What the people of Teknaf now seem to want most is peace in the Rakhine sate of Myanmar.
At Juma prayers yesterday, Muslims of the upazila sought the Almighty’s blessings for communal harmony in the neighbouring country, where violence between Rohingya Muslims and Rakhine Buddhists has left dozens of people killed over the last week.
They prayed also for calm in Teknaf, an upazila on the river Naf in southern district of Cox’s Bazar.
Bangladeshi Rakhines also offered prayers for an end to the sectarian violence in the western state of Myanmar.
“We prayed for peace on either side of the border,” Amir Ahmed, president of a local association of imams, told The Daily Star.
“While we [imams] asked all to pray for the Muslims who face brutal attacks in Myanmar, we urged all not to go for any agitation or procession here.”
The 55-year-old man also said he warned people against any sort of violence that might hamper peace in Teknaf.
“As we came to know that Myanmar government pledged to solve the problem and ensure justice for the recent persecutions, I told our Muslim brothers that the only thing we have got to do now is pray for peace.”
Meanwhile, rumours go around in Teknaf due to communication gap with Myanmar, locals and officials say.
“We don’t have much knowledge of the intensity of the violence. We are getting scary reports. Some people are campaigning on the internet, showing pictures of the brutality in the Rakhine state,” said another imam, preferring anonymity.
“We don’t know whether the reports and pictures are authentic, but they influence people’s minds.”
The local administration is on alert and has taken measures to prevent any conflict, ANM Nazim Uddin, upazila nirbahi officer of Teknaf, told The Daily Star yesterday.
Members of Border Guard Bangladesh and police are deployed near almost all the mosques in Teknaf. There are roughly 450 mosques in the upazila.
Apart from around 50 thousand illegal Rohingya immigrants, 2.60 lakh Bangladeshi people live in 388.68 square kilometre area of Teknaf, two-thirds of which is covered with forest.
Although the daily life in the locality appeared to be normal, as a precaution, local administration deployed BGB and police in the Rakhine dominated areas and near pagodas.
The Border Guard Bangladesh personnel have been patrolling the Rakhine areas since June 10, said Ching Ching, 56, a businessman and residence of Chowdhury Para.
Lt Col Zahid Hasan, commanding officer of BGB 42 Battalion in Teknaf, said, “We are ready to combat any steps from any quarter with an ill motive. We have a strong surveillance everywhere.”
Mahbubul Haque, officer-in-charge of Teknaf Police Station, said since the bordering area in Myanmar erupted into violence, they have been keeping in touch with local Rakhine community.
The largest Rakhine area in Teknaf is Chowdhury Para at Hnila union, around 18 kilometres off the upazila headquarters and home to some 110 Rakhine families.
Over 50 Rakhine families live in Kharankhali area, 30 in the upazila headquarters, 13 in Hnila Bazar and a few in Sabrang Bazar and Damdam area.
Mong Ching Aung, president of Rakhine Welfare Association (Hnila-Chowdhury Para unit), told The Daily Star yesterday that they were living in peace so far.
“But it is natural to be anxious a bit following the last week’s bloody clash between Rakhine and Rohingyas in Myanmar.”
Mong said every Rakhine family is offering prayer for immediate end to the crisis and they hope the tension of one side of the border would not affect the other.
Law enforcers are positioned also in the Rohingya areas.
Some locals who maintain contacts in Maungdaw of Rakhine state said authorities there took steps yesterday to avoid violence as it was another Friday (June 8) when Rohingyas and Rakhines clashed after Juma prayers in the town.
Myanmar declared a state of emergency in Rakhine on Sunday.
Yesterday, Harun Rashid, a 40-year-old trader in Teknaf, said only allowing Rohingyas to enter Bangladesh will not do any good. It would rather create problems for both sides.
“The Myanmar government has to find a permanent solution to the problem for peace on both sides, and international community can play a role in this regard.”
ANOTHER GROUP SENT BACK
BGB and coast guard teams pushed back a group of 44 yesterday.
The coast guard intercepted 43 Rohingyas who tried to enter Bangladesh through Saint Martin’s Island on a trawler on Wednesday, reports our Chittagong correspondent.
The trawler could not be pushed back immediately as it was damaged while trying to moor in gusty wind and rain.
Meanwhile, a baby was born on the boat Thursday morning.
The BGB and coast guard provided the intruders with a new trawler and sent them back around 4:30am yesterday.
The country’s border force is on high alert as the government on Tuesday decided not to allow any refugee from Myanmar and asked the administration and law enforcement agencies to beef up vigilance.