By UCA News
(UCA News) — Members of religious minority groups marched on the streets of Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka to demand punishment for perpetrators of communal violence against Hindus during the annual Durga Puja festival.
About 1,000 joined the rally on Oct. 16 in front of the National Museum organized by Puja Celebration Council, a Hindu forum overseeing Durga Puja celebrations in Bangladesh. Members of Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council and Bangladesh Christian Association also participated.
“The violence against Hindus and vandalizing of religious idols and puja mandaps [venues] in various parts of the country was premeditated. Such violence has taken place in the past but justice has not been meted out. If Bangladesh is a land of harmony, why do Hindus continue to face communal violence repeatedly? We want answers, a proper probe and exemplary punishment for the perpetrators,” said Mrinal Kanti Dutta, president of Puja Celebration Council.
Dutta alleged that the administration and police in up to a dozen districts including Cumilla, Chandpur, Noakhali and Chittagong failed to act swiftly to stop Muslim mobs who were instigated by the stage-managed desecration of a Quran in a puja mandap in Cumilla on Oct. 13.
Nirmol Rozario, a Catholic and president of Bangladesh Christian Association, denounced the violence as “absolutely deplorable.”
“A vested quarter that wants Bangladesh’s long-held religious harmony destroyed has resorted to falsehood and anarchism to target and attack Hindu communities during their largest religious festival. We deplore the violence in the strongest possible manner. All perpetrators should be arrested, punished and the government should ensure no repeat of such violence,” Rozario said.
Meanwhile, on the same day, about 10,000 Muslims in Dhaka protested over what they called the hurting of Muslims’ religious sentiments by Quran desecration. Most protesters carried banners of Islamic political parties.
“Down with the enemies of Islam” and “Hang the culprits” were among the slogans they chanted, with their leaders calling for the death sentence for those responsible for allegedly placing a Quran on the knee of Hindu monkey god Hanuman at a Durga Puja venue in Cumilla district.
Deadly violence erupted in several districts on Oct. 13 after footage spread on social media.
Muslim mobs attacked and vandalized Hindu temples and puja venues in up to dozen districts, prompting authorities to deploy additional police and Border Guards of Bangladesh (BGB) soldiers in about 22 districts.
At least 150 Hindus were injured and three died during the violence, Hindu leaders claimed. Police fired on a mob of some 500 in Hajiganj in Chandpur district, leaving four Muslims dead.
In Begumganj of Noakhali district, two Hindus were killed after a mob of 200 Muslims attacked a Hindu temple on Oct. 16, police told reporters.
Meanwhile, hundreds of Muslims, allegedly enraged by anti-Islam post on social media by a Hindu man, torched all 21 Hindu houses in Majhipara village in Rangpur district of northern Bangladesh on Oct. 17 night.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan met with Hindu leaders and promised stern action against attackers and instigators.
However, minority leaders say they have lost faith in political leaders for repeatedly failing to protect minorities from communal attacks.
“We no longer have any faith in the political leadership,” Rana Dasgupta, a Hindu lawyer and secretary-general of Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council, said during a press conference in Chittagong city of southeastern Bangladesh on Oct. 16.
Dasgupta alleged that the attackers hailed from communal forces that opposed a secular Bangladesh and from the ruling Awami League.
He said such communal attacks are not isolated incidents but were well planned, adding that extremist forces aim to tarnish the image of Bangladesh, hinder development of the country and turn Bangladesh into a communal state by expelling minority communities.
About 90 percent of more than 160 million people in Bangladesh are Sunni Muslims, 8 percent are Hindu and the rest adhere to other faiths including Buddhism and Christianity.