Dhaka, 14 October
Some Hindu temples in Bangladesh were vandalized by unidentified Muslim extremists during Durga Puja celebrations, prompting the government to deploy paramilitary forces in 22 districts after four people were killed and several others injured in the riots, media reports. Said on Thursday.
A Home Ministry spokesperson said Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB) personnel have been deployed in 22 districts across the country to contain the spread of violence.
He said elite anti-crime Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and armed police have also been ordered to remain vigilant along with BGB in 22 of the 64 administrative districts and elsewhere to prevent any violence.
According to media reports, on Wednesday, three people died during clashes between Muslim fundamentalists and police in Hajiganj sub-district of Chandpur bordering Kamila, while the fourth succumbed later.
Authorities banned rallies in Hajiganj where officials confirmed four people were killed in the firing and said two others were seriously injured in the clash.
Police said some of their officers were injured as a mob attacked them and vandalized their and local administrators’ cars.
Although he did not specify whether the police action had resulted in casualties, media reports said that the police opened fire on a crowd of more than 500 people.
According to officials, the police were alerted about an alleged blasphemy incident at a Durga Puja mandap in Kumila, about 100 km from here, following which an investigation was launched.
However, violence erupted in the form of radical attacks on temples in Kamila, neighboring Hajiganj, Hatia and the north-west coastal sub-districts of Banskhali, while social media was used to incite massive communal tension.
Hindu religious leaders termed the violence as part of a conspiracy to disrupt Durga Puja celebrations and demanded action against fundamentalists and protection of Hindu temples and establishments.
Kamila District Puja Utsav Samiti secretary Nirmol Pal said a special group protested and blasphemed at the mandap to stop Durga Puja.
Police said they have so far detained 43 people in connection with the violence. People who posted the first video at the Kamila worship place on social media were also in custody.
“Investigation is underway and we are also identifying the culprits using security camera footage,” Deputy Inspector General of Police Anwar Hussain told media in Kamila.
General Secretary of the ruling Awami League and Road Transport Minister Obaidul Qader said that “radical elements” carried out attacks on Hindu temples at 10 to 12 places for political purposes.
“But our government led by (Prime Minister) Sheikh Hasina will not allow them to go ahead with their evil designs,” he told reporters who visited a puja pavilion at the Ramakrishna Mission here.
He cautioned people against spreading rumors to break inter-religious harmony in the country and said Hasina has ordered strict action against communal elements.
“We will be vigilant,” said the minister.
It said the Ministry of Religious Affairs issued an emergency notice urging the public not to take the law into their own hands as it reiterated the call for maintaining communal harmony and peace.
Hindus constitute about 10 per cent of the 169 million population of Muslim-majority Bangladesh. There have been reports of sporadic violence over the years, mostly due to rumors spread on social media. PTI