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Attacks on Durga Puja pandals pre-planned, says Bangladesh Home Minister as mobs torch Hindu homes in Rangpur

Dhaka, Bangladesh Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan has termed the attacks on Durga Puja pavilions and Hindu temples, and homes and businesses as premeditated, even as fanatical Islamist mobs carried out arson attacks on Hindu homes in Rangpur over a social media post that allegedly dishonoured religion.

Law enforcers across the country are continuing their efforts to bring the perpetrators of the vandalism and attacks on Durga Puja venues to book, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan said.

He said that the alleged defamation of the Holy Quran and subsequent attacks on the Hindus in Comilla was a premeditated incident aimed at destroying the communal harmony of the country.

“It appears to us that it was a motivated act instigated by a vested group,” he told reporters at the Secretariat. He smelled the provocations of a “third party” in the sporadic violence in the country following the Comilla incident, where Durga Puja pandals were vandalised after a Facebook post alleged that the Holy Quran was dishonoured at a puja venue.

Asked about the reason behind the Comilla incident, the minister said: “We’ll make it public once we get all the evidence and those who were involved in it will be given exemplary punishment. Not only in Comilla, attempts were also made to destabilize the country previously through communal violence in Ramu and Nasirnagar,” he said.

In Rangpur, at least 20 homes belonging to Hindus were completely burnt in Majhipara’s Jelepolli at Ramnathpur Union in the attack carried out late on Sunday.

According to the local Union Parishad chairman some 65 Hindu home were torched during the attack. “The attackers belonged to the local units of the Jamaat-e-Islami and its student wing Islami Chhatra Shibir,” Chairman Md Sadequl Islam told Dhaka Tribune.

Police said tensions erupted after some people alleged that a Hindu man posted a religiously abusive content on Facebook.

Police reached the spot soon after tensions mounted and stood guard around the home of the young man. “We could save that house but attackers torched some 15 to 20 nearby houses,” Assistant Superintendent of Police Md Kamruzzaman told Dhaka Tribune.

The Fire Service said the incident was reported around 9.50 pm. Firefighting units from Pirganj, Mithapukur and Rangpur city rushed to put out the flames. They were at the scene until 3am on Monday. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

Videos emerged on the social media, which claimed to be of Pirganj, showed homes burning in a village and police clashing with attackers. 

Meanwhile, multiple cases have been filed against hundreds of named and unnamed people for the attacks on Durga Puja pandals and Hindu temples in Comilla on October 13 and elsewhere over the last few days while police say they are scrutinizing CCTV footage to identify the attackers.

On the other hand, rights groups, political parties and minority leaders have blamed the negligence of the law enforcers for the spread of the violence.

“The people of Bangladesh are religious but not fanatics. We never allowed militancy and terrorism on the soil of Bangladesh. We contained militancy and terrorism through united efforts,” the minister said.

Soon after the Comilla incident, four lives were lost at Hajiganj in Chandpur and some policemen were also injured, he said, adding that some small incidents also occurred in Noakhali, Cox’s Bazar and Feni districts.

“No incident has been reported since Saturday night. Our security forces are working patiently based on intelligence information. Those who are trying to destroy communal peace will not succeed,” said the minister.

He also described the opposition BNP’s allegation of the government’s involvement in the Comilla incident as baseless. “These statements are not made based on the facts.”

Dr Zafrullah Chowdhury, founder of Gonoshasthaya Kendra, said that the home minister should resign over the deaths in Chandpur.

He said this during a visit to two affected temples at Hajiganj Bazar on Sunday.

Dr Zafrullah said that the government and the Home Ministry failed to properly handle the incidents. 

The Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council has announced a countrywide hunger strike and sit-in program for October 23 demanding justice for the temple attacks and violence during the Durga Puja.

On Sunday, the platform also demanded reconstruction of the temples vandalized during the attacks as well as compensation for the victims.

The council’s general secretary, Rana Dasgupta, also demanded removal of Noakhali’s DC and SP after visiting a number of affected temples at Begumganj in Noakhali.

He said that the Hindu community could not celebrate Durga Puja last year due to the surge in Covid-19 pandemic. They thought this year’s celebration would be a bigger one.

“However, all celebrations were marred following the temple attacks and vandalism across the country.”

BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir has alleged that the recent sectarian violence in different parts of the country happened due to the indifference of law enforcers as they played a silent role during the attacks.

(EW correspondent)



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