A video of a fire is viral on social media with the claim that Hindu houses and shops were attacked and set on fire in Chandib village of Bhairab Upazila of the Kishoreganj district in Bangladesh, 86 km from Dhaka, and Hindu shops were also set on fire in Narsingdi, Bangladesh, 41 km from the national capital.

Twitter account Voice of Bangladeshi Hindus tweeted this video with the same claim. (Archived link)

Several users including @BangladeshVedic, @BIHCommunity, and @avroneel85 tweeted this video with the same claim.

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The video has been shared several times on Facebook with the same claim.

Posted by সনাতন একতা মঞ্চ on Tuesday, 23 August 2022

Sanatan Prabhat, Anweshan.News, Hindu Post and Sojasapta News have also published reports making the same claim. Sanatan Prabhat and Hindu Post has cited The Voice Of Bangladeshi Hindus tweet in their article.

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Fact Check

As the reader might notice, the claims refer to two separate incidents that happened on the same day at two places around 40 km from each other.

The Narsingdi Incident

Through a reverse image search of one of the stills from the video, Alt News was led to a report by The Narsingdi Times dated August 22, which contains a screengrab from the same video. The report states that the image was of a fire incident in Dhaladia Bazaar of Ghorashal Municipal area of ​​Palash Upazila of Narsingdi and not from the Kishoreganj incident. According to the report, four shops were gutted and the fire is believed to have started from an electrical short circuit. Reports by AmaderShomoy.com, Protidiner Sangbad and The Dhaka Crime News on this incident also contained screengrabs from the viral video. Two of these reports said as per initial findings, the fire was caused by a short circuit.

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Locals from Narsingdi had also uploaded the video of this tragedy on Facebook. The translation of the caption of the attached screenshot reads, “Four shops burned to ashes in Narsingdi Ghorashal fire. The victims claim that they have suffered a loss of around 8 lakh rupees in this fire. The incident took place at Dhaladia Bazar in the municipal area around 3:30 on Monday night.”

Subrata Kumar Das, the general secretary of Bangladesh Puja Udjapan Parishad’s Narsingdi district unit, told Alt News, “After we received the information we sent our delegation to Palash Upazila to see what actually happened on that night. Our delegation spoke to the firemen in the region and learned that the fire originated from electric short-circuits”.

“We also spoke to the local administration and police officials. Our delegation held a meeting with our community leaders to determine the cause,” he further said, adding that the district police superintendent, Kazi Ashraful Azim, also visited the affected place to determine the cause and the investigation is on. He stated that the exact cause was unknown and that some people were trying to give it a communal spin.

Alt News also reached out to Kartik Guha, president of Palash Upzila Puja Utjapon Parishad. Explaining the cause of the fire, he said, “The incident occurred near railway tracks where people usually live temporarily in tin houses. Some people had recently erected one house and three shops. The government does not provide electricity meter to the ones who do not have proper land papers. So they were illegally hooking electricity from one of the neighbouring houses. Two of the shops were completely gutted.”

He informed Alt News that the fire services also suspected that the fire started from an electrical short circuit. When asked if the incident had a communal aspect to it, Asit Das, general secretary of the Parishad said, “We don’t have any such news. The local police officer-in-charge has assured us that they are still investigating the case and they would reach a conclusion soon”.

Faria Afroz, additional police super, Sadar circle, Narsingdi, spoke to Alt News and confirmed that the fire started from an electrical short circuit and the incident had no communal aspect to it. Afroz added, “Palash is a Hindu majority area. While it is true that Hindus were affected by the fire, the victims themselves don’t acknowledge a communal aspect. This area is quite peaceful. I don’t know why some people are spreading false narratives like this. Many neighbouring villages in this district have also experienced such incidents of fire from electrical short-circuit, quite similar to this case.”

The Kishoreganj Incident

Upon a keyword search in Bangla, Alt News found a report by Jugantor titled “ভৈরবে সংঘর্ষে আহত ১০, বাড়ি ভাঙচুর আগুন” (Translation: 10 injured in Bhairab clash, house destroyed by fire). The report says that at least 20 people were injured in a clash between two sides, in the Chandib and Paltakanda areas of ​​Bhairav at around 9 pm on August 22nd. During the clash, the miscreants vandalized and set fire to 10 shops and houses. The clash between the two sides continued till 11 pm until the police calmed the situation down. According to the report, the names of the victims injured in the clash were Sajeeb, Sunny, Alamin, Russell, Masood, Hridoy, Imran Javed Khan, Jewel and Ujjal. As the reader might notice, the victims included both Hindus and Muslims.

Upon a keyword search on Facebook, we also found a Prothom Alo news report, uploaded by a staff reporter. According to the report, Paltakanda locals alleged that a girl from the Paltakanda was being continually harassed by a youth from the Chandib area. After the members of the girl’s family rebuked him for his behaviour, the youth, along with his friends, beat up the girl’s family. Following this, a complaint was lodged at the police station by a Paltakanda local, Jasim Uddin, against seven persons.

The report quotes sources as saying that around 9 pm on August 22nd, two village residents got into an altercation. At this time, some people from the Paltakanda area entered the southern neighbourhood of the Chandib area and set fire to three shops and three houses. Firemen took two hours to bring the blaze under control. Later, police, along with politicians from the Awami League, visited the area and restored peace. The report names two grocery shop owners — Ilias Kazi and Ujjal Molla — whose shops were gutted. They reportedly couldn’t retrieve a single product from the fire. Other shop owners and residents who suffered losses include Subal Barman, Sanjit Das and Palash De. The report also names Rahul Miya, Hridoy Miya and Aal Aamin as the ones who were injured.

RTVOnline, Daily Bangladesh and Barta Bazar also covered this news,

Alt News reached out to Narayan Datta Pradip, senior vice president of the Kishoreganj Puja Udjapan Committee, who said, “It was a clash between people belonging to two wards in the same municipality, over a relationship between a couple from the either ward. Some people deliberately set fire to some shops and houses in Chandib belonging to both Hindus and Muslims. A total of seven structures, all next to each other, were set on fire, five of which were completely destroyed. Authorities visited the place of the incident and held a meeting. 25,000 taka was given to the victims as damages. The authorities also reiterated that the issue was not communal and that both Hindus and Muslims were affected by the fire”.

Alt News also spoke to Mohd Rezwan Dipu, additional police super, Bhairab Circle, who confirmed that the Kishoreganj incident had no communal angle. “The clash was between two villages and two of the three shops gutted belonged to Muslim owners,” he said.

Hence a video of a fire accident is being circulated with the false claim that Hindu houses and shops were targeted and set on fire in the Chandib area of Bhairab, Kishoreganj and Narsingdi in Bangladesh. In reality, the video is from a fire caused by an electrical short circuit in the Ghorashal Municipal area of ​​Palash Upazila of Narsingdi. The fire in the Chandib area was a result of a clash between the residents of two villages in the Bhairab Upazila, arising due to inappropriate advances by a youth from one of the two villages. The victims of the fire were people from both Hindu and Muslim communities.

[With inputs from Bangladeshi journalist Muktadir Rashid]

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