By Santiago Losada
Over the weekend of November 6, vandalism and arson at Hindu temples wreaked havoc in Bangladesh. According to The Deccan Chronicle, at least six houses were set ablaze and two temples were damaged in the city of Brahmanbarhia. In an earlier attack, at least 15 temples and more than 20 houses were vandalized after a Facebook post sparked Islamic outrage. The post included an image of the Hindu God Shiva appearing at a Muslim holy site in the Saud city of Mecca. Police have detained 33 people suspected to be involved.
The Hindustan Times reports that the police contained the violence at around 2:00 PM carried out a raid to apprehend the culprits. Security personnel from the Rapid Action Battalion and the Bangladesh paramilitary were deployed into the region to offer law and order.
Muslims have become increasingly violent towards the Hindu minority. In a recent protest, thousands of people demanded capital punishment for the man who posted the Facebook post.
Although many of the acts are considered minor, the Hindu communities in Bangladesh are increasingly unnerved. Indian Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj said that these attacks are of grave concern, and New Delhi’s ambassador to the country has been instructed to meet with the Bangladeshi Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina. According to some, these attacks are simply seen as a tactic to create panic in the Hindu community, while others argue that the aim is to strip Hindus of their land. The New York Times reports that human rights and government groups have started an investigation and made allegations that leaders of the governing party in Bangladesh helped incite these acts of vandalism. A few journalists have also questioned why Muslim organizations were given police permission when it was clear that they were committing acts of violence.
In Bangladesh, attacks on Hindus are not unusual, but recent occurrences are seen as a rarity because it was carried out by multiple, organized crowds targeting temples. The Vice Chairman of the Nazirnagar subdistrict, Anjan Kumar Deb, said that in the city, whose population is 40% Hindu, there has never been religious violence on this grand of a scale. Even during Bangladesh’s 1971 Liberation War, Nazirnagar was always a safe place for Hindus when many experienced violence in other parts of the country, according to The New York Times. It is also beginning to scare the minority group that makes up 11% of the population because these attacks are also occurring with greater frequency.
At the same time, Hindus are beginning to strike back, according to The Indian Express. On November 5, hundreds of protesters rallied in the capital of Dhaka demanding swift action against the perpetrators behind the Hindu attacks. Many Hindu youths along with some Muslims staged a street protest in Dhaka’s Shahbagh Square. At the same time, some activist groups staged another protest in front of the National Press Club, demanding more protection for Bangladesh’s minority groups. The protesters also urged the resignation of Sayedul Haque, a government minister who accused journalists of worsening the situation.