Miscreants torched houses of 10 Hindu families in Bochaganj upazila early yesterday allegedly in the fallout from an altercation between a youth and members of the community during the Durga Puja.
However, no-one was hurt in the fire that burnt down the houses, locals said.
The locals caught one Jewel Rana, 23, who is allegedly responsible for the fire, and turned him in to police.
The incident triggered a wave of panic among the Hindus in the upazila.
Sohel Basfor, one of the victims whose house was burned down, said he was asleep around 2:45am when he woke up at the sound of a splash. He smelt petroleum and soon his house was on fire.
The fire rapidly started spreading. He ran out and alerted others.
Junarobi Lal Basfor said the fire engulfed everything fast as the criminals splashed petroleum all over the area. “We are just alive and unhurt but could not save anything,” he added.
Rashidul Islam of neighbouring Bakultola village said he had seen the flames from a kilometre away.
Firefighters from Bochaganj Station rushed to the spot and doused the fire around 5:00am.
Jahangir Alam Liton, councillor of ward No 7 of Bochaganj Municipality, said the victim families had been living on a 20-decimal piece of railway land for long.
He added property worth around Tk 50 lakh was reduced to ashes.
Locals said they caught Jewel, son of Ayub Ali of Stationpara area, from the spot and handed him over to police.
Munir Lal Basfor, leader of the community, said Jewel went to the mandap area during the Durga Puja on October 10 and locked in an altercation with the Hindus.
There was a scuffle as Jewel tore up banners as he could not extort money from the puja organisers, he said, adding, “Since then he has been threatening us with dire consequences.”
Habibur Islam, officer-in-charge of Bochaganj police, said Jewel was an accused in several cases for stealing motorcycles.
Shilapada Karmaker, UNO of Bochaganj, said they had distributed relief among the affected families, who have also been shifted to a government auditorium.