PRADIP KUMAR CHAKRAVARTY: It happened soon after the first kar seva in Ayodhya in 1990 when Hindu fundamentalists desecrated the Babri mosque. As caretaker of the Dhakeswari Temple in old Dhaka, I became the obvious target of Muslim zealots who were screaming revenge for the masjid incident. It was the most terrifying experience in our life and we will never forget it. We had heard of scattered violence in Chittagong and elsewhere where some Hindu families were attacked at will. Although there was rising tension, no violence took place in Dhaka.
On October 31, we found some policemen hovering near the temple. As the day progressed, the police presence increased and around four in the afternoon we heard crowds marching towards the temple chanting anti-India slogans. All of a sudden, processionists armed with bamboo sticks and lathis, yelling Allah-o-Akbar entered the temple. We were completely terrorised, but nobody assaulted us. They snatched our belongings, destroyed statues and took away the original statue made of silver and gold. Just before they left, they set several houses on fire.
In all, 30 Hindu families were attacked, right in front of the policemen who were sent to protect us. They just looked the other way as the mobsters continued with the mayhem. I lost everything that I had, worth about 7/8 lakh takas. My four children, aged between 8 and 11, were so shaken that we had to despatch them to Calcutta. They live with their aunt near Dum Dum. Looking back, I am convinced that the attack was officially sponsored and it had no backing from the majority Muslims in Dhaka. The kar seva took place around the time when anti-government protests were mounting against Gen. Ershad. In an attempt to divert public attention, he must have orchestrated the riot. It didn't help and Gen. Ershad was soon overthrown.
BINA RANI GHOSH: I live with my husband and five children near the temple. Though it is true that the riot left us numb; that our house was looted and gutted; my husband, a clerk at the Public Works Department, suffered a heart attack and "still feels vulnerable", I haven't sent my children away. I want them near me. And it is a fact that things are much better now; the animosity Is negligible and we feel encouraged to stay on.