October 30, 2016, a Facebook post falsely accused a member of the Hindu community, Rasraj Das, of defaming Islam in Nasirnagar upazila at Brahmanbaria. Vandalism and a series of attacks were carried out by religious fanatics and other miscreants in 17 temples and 300 homes in Hindu communities. There was widespread looting of valuables and burning of fishing nets – the only means of livelihood in these communities. Hundreds of people were wounded, and six families were forced to flee the country as a result of the tragedy.
The claimed Facebook post “defaming” Islam was the driving reason behind the two-hour long crime, and a Hindu fisherman called Rasraj Das was jailed for it. Despite his confusion, he proclaimed his innocence, refuting the “false” accusation. Despite insisting on his innocence, Rasraj was severely beaten and sentenced to prison.
Supporters of Jamaat-e-Islami and its radical student wing Islami Chhatra Shibir are among the extremist groups inciting communal attacks on Hindus in Nasirnagar, Brahmanbaria using unauthorised websites and Facebook pages.
The alleged provocation was by a local fisherman named Roshraj Das, who supposedly photoshopped an image of the Hindu lord Shiva sitting on the Muslim holy place Kaaba sharif. A little-known website called Banglamail71.com later drew attention to Das’s Facebook post. The content was originally posted by “Noyon Chatterje,” a Facebook profile run by Chhatra Shibir activists that has long been instigating hatred against Hindus.
Even Muhammed Sayedul Hoque, a member of parliament from Brahmanbarhia and the country’s minister of fisheries and livestock, traveled to Nasirnagar two days after the attacks and made the following statement-
Photo: A screenshot of Rasraj Das’s apologetic Facebook post on 29 October 2016 stating, “First of all I apologize to all the Muslim brothers because someone has posted a picture from my ID without my knowledge. As soon as I found out about this from Mamun brother, Ashu brother and Bipul, I immediately deleted the picture. Since we live here as Hindu-Muslim brothers, I don’t have that kind of mentality and audacity to do something like this. Not only me? I don’t think anyone should have that mentality. In addition, our Muslim brothers always support us in various programs. I don’t know how or who posted such a picture from my ID there. So I apologize to everyone.”
Attack duration: Several hours
|Prime Actor:The anti-Islamic post was first found on the social media platform, Facebook, a Facebook profile run by Chhatra Shibir activists|
Secondary Actors: Attacks were carried out by religious fanatics and other miscreants.Supporters of Jamaat-e-Islami and its radical student wing Islami Chhatra Shibir are among the extremist groups who used unauthorised websites and Facebook pages to incite violence. The rally encouraging violence against Buddhist community was organised allegedly by the local leaders of radical Islamist groups Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat and Hefazat-e-Islam.
|Transparency: The prime actors using Rasraj’s Id was hiding and disguising their identity.|
Intent: Their act and behaviour suggest aspersive intent.
Authenticity: The actor using unlawful means of communication.
Dependency: or The actor was delivering on the other party’s behalf (Extremists and other involved actors)
|Rasraj Das’ Facebook profile was used by someone else to allegedly defame the Kaba sharif, the holiest site in Islamic tradition.|
Harm: Does tThe content carries element of threat and possess harm against communal harmony and religious sentiment. Language(s):
The languages used to carry out the content or messaging is important to identify the target audience and the extent of the threat because the content was to incite Muslim community against Buddhist community.
Truthfulness: The content shared was untrue and deceptive.
Synthetic: The content had been manipulated and forged.
Narrative(s): It was aligned with the disinformation narrative.
Targeting: Against Buddhist community
Platform: Social Media platform, Facebook.
|Human Rights:Right to life and personal liberty, rights of religious minorities, freedom of expression, freedom of religion. There was also unlawful arrest, detention and torture by public.|
ABCDE Framework Analysis:
Following the attacks, eight cases were filed with Nasirnagar police station accusing some 2,000 unidentified people. In one of the eight cases, police pressed charges against 228 suspects, including several Awami League and BNP leaders, for the attacks on the Hindu community in Nasirnagar, in December 2017. Police arrested 124 in connection with the case.
The rally was organised allegedly by the local leaders of radical Islamist groups Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat and Hefazat-e-Islam through announcements from local mosques the previous day – a trend seen many times in the recent years to attack temples and houses of the Hindus and the Buddhists across the country. It is alleged that some local Awami League leaders assisted the mob in carrying out the attack. Two of them were identified as Sheikh Abdul Ahad, former chairman of Nasirnagar Upazila, and his son Oli Mia. People joined the rally in groups holding sticks and brooms, chanting slogans demanding capital punishment for Rasraj and vowing to uproot the local Hindus terming them kafirs.
The local lawmaker and Fisheries and Livestock Minister downplayed the attacks stating that the intensity of the attacks in Brahmanbaria was not that much significant.
Behaviour: The content was disseminated with the aspersive intention to agitate and incite Muslim community against Hindu Community. Evidence suggests that Chhatra Shibir, Jamaat-e-student Islami’s wing, was involved in propagating hate speeches and posts on social media, which led to a series of attacks on Hindu temples and Puja pavilions in at least seven districts, including Brahmanbaria.
Content: On october 27, 2016 a post was given from the Facebook ID of one Rasraj Das, son of Jagannath Das of Harinber village under Haripur union in Nasirnagar upazila, which allegedly defamed the Kaba sharif, the holiest site in Islamic tradition.
Rasraj was freed in January 2017 as police found evidence that his Facebook account was hacked or faked by someone else before the anti-religious posts were uploaded from it.
It was found that illiterate Rasraj Das’ Facebook profile was used by someone else to share the defamatory post. Even though he removed the post immediately and apologised, he was caught and beaten up severely and later handed over to the police.
Degree: The anti-religious Facebook post was created to trigger the Muslim community against Hindu community.
Effect: Dissemination of the content led to several violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms including right to life and personal liberty, rights of religious minorities, freedom of expression, freedom of religion. There was also unlawful arrest, detention and torture by public.
The Case has been identified as incident of disinformation since the Facebook account of Rasraj was faked and hacked by someone else with ill intention to mislead and deceit Muslim community.
Eight cases were filed with Nasirnagar police station accusing some 2,000 unidentified people, but law enforcers are yet to complete investigations and submit the charge sheets for seven of those cases.
In one of the eight cases, police pressed charges against 228 suspect but no hearing has taken place since then. Police arrested 124 in connection with the case, all of whom are now on bail, according to the law enforcers.
Locals and minority community leaders have expressed their doubts and said they lost any hope of getting justice and the legal process is being prolonged by police.
Law enforcement agencies failed to track who actually uploaded the anti-religious post and what was the motive.