Anti-Hindu violence in Bangladesh during Durga Puja: what happened and who did it?

Anti-Hindu violence in Bangladesh during Durga Puja: what happened and who did it?

Foreign Affairs
Reading Time: 8 minutes

Anti-Hindu violence in Bangladesh despoiled the Durga Puja celebration–the biggest festival of the minority community. The violence reportedly killed six people, four Muslims and two Hindus, and injured many as feral Islamist mobs bayed for the blood of Hindus.

The violence erupted on Wednesday, October 13th 2021, over the alleged besmirching of the Muslim holy scripture, the Koran, at the site of a Durga Puja celebration near the banks of Nanuar Dighi in Comilla. The holy book was allegedly found placed at the footstool of a northern Indian Hindu deity called Lord Hanuman.

After locals clashed over the alleged desecration of the Koran, the news became viral and rioting started in different parts of Bangladesh on Thursday and Friday. Minority Hindus, their places of worships, Durga Puja pandals and their businesses were attacked by feral Islamist terrorists at Bandarban, Chandpur, Chapainawabganj, Chittagong, Cox’s Bazar, Gazipur, Moulvibazar, etc,

A Facebook live showing the burning of a Hindu temple in Bangladesh. Credit Assaduzaman Tuhin

It’s reported in Bangladeshi media that at least four people were killed by police firing in Chandpur’s Hajiganj when they attacked Durga Puja locations. Two Hindus reportedly died when temples were attacked in Noakhali’s Choumuhani.

One more body of a Hindu devotee, Pranto Das, was reportedly found by the police from a pond in the southeastern Begumganj sub-district of Noakhali.

Kishor Ray, president of the Noakhali chapter of the Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council has alleged that Das was killed when Islamist fanatics attacked the temple at Choumuhani.

Earlier, Jatan Kumar Saha (42), another Hindu man, was killed when a mob attacked a Durga Puja procession in Begumganj.

Shah Imran, the additional police superintendent of Noakhali told the press that a protest rally was taken out by a group of men close to Begumganj College Road and DB Road area, from where the attack was launched on the Durga Puja procession, killing one and injuring 18.

Imran informed that even the acting officer-in-charge (OC) of the Begumganj police station, Kamruzzaman Sikder, was injured in the rioting.

The police have filed cases against 500 unidentified rioters in the Zakiganj sub-district in Sylhet on Thursday after they rioted on the streets and vandalised shops and parked cars.

A mob of more than 150 Islamist fanatics armed with sharp weapons attacked Durga Puja venues and the Kalibari site of the Hindus in Sylhet’s Hawladar Para on Friday, October 15th, after the Jumma Namaz. They broke down a pandal and vandalised Hindu places of worship until the police resorted order.

A live video on Facebook showing the violence against Hindu places of worship in Noakhali. Credit: Assaduzaman Tuhin

In the Nabiganj sub-district of Habiganj district, located in Bangladesh’s northeastern corner, 20 people were injured on Thursday when Madrassa students incited by their Salafist preachers attacked a Durga Puja site.

The Nabiganj Police Station’s OC Dalim Ahmed was seriously injured when he intervened with his troops to bring the situation under control.

In Bandarban’s Lama area, the situation turned tense on Thursday, October 14th, when an Islamist mob under the banner of Muslim Tawhidi Janta attacked the Hari Mandir of the sub-district.

The ruling Awami League’s Lama sub-district general secretary and municipal mayor Zahirul Islam and the sub-district’s Student League—students’ body of the Awami League—general secretary Mohd Shaheen were present in the mob at Lama Bazar with other Awami League workers.

The situation worsened after the Friday prayers on October 15th, especially in the capital Dhaka, which is around 100 km away from the locality where the incident took place.

A mob of thousands of Islamist fanatics organised a massive rally and raised anti-Hindu slogans. The rally, after crossing the Paltan X-ing and Bijoynagar Intersection, clashed with the police.

In three different cases filed against unknown rioters in Paltan, Ramna and Chowkbazar police stations, 4,000 unidentified people have been accused of rioting.

While the cases have been filed against 2,500 unidentified and 11 identified accused in Paltan Police Station, only five have been arrested so far.

In Ramna Police Station, a case has been filed against 1,500 unidentified and ten identified accused. Ten have been arrested by this police station.

Around 35-40 unidentified and five identified people—who have been arrested—are accused in the Chowkbazar Police Station case.

The Durga Puja celebrations also ended on Friday, which was the last day of the ten-day-long festival. However, the anti-Hindu violence in Bangladesh didn’t stop.

Around 32,118 Durga Pujas were organised throughout Bangladesh this year, including 238 in the capital Dhaka.

The Hindus, who constitute 10% of Bangladesh’s population, have been facing sporadic communal violence for years as the country falls into the abyss of Salafist bigotry. Sunni Muslims constitute 89% of the population of Bangladesh.

Last year, massive anti-Hindu violence in Bangladesh erupted in Comilla’s Muradnagar sub-district after a Hindu man defended on social media the cartoons of Prophet Muhammad published by Charlie Hebdo in France. Around 500 were sued and five were jailed in this case.

This year, the violence even took place in Feni, on Saturday, after Hindus started demonstrating against the attacks on their places of worship and the vandalism at the Durga Puja locations. The Islamist fanatics attacked the protesters and 40 people have been reportedly injured.

The police had to fire tear gas shells to disperse the mob. OC Nizam Ud-din, of the Feni Model Police Station, suffered serious injuries during the clash. He and other injured have been hospitalised in the Feni General Hospital.

Many Muslims have come out in support of the Hindus in different places and guarded the Hindu places of worship and Durga Puja locations.

According to Gobinda Chandra, a local activist of the Hindu Mahajot, an outfit affiliated with the India-based Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)—the global fountainhead of Hindutva fascism and also the parent body of India’s ruling far-right Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)—several Muslims who came to protect Hindus have also suffered injuries.

During a Zoom call, Chandra claimed that the Comilla incident was a political conspiracy and the state machinery initially showed reluctance to help the Hindus. He accused the contradiction between two ruling party leaders, including a legislator, behind the Comilla incident and the Durga Puja vandalisation.

Sheikh Hasina-led the Awami League government promised strong actions against those involved in the alleged desecration of the Koran and also those behind the violence that spread across Bangladesh.

“The incidents in Comilla are being thoroughly investigated. Nobody will be spared. It doesn’t matter which religion they belong to. They will be hunted down and punished,” Hasina was quoted by the Dhaka Tribune.

The Awami League government deployed the elite paramilitary force Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) to control the situation. The BGB has been deployed in 22 districts of Bangladesh to control the anti-Hindu violence.

Though an extreme fascist herself, Hasina has been managing to win applause by continuously promising strong action against the rioters behind the anti-Hindu violence in Bangladesh. To show her government’s support to the Hindu community, Hasina personally went to the capital Dhaka’s ancient and the most famous Durga Puja–Dhakeshwari National Temple.

Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan said that the government will track down the culprits behind the violence and the Comilla case. “We’ll hunt down those involved in the incident. We’ve identified some of them and they’ll be held without any day,” Khan was quoted by the United News of Bangladesh.

The ailing Opposition bloc, led by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), also criticised the anti-Hindu violence in Bangladesh. Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, the general secretary of the BNP, accused the government of vitiating the environment and using the Comilla incident to divert the people’s attention.

“Bangladesh is a country of communal harmony. We have been living here peacefully for thousands of years. This has been done to divert attention from the original crisis,” Alamgir was quoted by the Dhaka Tribune.

Alamgir also alleged that the Awami League government has been trying to implicate the BNP in the Comilla incident.

“Not just this time but whenever any incident takes place, the government tries to implicate BNP over those incidents. It is rather Awami League that is behind these incidents,” Alamgir was quoted by The Daily Star.

Along with this, Alamgir also accused the government of being complicit in the Comilla incident. “The government agents had placed the Koran at the puja mandap of Comilla”, he alleged.

“These incidents took place due to the callousness of law enforcers. They played the role of silent spectators. Whenever the Awami League comes to power, people of the Hindu community come under attack,” the BNP leader said.

A nationwide sit-in and hunger strike from October 23rd have been announced by the Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council to protest the anti-Hindu violence in Bangladesh during the Durga Puja. Rana Dasgupta, an advocate and the secretary-general of the council, told the press that these protests will take place in Dhaka’s Shahbagh and Chittagong’s Andarkilla.

Who is responsible for the besmirching of the Koran in Comilla? Who spread vitriolic propaganda against Hindus on social media? Who benefitted, socio-economically or politically, from the anti-Hindu violence in Bangladesh?

Though initially the Jamaat-e-Islami and its student organisation—the Bangladesh Islami Chhatra Shibir—were unofficially blamed by the ruling Awami League, it has been found that many who have been arrested, including Zainul Abedin from Comilla, happen to be the ruling party’s cadre.

The Jamaat-e-Islami, a radical, pro-Pakistan reactionary force, has been decimated by the Awami League and the people’s movement against the collaborators of the Pakistani colonial era. It’s unlikely that the crippled Jamaat will even have the manpower needed to fuel nationwide violence against the Hindus.

The BNP, which has been weakened by the Awami League’s continuous hegemony, can’t even manage to field candidates against Hasina’s men in most constituencies of the country.

The BNP, which has its roots in the pro-Pakistan coup d’état that killed the Awami League founder Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, father of Hasina, in the 1970s, can’t even muster the courage to oppose the general anti-people, fascistic policies of the government. It’s unlikely that the BNP could manage such large-scale anti-Hindu violence in Bangladesh on its own.

When it comes to reaping political benefits, neighbouring India’s ruling BJP and its parental body RSS can derive optimum political mileage from this macabre anti-Hindu violence in Bangladesh.

BJP’s West Bengal legislative party leader Suvendu Adhikari claimed that the anti-Hindu violence in Bangladesh has increased the saffron party’s chances of winning the Santipur assembly by-polls scheduled on October 30th.

“Recent incidents in Bangladesh will have an impact and BJP will increase the margin by three-fold. People who migrated from Bangladesh will give a befitting reply to the events in the neighbouring country,” Adhikari was quoted by The Times of India.

The constituency and the nearby areas are dominated by ostracised Dalit and backward class Hindu refugees from Bangladesh, who have been victims of partition. The BJP won the seat by luring the Bangladeshi migrants with the promise of citizenship and by titillating them with Islamophobia in the 2021 West Bengal Assembly elections. It got a lead of 15,878 votes against rival Trinamool Congress.

For decades, the RSS and the BJP have been peddling Islamophobia in India by vilifying the Muslims of the neighbouring countries, especially Bangladesh and Pakistan. By using optics of the persecution of Hindus in these countries, the BJP-RSS incites their hardcore Hindutva fascism-incensed supporters.

This propaganda helps the saffron bloc in consolidating a large, majoritarian support base, founded on Islamophobia and bigotry. The BJP has managed to secure an absolute majority in the lower house of the Indian Parliament and most of the Indian states by using Islamophobia as their only weapon.

Though Bangladesh is a foreign country, according to the RSS’s doctrine, it’s an inalienable part of Akhand Bharat (a greater, undivided India). Using its foreign branch, Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS), the RSS has managed to penetrate deep inside Bangladesh’s Hindu pockets, especially among the Bengali-speaking Dalit sect called Matuas.

Many Matuas, living as victims of partition in India’s West Bengal, have been trapped by the RSS and the BJP with the bait of Indian citizenship.

Apart from the HSS, the RSS has also deployed the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) in Bangladesh. With its headquarters in Dhaka’s Purano Paltan area, the VHP has been working to spread the northern Indian version of vegetarian Hinduism, which is quite different from the Sakta Hindu traditions followed by Bengali Hindus.

Moreover, the HSS and VHP focus on instigating the Bengali Hindus to help India annex Bangladesh, which also causes severe antagonism between the minority community and the Muslim majority. Many Muslims view the minority Hindus with suspicion, causing the society’s communal fissures to widen exponentially.

Even though Hasina’s Awami League government knows about these activities of the HSS and VHP, it never cracked the whip. Rather, as the Opposition accuses, the Awami League-led fascistic regime has been a puppet of New Delhi and allowed the Modi regime to turn Bangladesh into a fiefdom of India’s expansionism project.

As Awami League members and leaders have been spotted in a large number during the recent anti-Hindu violence in Bangladesh, and as the ruling party has the organisational strength and means to cause such unrest before the elections, the BNP’s and other Opposition bloc members’ allegations against Hasina’s regime regarding its complicity in the violence can’t be ruled out.

If Hasina’s alleged role in using the anti-Hindu violence in Bangladesh to farther her political ambitions can be proved by an independent investigation, which is impossible at present, then the role played by the HSS and the VHP to aid the BJP in India with such large-scale Islamist fanatic violence could have been examined as well. However, in the tyrannical rule of Hasina, the truth shall remain buried until she is removed from power by the popular will of Bangladesh’s common people.

An avid reader and a merciless political analyst. When not writing then either reading something, debating something or sipping espresso with a dash of cream. Street photographer. Tweets as @la_muckraker

Did you like this article? Can you help us publish more by supporting us?

From as little as Rs 100 you can support People's Review in publishing more in-depth analysis on various topics

Payment from outside India is not accepted now as we are not registered under the FCRA