By Shariar Sharif
November 15, 2012
In an effort to heal the wounds inflicted by the recent violence on minority Buddhist community in southeastern Ramu, authorities have undertaken a massive rebuilding effort. Only six weeks ago, southeastern Ramu was in smouldering ruins. Mobs of radical Islamists had terrorised the Buddhist community in this subdistrict of Cox’s Bazar, smashing keepsakes and torching homes and temples.
Now the government has begun repairing the damage, in an effort to heal the wounds and to demonstrate that the majority of Muslims embrace tolerance and do not condone religious hatred. The swift response has drawn praise.
“We’re truly overwhelmed by the quick response of the administration, army and NGOs (non-governmental organisations) who have come forward to help us,” local writer Darpan Barua told Khabar South Asia.
The government has earmarked an initial allocation of 120m taka ($1.5m) and more funding is being set aside to meet the total reconstruction cost. The final figure could surpass 800 crore taka ($1.1 billion), according to Nurul Islam, Additional Commissioner for Chittagong Division, who is leading a team of experts.
On one recent morning, about 20 labourers could be seen at work, engaged in the reconstruction of several damaged temples. They were being supervised by a team of army soldiers and Buddhist monks.
“We have begun reconstructing the temples from October 30th and we hope to complete the entire work in the next six months,” said Major S.M. Anwar Hossain of the Army Engineering Corps, which supervises the reconstruction effort.
Prime minister donates money to rebuild homes
Before the temple reconstruction got under way, the authorities had already moved to reconstruct homes that were damaged or ruined in the mob attacks. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina donated money from her own personal fund in order to repair 24 houses.
Construction of nine of these has already been completed under army supervision. Each affected family received $2,500 from the prime minister’s fund, $1,200 from the relief and rehabilitation ministry and $300 from the army.
Tatu Barua, whose own home was torched in the attack, confirmed to Khabar that the rebuilding process is under way.
“We have over $12,000 from the government and some NGOs and we are building new homes with the money,” he said.
‘A senseless attack’
Buddhists make up only around 1% of the country’s 153 million people. The September 29th assault against them drew widespread condemnation in this Muslim-majority country, where communal harmony has generally prevailed.
The attackers destroyed 19 temples and burned more than 50 homes in what some suspect was a brutal retaliation for the mistreatment of Rohingyas in Burma. Dhaka has said it believes Rohingya migrants – forced out of Burma amid harassment by the Rakhine ethnic community – were involved in the violence that gripped Ramu.
The mobs were reportedly set off by an anti-Islamic Facebook posting, allegedly uploaded by Uttam Barua, a 26-year-old Buddhist. He has denied that he did so and says his account was hacked.
“It was a senseless attack and Bangladesh lost valuable archeological artifacts with the destruction of the Buddhist temples,” said Shah Sufi Mustafizur Rahman, professor of archeology at Jahangirnagar University.
Authorities have arrested more than 300 suspected perpetrators. The investigation is continuing
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