A 75-year-old Buddhist monk, Dharma Jyoti Thero, who was critically injured in an attack at a remote temple in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, on Monday, succumbed to his injuries and breathed his last at approximately 2:40 am on Thursday, according to reliable sources. His untimely demise follows severe injuries, including head trauma, as confirmed by Rafiqul Islam, sub-inspector of Panchlaish police station in Chattogram.
“After an autopsy, we will hand over the body to the victim’s family,” stated Islam, highlighting the forthcoming procedures to be carried out. The monk had been admitted to Chattogram Medical College and Hospital on Monday night due to critical injuries sustained to his head and other parts of his body, according to Dr. Aung Swi, Deputy Director of Chattogram Medical College and Hospital, who attended to him.
As investigations continue, the motive behind the attack remains shrouded in uncertainty. However, given the area’s predominantly Rohingya population, suspicions have emerged, with armed groups such as the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) and the Rohingya Solidarity Organization (RSO) coming under scrutiny. Yet, no concrete evidence has surfaced regarding their involvement.
The Buddhist monk, who had chosen a life of seclusion in a remote temple to seek Buddhist wisdom, was found critically injured, with his head, hand, and other parts of the body wounded, inside a room of the Morichha Srabosti Buddhist temple, which is located approximately 8 kilometers from Ukhiya Upazila headquarters. The temple is home to a community of around 80 Barua families, all followers of Buddhism.
The motive behind the attack remains unknown, and the police are investigating all possible causes, including the targeting of individuals from different faiths and ideologies. The victim’s son, Sumon Barua, confirmed that his father had no enmity with anyone in the area.
“He dedicated himself to the path of spiritualism around thirteen years ago and took the present name. His previous name was Bijoy Barua,” stated Santosh Barua, a devotee of the area.
While the police could not immediately ascertain the motive behind the attack, one official mentioned, “We are investigating the attack, keeping in mind all possible causes, including an attack on people of different faiths and ideologies.” Sumon Barua, the victim’s son, expressed, “The doctor told us he needs ICU support, while we are struggling to get an ICU bed for him in Chattogram Medical College and Hospital from Monday night.”
Santosh Barua, who witnessed the incident, stated, “The attackers intruded into the temple by breaking its door and attacked the monk with sharp weapons.”
Bappi Barua, grandson of the victim, said, “I found him critically injured and senseless around 6:30 am when I went to the Kyang (temple) to serve him food.” “We first took him to Ukhiya Upazila Health Complex for treatment,” Bappi Barua said, adding that doctors at the complex later referred him to Cox’s Bazar Sadar Hospital. As his condition was deteriorating, he was sent to Chattogram Medical College and Hospital from Cox’s Bazar.
“A case was filed in this connection while we are trying to arrest the criminals and investigating the attack on a religious leader, giving top priority,” informed Md Russel, additional police superintendent of Ukhiya circle.
“The injured monk had wounds on his head, hand, and other parts of the body,” confirmed Dr. Shajedul Imran, resident medical officer of Ukhiya Upazila Health Complex.
Santosh further revealed, “Earlier, in 2012, a Buddhist temple was torched in the area.” He added that the Buddhist community members in the area are now scared after the attack on the monk, especially considering a previous incident in 2012 when a Buddhist temple was set on fire.
Progyananda Bhikkhu, the president of the Cox’s Bazar District Buddhist Protection Council and assistant director of Ramu Kendriya Seema Maha Vihara, expressed the community’s concern and urged for a comprehensive investigation. Highlighting the vulnerability of Cox’s Bazar, an area inhabited by Rohingya refugees, Bhikkhu described it as one of the crime zones in the district.
Barrister Jyotirmoy Barua, a Supreme Court lawyer who previously filed a petition seeking justice for the 2012 attack on the Buddhist community in Ramu, emphasised that repeated attacks on religious leaders or institutions were obstructing religious freedom in the country. “Repeated attacks on religious leaders or institutions are narrowing the path of the religious freedom in our country”, he said.