Police in Bangladesh have detained at least 300 suspects after two Hindu men were killed and temples vandalised following unrest triggered by the alleged desecration of the Muslim holy book during a Hindu religious festival last week.
Violence erupted across Bangladesh after a photo was widely circulated on social media on Wednesday, showing the Quran placed on the knee of a Hindu deity during celebrations for the Durga Puja festival in the eastern district of Cumilla.
Angry mobs attacked Hindu temples and clashed with police in various parts of Bangladesh in the following days, leaving at least six people, including two Hindus, dead and more than 100 injured.
Police said more than 200 attackers beat and stabbed to death an executive member of the temple committee in the southern town of Begumganj where members of the Hindu community were preparing to perform the last rites of the 10-day Durga Puja festival.
Six killed in violence so far
On Saturday morning, another Hindu man’s body was found near a pond next to the temple, district police chief Shahidul Islam told AFP news agency.
“Two men have died since yesterday’s attack. We are working to find the culprits,” he added.
The Hindu community makes up about 10 percent of Bangladesh’s 165 million population.
At least four others were killed late on Wednesday when police opened fire on a crowd of about 500 people attacking a Hindu temple in Hajiganj, one of several towns hit by the disturbances.
Violence also broke out in the capital Dhaka and the port city of Chittagong, prompting police to fire tear gas and rubber bullets at thousands of brick-throwing Muslim protesters.
High-speed mobile phone internet services were shut down in an apparent bid to prevent the violence from spreading.
Bangladeshi media reports on Sunday said at least 20 homes belonging to Hindus were torched in Rangpur city’s Pirganj neighbourhood.
At present Hindus are being attacked in Pirganj of Rangpur. Attacks on Hindus continue across the country. If this continues, it will be difficult for Hindus to survive in Bangladesh. pic.twitter.com/ilcSXgoRWn
— Bangladesh Hindu Unity Council (@UnityCouncilBD) October 17, 2021
Tension in the area mounted following allegations that a Hindu man’s Facebook post dishonoured Islam, the bdnews website quoted a police official as saying.
The incident came a day after some 10,000 protesters – many of them carrying banners of Islamist political parties – took to the streets outside Dhaka’s main mosque.
The crowd chanted “Down with the enemies of the Islam” and “Hang the culprits”.
“We ask the government to arrest those who defamed the Quran by putting it at the feet of an idol in Cumilla,” Mosaddek Billah al-Madani, president of Bangladesh’s Islami Movement. He added that protesters demanded “the death sentence” for those responsible for the images.
Separately, in a nearby intersection, about 1,000 Hindus protested against the attacks on temples and the killing of two Hindu devotees in another district where several temples were vandalised by Muslim mobs.
At least 150 Hindus were injured across the country, community leader Gobinda Chandra Pramanik told AFP news agency, and at least 80 makeshift temples had been attacked.
ISKCON temple & devotees were violently attacked today by a mob in Noakhali, Bangladesh. Temple suffered significant damage & the condition of a devotee remains critical.
We call on the Govt of Bangladesh to ensure the safety of all Hindus & bring the perpetrators to justice. pic.twitter.com/ZpHtB48lZi
— ISKCON (@iskcon) October 15, 2021
The authorities, who did not confirm the figures, said they have deployed extra security including a paramilitary border guard to control any further unrest.
Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina met leaders of the Hindu community on Thursday and promised stern action.
“So far around 90 people have been arrested. We will also hunt down all the masterminds,” Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan said.
In the port city of Chittagong, the Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council has announced a sit-in and hunger strike from October 23 in protest against the attacks on Hindus, the Press Trust of India agency reported on Sunday.
The protest events will take place at Dhaka’s Shahbagh and Chittagong’s Andarkilla, said a spokesman of the forum, which observed a six-hour strike in Chittagong on Saturday before making the announcement.