BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia yesterday again blamed the government and the ruling Awami League men for what she called their involvement in the brutal attacks on Buddhist homes and temples at Ramu and Ukhia on September 29 and 30.
Claiming that her party's local MP Lutfar Rahman from Cox's Bazar was innocent, the leader of the opposition said that the present government had blamed the BNP men every time an incident took place in the country.
“He [Lutfar] rushed to the spot [Ramu] to help the local people, but he was blamed for the incident. The government was saying this as they do not know [how] to speak the truth,” Khaleda told a rally on Khijari High School ground at Ramu in the afternoon.
The BNP chief also called upon the Hindu, Buddhist, Christian and Muslim communities to unite by forgetting all differences, and to uphold Bangladesh as a model before the world.
Khaleda left Dhaka on Friday on a three-day visit to Chittagong and Cox's Bazar to reassure the Buddhist community forty two days after the mayhem took place.
On the night of September 29 and the following day, a mob destroyed over a dozen temples and their houses in Ramu, Patiya and Ukhia. The violence was triggered apparently by a Facebook photo defaming the Holy Quran.
Several hundreds of Buddha statues were also looted from different temples and monasteries during the mayhem that led to huge criticism at home and abroad.
Khaleda said: “I want to say clearly that the Awami League and government men were behind the mayhem in Ramu. Arrest and try them. Otherwise, my government will the bring perpetrators to book if we come to power at the next election.”
She also urged people irrespective of their religious identity to oust the present government as “it has failed to protect people's life and ensure security of the minority people”.
Before attending the rally, Khaleda visited Sima Bihar, a Buddhist temple, and assured the minority people of financial assistance to rebuild the affected temples.
In her over half-an-hour-speech, the former premier questioned why the local administration had not taken any measures to prevent the attacks at 9:00pm.
“Why were the police, Rapid Action Battalion and army not sent to the spot?”
She alleged that the AL spoke about secularism but “carries out repression and attacks on the minorities and loots their wealth whenever it comes to power”.
“The BNP does not talk about secularism; rather we believe in religious values so that people of all religions can freely practise their own faith,” she added.
Earlier at a roadside rally at Chakoria bus stand, Khaleda warned Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, saying: "You killed people using logi-boitha in 2007. We have a record of everything."
She alleged that the government had provided firearms to the Chhatra League and Jubo League to suppress opposition leaders and activists. "But we will build strong resistance together with the people so that they do not get any scope to use them," added Khaleda.
In her Ramu speech, the opposition leader alleged that even though the government had always spoken against the Jamaat-e-Islami, it was trying in clandestine manner to take the Jamaat on its side so that the key BNP ally participates in the coming polls.
“But the government is yet to see success as the Jamaat is strict [regarding the BNP-led opposition's demand for restoring the caretaker government system].”
Khaleda also said the government had always spoken about Jamaat leaders' involvement in war crimes. She demanded to know where the razakars were and the war criminals when they [AL] waged a movement with the Jamaat in 1996 regarding the caretaker government and when they [AL] and Jamaat participated in the polls together under Ershad [regime] in 1981?”
The opposition leader is set to speak at a roadside rally at Ukhia today before leaving for Dhaka in the afternoon.
50 INJURED IN ROOF COLLAPSE
At least 50 opposition supporters were injured as a roof of Khijari High School building collapsed before Khaleda addressed a rally there, reports a correspondent, Cox's Bazar.
Of the injured, 35 were admitted to Cox's Bazar Sadar Hospital while the others were admitted to different local clinics.
Witnesses said the party supporters gathered on the roof of the school's auditorium to listen to the BNP chief's address. But the roof gave way all of a sudden due to the excessive load of hundreds of people there.