The Barishal district administration on Friday formed a probe committee over the allegation of setting a trawler on fire in presence of Babuganj upazila nirbahi officer during a drive against hilsa on Thursday.

‘We have formed a three-member probe committee headed by additional district magistrate Shah Md Rafiqul Islam to investigate the matter,’ said Barishal deputy commissioner Jashim Uddin Haider.

He added that the committee would have to submit the probe report within five days.  

The incident took place in Babuganj Kheyaghat area at about 10:00pm on Thursday.

Anwar Hossain, owner of the trawler, said that the trawler was requisitioned by law enforcement agencies for conducting the drive.

‘I have been providing trawler for more than 14 years during the drive against hilsa catch,’ added Anwar.

Witnesses said that Anwar’s trawler was used for carrying fish seized during the drive but the UNO and law enforcers got angry with Anwar finding that he had hidden some big fish in the boat’s hull.

‘I fled after the UNO hit me with bamboo,’ Anwar said only to find later that his trawler was burnt.

He said that he constructed the trawler at a cost of Tk 3.70 lakh and it was set on fire in presence of the UNO.

Babuganj upazila nirbahi officer Nusrat Fatima denied the allegation that the trawler was burnt as per her order. She termed it an accident.

‘I ordered to burn the current net seized during the drive, not the trawler. While I was giving the seized fish to an orphanage,’ she claimed.

The UNO added that a vested quarter was spreading misinformation to halt the drive.

‘The trawler owner has been working with us for a long time. We will stand beside him and provide him with compensation,’ Nusrat Fatima said.

She explained that the fire service team turned up there, and was dousing the flames burning the seized current net.

‘At that time I asked them not to extinguish the fire because the current net was being burnt after seizure,’ she added.

Babuganj upazila Fire Service station officer-in-charge Abdul Malek said that on information they reached the spot at about 9:15pm.

‘We were able to douse the fire with two fire extinguishers. The cause of the fire and the amount of damage were unknown,’ he added.

He, however, said that they were not present when the trawler was burnt.

Babuganj police sub-inspector Hannan Mia, who was present during the drive, however, said, ‘When the net was being burnt and seized hilsa had been being distributed in presence of the UNO, two Ansar members boarded the trawler, sprayed diesel onto it and set fire to it.’

Babuganj police officer-in-charge Mahabubur Rahman maintained that the bodyguards of UNO poured diesel on the trawler and set it on fire.

The government imposed ban across the country from October 7 to October 28 for catching, selling, transporting, hoarding, exchanging and marketing hilsa to help it spawn.

New Age correspondent in Munshiganj reported that four fishermen were fined Tk 20,000 for catching hilsa during a mobile court drive to preserve mother hilsa.

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