DHAKA, Bangladesh – Paramilitary forces helped prevent the worst of sectarian violence targeting members of the Hindu minority that spread across much of Bangladesh on Friday, as they celebrated their biggest annual religious festival.
At least four people have been confirmed dead and more than 100 others injured since Wednesday, as violence spread across the country, following allegations that a copy of the Muslim holy book, the Quran, was stolen in the southeastern district of Kumila. I was disrespected in a temple. Capital, Dhaka. Authorities blocked mobile internet access in Dhaka for most of the day.
The worst violence took place in Chandpur district, south of Dhaka, where police clashed with an angry mob trying to attack a Hindu temple.
According to local media reports, there are reports of clashes and protests in at least 10 of the country’s 64 districts. Security forces spokesman Shariful Islam said that paramilitary forces were deployed in over 35 districts to check the spread of violence on Friday, the last day of Durga Puja, a major Hindu festival.
Chandpur District Magistrate Anjana Khan Mojlish said, “Muslim mobs went to attack Hindu temples and we sent police to control the situation.” “The situation was getting worse and the police had no choice but to use firearms, which killed three people – and they are all Muslims.”
Gobind Chandra Pramanik, general secretary of Bangladesh National Hindu Mahajot, an umbrella group, said at least 17 Hindu temples were attacked and idols vandalized. He also said that over a hundred people were injured.
In a sign that tensions remained at a high level till late Friday, Mr Pramanik said two Hindus were also killed when a temple fire broke out in Noakhali district. Noakhali police confirmed one death and said they were looking into reports of other casualties.
Shibu Prasad Roy, who was part of the organizing committee of Durga Puja festival, said, “I have never seen such an incident in my life.” “Earlier 15 to 20 people, aged 14 to 18 years, came to attack our temple in Kamila. After that, the number increased to hundreds of people.”
The violence in Bangladesh reflects the growing intolerance towards minorities across South Asia. From Sri Lanka to Pakistan, religious and ethnic minorities say they have been victims of blatant sectarian politics that caters to majority groups.
Bangladesh has seen the rise of local Muslim extremist groups that have been accused of targeting the country’s secular forces with a wave of killings. It has been vulnerable to cross-border tensions in India by a rise in communal politics, which has targeted Muslims, including those of Bangladeshi origin.
The Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi’s visit to Dhaka this spring was met with widespread protests over the treatment of Muslims in India. At least 12 protesters were killed in police firing on the demonstration.
Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Thursday vowed to hunt down anyone involved in targeting Hindu gatherings. But he clarified that he saw the violence as tied to widespread communal intolerance across the border.
“This is not the first time that minorities have been attacked in Bangladesh,” said Saad Hammadi, Amnesty International’s South Asia campaigner. “Targeting religious sensibilities to incite communal tension is one of the worst forms of human rights violation. We urge the authorities to conduct a thorough and impartial investigation into the incidents and bring those responsible for the violence to justice.”
The growing intolerance in Bangladesh, which has targeted minorities other than Hindus, is partly driven by misinformation spread on social media and exploitation for political gains.
For example, Asif Nazrul, a professor of law at the University of Dhaka, pointed to the last wave of communal violence targeted at the Hindu minority in Nasirnagar in 2016 by a fake Facebook post that was accused of insulting Islam. a Hindu. Hundreds of houses of Hindus were burnt.
Many accused of involvement in the communal violence – including some affiliated with Ms Hasina’s ruling party – tried to use the attacks as a springboard for her political career. Ms Hasina’s party canceled the nominations of only two candidates after public pressure was accused of indulging in violence.
In 2012, a dozen Buddhist temples and monasteries were destroyed by Muslim mobs in Cox’s Bazar on the country’s southeast coast, following a rumor that a Buddhist had insulted the Quran in a Facebook post.
Last November, a star cricketer, Shakib Al Hasan, received death threats from religious extremists after he visited a Hindu temple in Kolkata, India and attended a function. Mr Al Hasan later apologized and declared himself a “proud Muslim”.
Saif Hasnat reported from Dhaka, Bangladesh. Mujeeb Mashal from Kavre, Nepal.