Most of the attackers who vandalised Hindu temples and houses were young madrasa students, the locals told a team of Dhaka University (DU) teachers who on Monday visited the areas affected by the recent communal violence in Cumilla and Noakhali districts.
Those madrasa students were taught vandalising idols and stopping Hindus from praying will help them in their journey to heaven, said the Dhaka University Teachers' Association (DUTA) while quoting the locals in a statement issued on Tuesday.
The locals also claimed that the authorities had information that something like this might happen and blamed the ineffectiveness of the law enforcers for the attacks that left several killed and scores injured.
Many also speculated that local politics and groupings acted as catalysts for all the violence.
The DU delegation spoke to residents, religious leaders, priests of the affected temples and ashrams, officials of the administration, lawmakers, journalists and law enforcers in a bid to get a better picture of the atrocities that took place following this year's Durga Puja.
The DUTA members visited Nanuar Dighir Par Puja Mandap in Cumilla, and Radha Madhab Temple, Ram Thakur Ashram, Iskcon temple, Gonipur Pilot Girls' High School in Noakhali.
In its statement, the DUTA observed that these incidents were pre-planned and not isolated. It seems that a third party exploited the conflicts between local groups and factions of political parties.
They demanded the swift arrest and exemplary punishment for the perpetrators behind the heinous attacks.
The DUTA team urged the government to conduct a proper investigation into the matter and take immediate steps so that such incidents do not happen again.
The Hindu Buddhist Christian Oikya Parishad leaders told the DU team that members of minority groups are now sceptical about their dignity and safety as citizens of this country.
Protests at DU campus against communal violence
The DUTA also organised a human chain at the base of Aparajeyo Bangla yesterday protesting the communal violence in the country.
At the event, DUTA General Secretary Nizamul Haque, said, "An extremist group created chaos in the country by placing the Holy Quran inside a Cumilla temple on 13 October."
Echoing the DUTA general secretary, former vice-chancellor of Jagannath University Professor Mizanur Rahman said, "As a resident of Cumilla, I would like to apologise. I feel ashamed. Those who are responsible for these incidents don't know much about religion."
DUTA Joint General Secretary Abdur Rahim said, "The Cumilla incident was not an isolated event. It was pre-planned."
Professor Sadeka Halim, dean of DU's Social Science Faculty, said, "This attack was not the first of its kind. Where were the Chhatra League and Awami League activists during the attack? Do they fear the perpetrators?"
"We as teachers have a lot to do in this regard," she added.
Noakhali Science and Technology University's former vice-chancellor Wahiduzzaman said, "The Taliban takeover of Afghanistan and the incidents in Bangladesh – all are connected. The government should immediately compensate the victims. We demand these incidents be termed as war crimes, crimes against humanity."
DUTA President Dr Rahmatullah said what is happening is a sign of trouble. There are ghosts in the mustard [a proverb that means the cause of the problem hides in its cure].
"No administrative action has been taken yet against the carnage and destruction that was carried out in 15 districts centring one incident. Let not time be wasted to carry out justice. Our speech and deeds will continue. We will give a memorandum to the Ministry of Home Affairs in this regard," said Dr Rahmatullah.
At the programme, Dhaka University's Theatre and Performance Studies Department performed a play titled "Dekhte Ki Pao, Purche Bangla..." to protest communal violence.
Students, teachers and employees of other departments of the university were also present at the protest.
Meanwhile, the Samajtantrik Chhatra Front and the Progressive Students' Alliance organised a protest procession on the Dhaka University campus and demanded the removal of the home minister over the incidents of attacks on Hindus.
They circled various roads of the campus, toured Shahbagh and ended the procession at the TSC.
Earlier, on 13 October, a reported demeaning of the Holy Quran stoked communal tensions in Cumilla.
Following the incident, attacks were carried out on puja mandaps, temples, houses, and business establishments belonging to the Hindu community in at least 10 districts of the country.
The incident sparked a storm on social media as temples and puja celebrations came under attack in several districts.
On 14 October, four people were reportedly killed and several others injured after clashes erupted in Chandpur, triggered by the alleged desecration of the Holy Quran in Cumilla.
On 15 October, two persons were killed and many were injured as mullahs carried out attacks on several temples in the Chowmuhani market area of Noakhali after Jummah prayers.
On 16 October, communal clashes at Trunk Road area in Feni town resulted in injuries to more than 50 people, including Feni Model police station officer-in-charge and additional police superintendent.
Later on 17 October, more than 20 houses of Hindus were burned down by a mob in Rangpur's Pirganj following a rumour that a youth from the community posted a Facebook status hurting the religious sentiment of Muslims.
Until Sunday, nearly 46 cases were filed in several districts accusing at least 50,000 people over the spate of communal clashes in several districts. However, the cases did not mention any specific religious organisation or political party of being behind the violence that spread after a reported "desecration of the Holy Quran" in Cumilla on Wednesday.
Several political parties and social organisations have expressed concern and strongly condemned the attacks. In separate statements on Sunday, they demanded to identify those involved in the incidents and bring them to justice.
Bangladesh Puja Udjapon Parishad's Chattogram chapter meanwhile placed a six-point charter of demand, including a ban on using religious and communal topics in politics and polls.