As the dust settles on the carnage unleashed by blood-thirsty mobs on Hindus across the country, The Business Standard reporters go on the field to find out what the state the victims are currently in. There is still hope, and more importantly defiance, to be found, but the wounds are fresh and they still run deep.
I could not eat out of fear: Pushpa Rani, Noakhali
Fear is etched across the face of Pushpa Rani, 65, a resident of Chowmuhani area of Begumganj upazila in Noakhali district.
She had not eaten for three straight days – not due to a lack of food, but because she just couldn't muster up an appetite after what she had gone through.
"I did not see such barbarism even in the 1971 war. At that time, Pakistanis entered our homes, but they did not damage our temple. But on Friday, people vandalised, looted and set fire to two temples within hours," Pushpa said, her voice on the verge of breaking.
"For the next three days, I could not eat out of fear."
She finally left her house on Thursday and visited the temple near her house. "Now, I have come out of the house as I know the police are here," she said.
Recalling the day, Pushpa Rani said it was around 2:15pm when she heard screams ring out. She left the house, just behind the Chowmuhani Vijaya Temple, to see what was happening and that is when she saw a mob heading towards the Viyaja and Iskcon temples.
She saw some youths, aged 18-20 in her estimation, vandalising the Vijaya Temple.
Some were throwing brickbats. Rani ran back inside to save her sons and closed the doors.
They peeked from the window and watched the temples laid to waste. Later, he saw the attackers from inside, she said, breaking down in tears.
Although a few days have passed since, the Chowmuhani area on Thursday still wore an eerie look, magnified by the fact that this was supposed to be a day of festivities.
Hindus in the area were supposed to be celebrating Lakshmi puja, one of the biggest pujas of the year, on Thursday. But this year, the puja was a muted, almost secret affair.
Ananta Kumar Bhowmik, a resident of the area, said, "Every year, we perform the puja with great joy. But after the attacks last Friday, many members of the Hindu community are in a panic. They are resigned to celebrating the puja at home."
Shipon Saha, another resident, said no one had eaten the night of the attack. They were all too horrified. With the help of relatives, he said, they were trying to put their lives back together.
Ratan Saha, a businessman on Chowmuhani Bank Road, said he was beaten by the mob on the day of the attack.
He was returned home after five days of treatment at Begumganj Upazila Health Complex.
"I returned home after many days and the first thing I saw were the scars left in my neighbourhood," he said. He is still scared for his life, he said, calling upon the people's representative and the government to stand beside them.
The children, too, are traumatised.
Shyam Das, a teenager, is a helper at the Iskcon temple. He said every room in the temple bore marks of the attack.
"We have not left the temple since that day. There is still terror in the eyes of every servant here. Many are having a hard time getting back to normal lives," he said.
Jaya Saha, an honours student of Chowmuhani SA College, said even though her college was near her home, she has yet to go to her classes out of fear.
Hindus in this Noakhali area were now in a constant state of fear; both at home and outside.
Being chased by shadows: Cumilla
Bipul Chandra, a resident of Thakurpara in Cumilla city, has not left his house in two days.
"Every moment is terrifying," he said. "I will not forget what I witnessed. I saw the mob breaking the gate of the temple in Thakurpara. I saw houses being attacked," he said.
Now, he feels like he is being chased by the shadows.
"You cannot stay well after seeing something like this. I am afraid to even go to the market. It feels like someone is always chasing me," he said.
Prabhu Vinu, a resident of Chhatipatti, said the assailants were not after the temple, but every Iskcon member, easy to identify due to the religious garb they wore.
"So, in these few days, our clothing has changed. I raised money and bought shirts and pants for the Iskcon members. I put guards at the temple," he said.
"In a video footage on Wednesday, I saw that no Hindu had kept the Quran in the temple, and since then the fear has subsided. But before that, I feared an attack every moment. I do not want a Cumilla where fear haunts me everywhere."
Mausumi Ghosh, a resident of Dharmasagarpar, said the incident greatly shook the girls at Nanuar Dighi. "We cannot just change the way we look. What we wear is dictated by the religion we belong to. Out of fear, we have stopped going out. All our work has stopped.
"The fear has subsided, but it has not gone away," she said.
She now wonders if the fear will ever go away.
No joy among people in Feni
On Trunk Road in Feni city, the scene of a clash centring puja celebrations, normalcy seems to have returned.
This so-called normalcy, however, is only on the surface. Dig a little deeper and the smoothness gives way to the cracks.
"Hindus are still living in fear. They are terrified. Many people have not come to the temple," Tapan Das, general secretary of the Joy Kali Temple Committee on Trunk Road, said.
He told TBS that worshipers would normally throng the Kali Temple, especially on special occasions. But this year, that was not the case.
Hindu women were being asked not to visit the temples. And without repairing the damaged Rajkali temple, a large structure, less people would be able to come.
"It will take time. It is not possible to make an idol before the month of Ashwin next year. It takes Tk2.5 lakh to Tk3 lakh to make an idol," he said.
With policemen stationed inside temples, the puja can be held with little trepidation. "But the police are inside; they cannot be seen from outside, so people are hesitant to come," Tapan Das said.
He added that priest Vishnupada Chakraborty, who was a victim in Saturday's attack, had stopped eating and drinking. Everyone was worried about him. "He has not properly processed what had happened," he said.
Sandhya Rani Dutta, convener of the district Women's Unity Council and women's affairs secretary of the Kali Bari Temple Committee, said Hindu women were leaving their homes less. "Many would come on most days, but not anymore.
"When the call to prayer is made in a mosque, the mic is turned off in the temple. The Creator is one. Everyone can follow their own religion, but everyone must have respect for other religions," he said.
Bishankar Pal, owner of Messrs Surya Pal, shop on Takiya Road, told TBS that on the day of the incident, goods worth Tk5 lakh, including Tk37,50,000 in cash, had been looted from his shop.
Sales at his store had fallen since Saturday.
"There is no joy among the people. Although the situation seems to be better, it is still very tense," he said.
Chandra Nath Saha, the owner of Chandan Rice Mill, said everything at the mill had been burned and the cashbox looted.
"I have nothing to say. Everyone is coming to listen and to see. But no one will do anything. The damage has been done. I have been doing business in Feni for 45 years and I have never harmed anyone," he said.
"Why me," he wanted to ask. But, he didn't. He did not want to say anything else.
According to Samar Debnath, general secretary of the municipal committee of the puja celebration council, the situation is slowly returning to normal.
Never had to beg before: Nani Gopal, Rangpur
Nani Gopal, a resident of Majhipara village in Rangpur's Pirganj upazila, was a proud man, who had worked hard to purchase some land. He had planted some paddy on it, which took another month to be ready for harvesting.
Near it, next to the village temple, are the burned remnants of Gopal's home. "In my life, I never had to beg for anything. But now, I open my palms and have to ask people for handfuls of rice," he said, holding back tears.
"Anyone who has not been in this situation, will never understand what I am going through. I am getting sick of thinking about how I will run my family…how will I feed my wife and children?"
The wounds from the attack on Boro Karimpur's Majhipara are visible everywhere. But then there are the ones that are less obvious, but which are now forever embedded in the tales of the victims.
Families in the village, which were just barely getting by, now wonder if they can even do that. There is fear that soon the grants and relief will dry up. The strewn around burned fishing nets of this fishing village speaks of even further premeditation on part of the attackers: by destroying livelihoods, they knew they were destroying lives too.
The state of Abhay Das' fishing nets speak of an evil that defies the logic of one bred from any religious sentiments. Five nets in his home were set on fire on Sunday night.
Then everything he had in the four rooms of his house were put to the flames.
At the moment, there is nothing in the house; not even food. Abhay is waiting for help from government and private organisations.
Abhay's wife Lakshmi Rani said the government was repairing the house. But could they repair entire lives? And memories?
"We have not been able to buy new nets. If I can't run the family, I will go wherever my two children go," she said.
Sudarshan, another village, said, "I took a loan of Tk28,000 from an NGO a few days ago to buy fishing nets. But even that money was burnt. I do not know how to repay the loan," he said.
Pradeep Das, who lived nearby, said he had left fishing behind and purchased a battery-powered auto-rickshaw. When the violence began, he quickly put on his lungi and made his escape.
When he returned, he was met with ashes of what he called home. His furniture was looted. And his auto-rickshaw was completely destroyed.
All Pradeep has now, apart from the clothes on his back, is a loan with a non-government organisation.
"I feel lost at sea now, with my wife Nanda Rani and two children. I cannot even look them in the eye. I do not know what to do. And I do not know how I can make the Tk2,000 instalment payment on my loan."
Violence erupted in the village last Sunday night on the pretext of a religiously offensive post on Facebook. About 250 people from 60 families of the village were affected by the vandalism and arson in the village.
Our correspondents Mizanur Rahman Riyad in Noakhali, Tayubur Rahman Sohel in Cumilla, Arif Azam in Feni, and Khorshed Alam from Rangpur helped prepare this report.