea stall during the Eid holidays last week. Some of the men had come from Dhaka to their village home to celebrate the festival with their families. The men from Dhaka conversed with the curious villagers who asked them questions mainly on the massacre at Holey Artisan Bakery in Gulshan, a week ago.

The picturesque green landscape of Shariatpur

The picturesque green landscape of Shariatpur

“Tell me who these jongis (terrorists) are? Why did they kill foreigners visiting our country?” asked an elderly man, apparently a peasant.
“Chacha these jongis are kids of rich men and they go to expensive private universities,” replied Jahangir Alam, a young man working as an agent for a pharmaceutical company in Dhaka.
“But what have those men and women done?” asked the elderly man. Now everyone’s attention was diverted towards Jahangir Alam.
“They did nothing wrong, their only fault was they were not Muslims, they were from other faiths,” replied Jahangir Alam.
Another bearded elderly man with a round cap, suddenly frowned at Jahangir,”Noya Allah (New Allah),” he told Jahangir. “Islam does not allow this, Islam asks you to respect every other religion,” he added, reciting a verse from the Quran. Then he muttered in Arabic, “Lakumdinu Kumwalyadin…”(you have your own religion we have ours.)
The terrorist attack on the Holey Artisan Bakery, on Friday July 1st, 2016, which left 29 people dead including 20 hostages, two police officers, two staffs of the Bakery and five terrorists, shook the entire nation of 160 million people. The predominantly Muslim population of Bangladesh has always enjoyed a reputation as being moderate Muslims. For most villagers it was beyond comprehension why something so brutal and meaningless could occur in a country where teeming millions are hard working and God-fearing folks.

A view of the Holey Artisan Bakery, the scene of the bloody, violent attack

A view of the Holey Artisan Bakery, the scene of the bloody, violent attack

15 kilometers away from Mangalmajir Bazar, by the village road near Naodoba Hat, Rustam Howlader, about 55, was angling with several bamboo rods at a recently inundated low-lying land.
Rustam Howladar narrated his own story of how his family of five members had been seeking justice from the administration for 15 years. He was about to lose the only piece of land, his homestead, measuring about 700 square feet to a local influential man.
“There is no justice for the poor in this country, justice is only meant for the rich and influential,” he said. “When I heard about the killings in Dhaka, I thought it was normal in a country where the poor are so neglected.”
“You ask anyone in this village, they know killing is against our religion but they will have no comment because most of us are unhappy about the system,” Rustam added.
The road to Paler Char, 30 kilometers away from Naodoba, was picturesque with floodwater in the inundated paddy fields.  A group of young men in traditional attire of Punjabi watched a football match being played on a muddy school playground. Interestingly, the match was between visitors from Dhaka and the villagers.

The lush, beautiful paddy fields

The lush, green paddy fields in the south of the country

The young men who watched the match said they were students in Shariatpur and Dhaka, spending their Eid holidays in the village.
Mashiur (not his real name) who studies in ULAB (University of Liberal Arts, Bangladesh) in Dhanmondi said, requesting anonymity, that they (his friends) discussed the July 1 terrorist attack time and again.
“We are sure a lot of money has been spent to plan the attack mainly with two objectives, “ he said. “Firstly to vilify Islam and secondly to belittle Bangladesh.”
“We have seen Jamaatis do this in the past but this time the local boys have had foreign help to do such a heinous act,” he added.
Another young man joined the conversation and said he believed unless the police broke the code of these terrorists, more attacks could take place.
“We heard several hundred young men have gone missing from home and this is frightening for all of us,” he added. “My parents here do not want me to return to my university, they are scared.”
Umme Kulsum, mother of four children, one of whom went to Dhaka from Zazira a year ago to pursue his university studies said she is very worried about the Islamists’ movement. “What kind of a religion do these terrorists follow? Let me tell you, all my family members are pious Muslims praying five times a day but we are very worried about the way Islam is interpreted by these people.”
Kulsum’s husband, a businessman in Zazira said the government must look into this matter (terrorism) very seriously. “Communities here are worried about the future of our country,” he said.

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Posted by on Jul 14 2016. Filed under Home Slide, Special Features. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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