MP Golam Dastagir Gazi and the former MP K M Shafiullah, categorically pointed out two mistakes that infuriated the people of the locality.
The local MP, Upazila and Union chairmen said they did not know anything about the army camps.
Even the local administration had not been informed about the setting up of army camps in the locality, said the ruling party politicians after attending the Qul Khawani of a villager, Mostafa jamal, who succumbed to bullet injuries.
Mostafa Jamal died around 9am on Oct 24. He sustained critical bullet injuries during the clash. According to reports, 10 people were admitted in hospital with bullet injuries.
On October 23, at least 50 people were injured in a fierce clash between police and demonstrators who blocked the Rupganj-Ichhapura road for about four hours from 6am demanding cancellation of the t decision to acquire about 5,000 bighas (165,000 decimals) for an army housing project.
The police and Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) fought pitched battle with the villagers to bring the situation under control. The law enforcers had to charg batons , fired tear-shells and open fire to contain almost about 7,000 demonstrators gathered from many villages in the area.
Although 10 persons with bullet wounds had been admitted in Dhaka Medical College Hospital, the law enforcement agencies denied firing upon the people.
In the afternoon, the angry mob descended upon the army camp almost immediately after the army men were airlifted. Angry locals set ablaze a temporary army camp at Musuri and a military jeep. The military personnel deployed there had been obstructed for over five hours before they were evacuated by helicopter.
Following violence, the police filed a case accusing six people and some 3,000-4,000 unidentified people for vandalism, loot and arson. Moreover, RAB-11 sub-inspector Yasin Mia filed another case with Rupganj Police Station the next day.
Meanwhile, Shahar Ali, father of Abdul Ali, also known as Masud, 32, and Lehaj Uddin, father of Saidul Islam, 22, of Bariachani village under Rupganj Union, filed two general diaries with Rupganj Police Station on Tuesday.
Moreover, Shamsher Mollah, father of a youth injured in the clash, filed another complaint on Wednesday.
Local administration and the law enforcers on Wednesday asked the residents to return home assuring them that locals would not be harassed or arrested. But the law enforcers cautioned that only the instigators, who put sticks into the hands of the people, will be identified.
The blame game
Immediately after the violence on October 23, ruling party leader Mahbubul Alam Hanif categorically accused BNP chief Begum Khleda Zia ofr instigating the Rupganj incident.
Staying at Rangpur Circuit House, far away from the place of occurance, Mahbubul Alam Hanif, Awami League joint general secretary and also a special assistant to prime minister Sheikh Hasina, instantly called a press conference to blame BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia for the Rupganj incident.
Hanif alleged that Khaleda provoked the locals to stand against army personnel as the High Court on Oct 13 had upheld a government notice her to leave her cantonment residence within in a month.
Hanif said that BNP leaders and activists and its associate organisations had instigated the locals into staging the demonstration.
Later on Oct 25, Mahbub-ul-Alam Hanif on citing a ‘primary investigation’ report said that the Rupganj violence had erupted just one day after the meeting at a BNP-backed local Upazila member’s house.
“Thousands of people wearing tea-shirts and with sticks of the same size in their hands took to the streets,” he wondered. “Khaleda Zia has taken up a confrontational stance with the army since she was asked to leave her cantonment house.
However, ruling party MP Golam Dastagir Gazi and former Army Chief K M Shafiuulah, referred to army’s mistakes and blamed middlemen for the mayhem.
“People lost trust as we were late to remove the project plan from the website. We even distributed leaflets after resolving the matter.” Said Gazi.
Former MP of the area, also a former army chief K M Shafiullah, told reporters that the incident occurred over a misunderstanding.
Former Awami League MP Shamim Osman claimed that Jamat-e-Islami and BNP held the incident conspiringly.
The army camp controversy
Brigadier General Nasimul Gani, chief of the Army Housing Scheme told the BCC that the Saturday’s incident was the result of conspiracy hatched by a vested quarter.
The project chief outright rejected the allegation of forcing people to sell their land. He said that the army housing scheme will be implemented.
Residents of Ichhapura village under Rupganj upazila alleged that army personnel had forced them to sell their lands. Land price was fixed unilaterally and they were obstructed from selling their lands to others.
Asked on involvement of the army with the housing scheme, General Nasimul Gani told the BBC that there was no direct involvement as the project was taken with private finance of army personnel like other housing schemes.
Asked whether the army personnel could use army as an institution in such project, he said army as a national institution can help its members in their welfare activities.
Regarding presence of army personnel in uniform and setting up camps , he said being members of the army they do their duty like this. Army camps were set up to provide assistance to the people.
However, State Minister for Housing and Public Works Abdul Mannan Khan told reporters that he was not aware of any such project. “I know nothing. Nobody has informed me,” he was quoted as saying.
RAJUK Chairman Nurul Huda also told reporters that he did not know of any housing project for the army in Rupganj. As per the rules, he said, developers must obtain an approval from Rajuk to implement a housing project. And to get the go-ahead, they need to submit a layout of the project in view with the Detailed Area Plan.
Hasina lends favour AHS
According to latest report, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has asked army officials to go ahead with their self-financed housing project in Rupganj after ensuring that the locals do not feel aggrieved.
She had a talk about the issue with the army chief after Saturday’s clashes between villagers and law enforcers over “forced purchase of land” for the housing scheme in Rupganj of Narayanganj.
In the wake of the clashes, army officials have temporarily stopped purchasing land there. Around 1,400 bighas of land had already been purchased for the project in Rupganj before Saturday’s violence Their original target was to buy around 12,000 bighas.
Regarding approval for the project, the AHS website [www.ahs.org.bd] reads, “A proposal for AHS was sent to the Armed Forces Division. It was accepted by the government in principle through the prime minister’s office, AFD, Administration and Management Directorate, Dhaka Cantonment in November last year.”
BNP demands fair probe
The main opposition party BNP Sunday demanded a high-powered committee to investigate the Rupganj violence involving locals, law enforcers and army.
Khandaker Delwar Hossain, secretary general of BNP, said, “We made the demand so misunderstanding between people and the army over the clash is removed through a fair probe. Though we know the government will not conduct a fair investigation.”
While addressing a briefing at the party’s Nayapaltan office in the city on Sunday, he alleged the government was hatching a conspiracy to bring about a face-off between the army and people and planning to put the blame on opposition leaders and workers.
He protested and condemned the statement of Mahbubul Alam Hanif, joint secretary general of Awami League, who blamed BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia for the Rupganj incident.
The BNP secretary general also said his party leaders and workers have been forced to leave their homes following the recent incidents in Natore and Sirajganj.
Similar attempts are being made to harass BNP men in Rupganj by filing cases against them.