Leaders of the Hindu community in Cumilla have alleged that police did not respond to their calls for help fast enough to avert attacks on temples and Durga Puja venues.
The Durga Puja venue at Nanua Dighir Par at the heart of Cumilla came under attack on Wednesday morning after photos and a video spread on social media, claiming that the Quran was dishonoured at the temple.
Attackers targeted Chandmoni Kali Temple in the city three times between 11:00am and 3:00pm. The members of the temple’s governing body said they called the police and tried to reach officers through the 999 national helpline, but the help did not come in time.
Committees of two other temples raised similar allegations. Gobinda Chandra Pramanik, secretary-general of Jatiya Hindu Mohajote, said all temples in the area complained of the police’s slow response.
The devotees said they contacted police when the temples, one after another, came under attack since morning, but police did not come. The attackers scaled the wall of Chandmoni Kali Temple using a ladder to set fire. But the police did not arrive even in four hours.
Faruque Ahmed, superintendent of police in Cumilla, denied the allegations that the puja venues were not provided with adequate security and that Ansar members were not deployed either. “Foolproof security measures were taken at the venues. Ansar members were on patrol,” the officer said at a news briefing.
Chandmoni Rakshakali Temple in Cumilla’s Kapriapotti came under attack by religious fanatics following the spread of inciteful posts on social media. Chandmoni Rakshakali Temple, a century-old place of worship, is situated in Kapuriapotti neighbourhood, about one kilometre from Nanua Dighi and Kotwali Model Police Station.
The Chawkbazar police camp is half a kilometre from the temple and the police lines are not far away. But no law enforcer showed up during the attacks.
On Thursday, the idol of the goddess Durga lay in tatters inside the temple, with shards of broken glass and pieces of vandalised furniture littering the floor.
Haradhon Chakrabarty, general secretary of the temple committee, said the attackers’ first attempt to storm the venue at 11:00am failed. They returned at 12:30pm and left after pelting brickbats at the temple.
Witnesses said the temple's 10-foot high steel gate helped repel the first two attacks. But the gate was breached on the third attempt.
At 3:00pm, they arrived back in full force, equipped with ladders, hammers and petrol. They left the scene after vandalising and torching the temple.
Haradhon spoke to an officer of Sadar Police Station by phone after the first attempt by attackers. The officer said he would send a police team, but they did not come.
Haradhon said the authorities assured that Rapid Action Battalion personnel would arrive at the temple, but the assurance remained unmet.
Deputy Commissioner Kamrul Hasan and SP Faruk visited the scene in the evening and deployed policemen and Ansar members.
Biplab Dhar, a member of the temple committee, said police and local politicians assured them of sending help several times throughout the day. Biplab called the 999 helpline during the attack in the afternoon. The official who received the call also said police would be sent.