By UCA News
Police have arrested 17 Muslims for their alleged involvement in attacks on several Hindu villages Saturday in northwestern Dinajpur district after rumors spread that Hindu people had vandalized a mosque in the area.
Tension has been growing between the two groups for the past several days, since Hindus complained about a planned mosque to be built just meters from Hindu temples.
Authorities imposed a ban on public gatherings, but hundreds of Muslims gathered at the proposed construction site in the Balaibazar area in Chirirbandar sub-district for the start of construction Saturday.
The gathering allegedly turned into an attack that left 50 Hindu men and women seriously injured, 30 homes burned and around 100 cows and goats allegedly stolen.
“We have arrested 17 people so far now for attacking Hindu minorities and vandalizing their homes, but the situation is normalizing since a large number of officers have been deployed since the clashes occurred,” said police spokesman Tariqul Islam.
According to additional deputy commissioner Azizul Islam, the district administration has provided every victimized family with 5,000 taka (US$61), 20 kgs of rice, and clothes. The administration has also withdrawn the chief sub-district official for alleged negligence during the attack, and a committee has also been formed to investigate the incident.
However, the situation remains tense with thousands of minority Hindu people still in fear.
“My home has been burned with all my belongings and valuables. Where will I go with my family during this rainy season?” said Jogen Roy, one of the victims.
Another local Hindu, Nikhil Roy (not real name), said the attack was pre-planned and was intended to destroy communal harmony.
Imam Al-Amin, who is allegedly behind the construction of the new mosque, denied rumors that he had circulated a handbill saying Hindus had vandalized another mosque and asking people to gather on Saturday.
The land for the new mosque belongs to a local Muslim woman, Hamida Banu. Local Union Council chairman Liaqat Ali said they have repeatedly tried to convince Banu to scrap construction plans.
“We told her that the move will destroy longstanding communal harmony and peace,” Ali said.
Muslims account for about 90 percent of Bangladesh’s population. The second-largest group, Hindus, account for 8 percent.