Four killed, Hindu temples, businesses vandalized in Bangladesh, PM Hasina assures justice amid fears of extremist involvement
In a sudden eruption of communal tension in Bangladesh, that many feared could adversely impact bilateral ties, four people were killed and several others – including police personnel – sustained injuries as "miscreants" vandalized Hindu temples, businesses and houses of members of the community in Noakhali district after an alleged blasphemous incident during the annual festivities linked to the worship of Hindu goddess Durga in Comilla, about 100 km southeast of Dhaka
In a sudden eruption of communal tension in Bangladesh, that many feared could adversely impact bilateral ties, four people were killed and several others – including police personnel – sustained injuries as "miscreants" vandalized Hindu temples, businesses and houses of members of the community in Noakhali district after an alleged blasphemous incident during the annual festivities linked to the worship of Hindu goddess Durga in Comilla, about 100 km southeast of Dhaka.
The incident led to exchange of diplomatic notes between New Delhi and Dhaka, with Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina urging India to ensure there was no "disturbance" which could have repercussions in her country.
The Hindus, comprising about ten percent of the population in Bangladesh, constitute the largest minority community. The four-day biggest Hindu festival in Bangladesh – the worship of goddess Durga or Durga Puja – ended on Friday. According to knowledgeable, over 31,000 community Durga pujas are organized in Bangladesh, with the violence confined to four or five community pujas.
The killings happened in Chowmuhani area of Begumganj upazila in Noakhali after the Friday prayers at mosques. The Associated Press reported that violence was also reported from Dhaka on Friday, as thousands of people protesting against the alleged blasphemy clashed with police in the country’s capital.
Dhaka Metropolitan Police Deputy Commissioner Sajjad Hossain said several people were injured as police made baton charges and lobbed tear gas shells to disperse the crowd.
The somewhat planned vandalism started at 2:15pm on Friday at Chowmuhani and continued for around three hours. The district administration imposed prohibitory orders in the Chowmuhani municipality area from 6 AM to 6 PM on Saturday to prevent any further disturbances, Prothom Alo reported.
Additional Superintendent of Police (Begumganj circle) Shah Emran said thousands of people brought out a procession after Friday prayers and tried to go towards a temple. As police intercepted, the mob started to hurl stones. The mob later attacked different temples and shops of the Hindu community. Two private cars in front of Ram Thakur Ashram were vandalised during the attack.
Police and witnesses said the protestors were angry after the alleged desecration of the holy Quran in Comilla, whose exact details were unclear. They later brought out a procession and vandalised Sri Krinshna Misthanna Bhandar, Ramkrishna Mishthanna Bhandar and other shops owned by Hindu community.
The mob entered the College Road and ransacked and looted almost all the temples of the area including Ram Thakur Ashram, Radha Madhab temple and, ISKCON temple, local media and the Hindu community said. There were incidents of torching and the mob also pelted stones at the houses of Hindus.
Hindu Buddhist Christian Oikya Parishad’s district committee coordinator Binay Kishore Roy told Prothom Alo Bengali newspaper that the local authorities failed to do anything to protect the Hindus. Roy alleged that many people were injured at the attack but most of them cannot even go out for treatment fearing fresh attacks.
New Delhi had strong diplomatic exchanges with Dhaka on the attacks, including the possibility of extremist elements trying to stir up communal tension.
In a speech on the occasion of Durga Puja, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina hoped that India would take steps against any reaction at home, as it could have a fallout in Bangladesh.
Indian High Commissioner Vikram Doraiswami as well as the four consulates in Bangladesh have been in touch with officials, sources said.
A preliminary assessment indicates the role of home-grown elements, with external support, in the attacks on the temples and Durga Puja pandals, given how the attacks were carried out in a coordinated manner and at multiple locations. “The Bangladesh authorities are looking at the Jamaat-e-Islami’s involvement,” an official told The Indian Express.
Hasina has reassured representatives of the Hindu community that authorities were taking all precautions to ensure there was no violence during immersion of idols of Goddess Durga.