The poster hits you in the face as you enter the gloom of the house. A large colorful digital poster – "Happy Birthday Aditya". From the corner of the vinyl square, a young boy in his teens peeks out.
"Why do you want to write again? How will it help me? Will my boy get back his father? Can you tell me where he has disappeared since he vanished years ago? You can't. So why again?" Aditya's mother Reeta Barua stepped into the room as she felt our unwanted presence.
We had little to say and the answers we knew were all in the negative. For example, we do not know why Aditya's father Uttam Barua had become the catalyst for the attack on the Buddhist in Ramu on that evening in 2012. Why and who orchestrated that attack on the rumour. That Uttam had desecrated the Quran, the holy book. If one man was responsible why the attack was on the whole community. And why Uttam was never found again.
Answers we will probably never know. But we know the pang that the whole of the Buddhist community feel even today. And, of course, Reeta Barua's.
In the confines of that ten by fifteen feet bare brick room, Reeta sees no future, no hope, no justice. No answers too. Her aching heart gets heavy with the memories of that night, and heavier still with the sweet memories of her husband Uttam.
They had met at the local computer shop where she used to work as a computer operator, composing letters or scanning documents and running the photocopier. Uttam would sometimes pop in with documents to be copied from the land registry office where he worked.
It was not love at first sight. But a budding romance. He would wait silently as she shuffled the papers and fidgeted with the photocopier. With furtive glances he would measure her up, Reeta could feel. With the copies handed over and the money exchanged, Uttam would disappear as he came.
Over time. A few words were exchanged such as "how are you today?" and then it graduated to "how is your mom?" to 'what TV serials do you watch?'. And then they knew they were love-struck.
The families happily approved the marriage – it was a simple affair with the priest blessing them to have a long, loving family life until death took them apart. That was how life was unfolding for them in simple terms and endearments. Until that night. September 29.
After work life was as usual that evening. Uttam and Reeta came home to the cuddly world of Aditya who was then only 4-years-old. Reeta was getting dinner ready and Uttam was watching TV when someone ran to the door, panting, at around 8:00pm and told them that a violent mob was on the way because they had found a post on Uttam's Facebook page that had allegedly desecrated the Quran. The situation could get real ugly.
Uttam immediately put on his shirt and went out. Fifteen minutes later Uttam called home. He sounded disturbed and sounded like a stranger.
"Reeta, leave home immediately and go to your father's home," Uttam curtly said. "Don't bother to take anything with you. Just leave... right now."
The phone went dead. A chill ran down Reeta's spine. She had a feeling that something very sinister had happened. She could hear the mob growing louder and louder. And there were loud sounds of houses being ransacked. The tin structures being smashed. The tin fencing being toppled over. A lot of noise and it all sounded ominous.
Aditya was still playing on the bed with a toy car when large brick chips started hitting her tin roof. She just picked her up and shot out the door. She could see the mob. Thousands of people raging and swelling like a live monster snaking through the narrow lane with sticks and machetes, smashing up everything in their path.
As soon as the mob saw her they started throwing bricks at her. She ran into an alley, reached someone's door and begged to be let in. she was denied outright. The door did not budge even an inch. She ran out of the yard and then tripped on a crumpled piece of tin. Blood spurted out of a deep gash. But she quickly picked herself up and ran again. This time straight into the night on to the paddy field.
Reeta waited the night out in the goopy paddy field. She put her hand over the child's mouth so he would not cry out.
With sunup, she headed for Ramu bazaar where she took the first bus to Chittagong and found shelter in a friend's house where she was treated for her wound for two months.
Those two months have stretched into seven years now. Not even once did Uttam call her. He just vanished into the blue, mysteriously.
"I don't think he is alive," Reeta says. Her face looks swollen from her heart ailment. Tiredness gathered in the corners of her eyes. "He surely would have contacted me, at least for his son. He did not. People guess he might have fled the country. But I don't believe it. Why would he not contact me or his parents?"
But to the police, Uttam is a criminal. Somebody who had desecrated the Quran. Police filed eight cases in connection with the incident with Uttam as the main perpetrator. All the cases are still pending with the court. Buddhists are still waiting for justice.
A The Daily Star investigation by journalist Julfikar Ali Manik soon after the incident had shown how Uttam's Facebook page was faked to spread the rumour that Uttam was the perpetrator. It also showed how well-organised and orchestrated the attack was on the Buddhist community.
The investigation revealed that the Facebook page with an anti-Islam picture that instigated the rampage against the Buddhist community was photoshopped.
Somebody or a group had taken a screenshot of Uttam's Facebook profile page, cut out the address of an anti-Islam website and pasted it on the address bar visible in the image, according to the investigation.
Once the fabrication was done, it looked like the anti-Islam site had shared the image with Uttam and 26 others.
Omar Faruk, a youth from Ramu, claimed his friend Abdul Moktadir alias Alif, student of a private polytechnic institute in Chittagong, came to his mobile phone repairing business on the evening of September 29.
According to Faruk, his friend signed in to his Facebook account and made a scene finding Uttam's profile page bearing the anti-Islam photo.
Moktadir and Faruk claimed they had taken screenshots of the "profile page belonging to Uttam".
The fabrication of screenshot could be the first part of the plan behind the mayhem and bringing rioters from outside Ramu the second part, according to The Daily Star investigation.
A government commission which investigated the violent incident soon after the event has come up with more startling facts.
It concluded that the attack was pre-planned and well-orchestrated. It said the controversial photo was tagged with Uttam's Facebook on September 18, but the rampage took place 11 days later. The committee said by that time perpetrators completed preparation for the rampage.
The commission also revealed how some local political leaders, madrassa teachers, and Rohingya men organized and instigated the mob to launch the attack on the night of September 29 and the next day.
The commission itself was not sure whether Uttam himself tagged the controversial image with his Facebook account or if somebody else had hacked his Facebook account and tagged it or if the Facebook ID in the name of Uttam was fake.
But little did it matter to the case.
As we walked down the Buddhist neighbourhood in Ramu, there was no sign of what had happened here seven years ago.
It is the same narrow alley, the same tin houses, the same tin fences. But it was a strange, unreal sight seven years back. Along the alleys, each one of the houses was battered beyond recognition, some torched. The tin fences were crumpled as if some tornado had swept over the place.
The temples were burned down. Buddha statues smashed.
From the ruins of a temple, we saw a Buddhist monk retrieving scriptures that were left unburned in the arson.
It had all the telltale signs of a pre-planned attack. A very focused operation that targeted Buddhist homes and establishments. The Muslim houses nestled between the Buddhist houses were left untouched.
Sima Mahavihar, a 1706 grand monastery, was a still smouldering heap of ash the night after. Only a few burned out wooden poles stood lonely. Half-burnt books lay around. One page gleamed "Pali alphabets in Burmese and Roman characters". Another was the jacket of a book on how to achieve nirvana.
The whole community was muted that day.
Seven years down the line, no signs of the monstrosity exist.
The monasteries have been rebuilt with special directives of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Huge statues of Buddha shine brightly after a slight shower. Some of the statues came from Thailand and Sri Lanka. The paints on the buildings are still new. And life goes on along the alleys.
Seven years back, on the Sima Mahavihar, we had met Itimoni, hardly a five-year old girl, standing mutely by her mother. She had spent the whole night in the soggy paddy field without food or water. And now with morning broken, she had come here to witness a mayhem incomprehensible by any sane head.
When we asked her what had happened here, she just replied: "The Muslims wanted to kill us." Then she went on rolling and unrolling the end of her mother's saree round his little fingers.
Today, we looked for Itimoni. We wanted to talk to her again. To get to know how she had recovered from the trauma. Or if she had at all.
Nobody could say where she was now.
Instead of Itimoni, we saw Nirmalo Barua, the Sheba Karmi of the monastery, standing near the same place where the little girl had been standing.
Like Itimoni, he had also hid in the paddy field and escaped the murderous crowd.
"We have police guard here," he said. "The administration has taken care of our safety."
Inside, we met the high priest.
He looked very fragile and sick and yet took the trouble of meeting us supported by his disciples.
With labored effort he talked.
"We want peace. We want to follow Buddha's teachings of peaceful coexistence. We want peace and prosperity of all life living," he paused for a while and then said, "We are thankful to the prime minister and thankful to the government. We are now well and safe as the prime minister has arranged our safety."