|DEPUTY SANGHARAJ SHREEMAD SATYAPRIYA MOHATHERO|
Inam Ahmed and Julfikar Ali Manik, from Ramu, Cox’s Bazar
The Buddha statues made of gold are lost forever. The intrinsic designs of Khadi wood are lost in the inferno. The Tripitak is lost too. But for Shreemad Satyapriya Mohathero, who had just turned 83, the loss and pain are even greater. He has lost all faith in his knowledge and reading of humanity.
“Even in 1971, I did not see this grotesque brutality on us,” Mohathero says. Mohathero is the second highest priest of the Buddhist community in Bangladesh.
“Muslim men and women had taken refuge in my monastery in 1971 to escape the wrath of the Pakistani army,” the feeble man says. “I have saved so many Muslim souls from the brutal persecution of the Pakistanis. Today I feel defeated.”
The Mohathero slowly walked into the Sima monastery yesterday afternoon, supported by his disciples. He went from one pagoda to another, and looked at the defaced, damaged statues of Lord Buddha and the nobles in a state of stupor.
He was sweating. He was shaking in pain and exasperation. And he spoke in his gentle, quaint voice.
The Bangalees who had taken refuge in his monastery invented a trick to evade the Pakistan army.
“I am a China Buddhist,” they would tell the Pakistan army when intercepted. When Bangladesh was at war, China sided with Pakistan. This is why the Pakistan army had great respect for anyone affiliated with China. A China Buddhist was a respectable person and so was to be spared persecution.
“The Pakistanis did not torch our village. This attack is totally out of the blue,” Mohathero says. “This is an attack on my religion. I have no foes.”
And yet he had to run for his life. When the mob attacked his monastery, his disciples held him on both sides, lifted him off the ground and carried him into the paddy field. That is where he hid the night and survived.
“My civilisation is lost. My lifetime of worshipping has gone in vain. I am a lost man and lost I will be,” he says.
“Please save my future generation! Please!”