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QURAN FOUND AT CUMILLA MANDAP SEEMS NOT PRINTED IN BANGLADESH: POLICE

Police Investigation Sheds Light On Involvement Of Two Individuals Who Called 999, Went On Facebook Live

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The dark green-coloured Quran recovered from Cumilla puja mandap on Wednesday last week was not printed in Bangladesh, rather it could have been brought from Saudi Arabia, said police.

After recovering the holy scripture, Cumilla police took it as evidence in the communal violence case.

Investigators said the printing, paper, design and the Arabic calligraphy of the brand-new Quran suggest that it could have been printed in Saudi Arabia, and it might have been placed at the mandap on Tuesday night.

Cops are now looking for fingerprints on the Quran left by the perpetrators.

"We had not seen the Quran at the mandap. Two people suddenly started shouting in the morning that there is a Quran on the lap of an idol," Subodh Roy, president of Darpan Sangha, the organiser of the puja celebration at Nanuar Dighi in Cumilla, told The Business Standard yesterday.

The individuals who were shouting at the mandap that morning are Foyez Ahmed and Ekram Hosen. Both of them are now in police custody.

A Feni court on Tuesday placed Foyez Ahmed on a two-day remand.

Faking his name, Ekram called national emergency helpline 999 and subsequently police arrived at the spot.

Subodh said Foyez barred the police from taking the Quran, and suddenly started a Facebook live stream. In the live video and pictures on Facebook, the puja organiser said he saw the Quran for the first time.

The Business Standard correspondents visited several libraries in Cumilla, but did not find a similar copy of the Quran.

Foyez, a resident of Amratali union of Cumilla Sadar, had been in Saudi Arabia and returned home about a year ago, said Kazi Mozammel Haque, chairman of the union parishad.

After returning home, Foyez opened a mobile phone servicing shop in Cumilla town. The union parishad chairman, however, could not confirm whether Foyez has any affiliation with any political party.

Nanuar Dighi is just one and a half kilometres away from the Comilla Zero Point. The Hindu community has been living by the large pond for about 700 years.

The community who is now frightened by the countrywide sporadic religious clashes was even unhurt during the Hindu-Muslim riots during the 1947 Partition of British India.

On the bank of the pond, Darpan Sangha had been organising the Durga Puja at makeshift mandap for the past couple of years.

Mithun Modak, treasurer of the Darpan Sangha's puja committee, told TBS that Hindus and Muslims celebrate the puja together at Nanuar Dighi, and even the local Muslims donate for the celebration.

Mithun said there were no closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras at the mandap as it was temporary. The nearby buildings too do not have any CCTV cameras.

There were only two security guards from a local security firm to look after the mandap in shifts. But one of the guards, Shahin, who was supposed to watch over the mandap that night was absent.

"Shahin could not be found until they called the national emergency service 999 at 7am Wednesday," said Mithun. Police later held the guard and took him in for questioning.

Moktar Hossain, a security guard at an under-construction building just opposite the mandap, said his duty shift was from 7:00am on Wednesday.

He said as he was about to enter the under-construction multi-storey building, a young man rushed to him to inform about the "Quran at the mandap" incident.

"From the very beginning, the young man [Foyez Ahmed] seemed suspicious and had been behaving erratically. Though he was told not to make a fuss over the matter, he kept shouting," said Moktar.

"He was talking to the OC in English, and interrupted the police in seizing the Quran," said the security guard.

Moktar said Foyez went live from his mobile phone at around 7:30am, repeatedly insisting that he had seen a copy of the Quran at the mandap, while the OC was talking to the local administration over the phone.

Moktar said, "At around 8:30am, the deputy commission and police superintendent reached the spot, held several meetings with the Hindu community and the puja organising committee. They all tried to calm down the situation."

Though bamboo barricades were placed on both sides of the puja mandap in a bid to stop the onlookers, hundreds of youths and teens poured into the mandap and ran amok, said the 51-year-old security guard.

Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan on Tuesday said the main culprit in the Cumilla incident has been identified.

"The main accused is repeatedly changing his position. We believe we will be able to catch him soon," the minister told a programme at the RAB headquarters in Dhaka's Kurmitola.

"I warn those who are trying to achieve political gains by spreading rumours and propaganda on social media. All of them will be hunted down, and they will have to answer why they are destroying the communal harmony and peace," he added.

Contacted, Cumilla police high-ups said that they have made "good progress" in the case and the details will be disclosed soon.