Hasina vows exemplary punishment for instigators of communal unrest

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has vowed to bring to justice those who are inciting 'violence using religion' in different parts of the country, including Cumilla.

Exemplary punishment will be meted out to the culprits to deter communal incitement in future, she said while addressing Hindu devotees at Dhakeswari temple on Durga Puja via video link on Thursday.

On Wednesday, communal tensions flared in Cumilla over an alleged case of dishonouring the Quran amid Durga Puja, the largest Hindu festival. Crowds clashed with police and vandalised idols in the area.

Puja venues were also vandalised in Chandpur, Chattogram, Chapainawabganj and Moulvibazar and clashes resulted in casualties.

The prime minister said the administration took immediate measures to deal with the situation and will continue to take appropriate steps over the incidents. "Wherever such incidents occur, the culprits will be tracked down immediately."

"We have done it in the past and we can do it in the future. We have to punish them accordingly. We want to give such a punishment that no one will dare to do these things in the future.”

Addressing the incident in Cumilla, Hasina said, "An extensive investigation is underway. We are getting a lot of information and we will definitely find out who are behind such incidents."

"Now, in the age of technology, it is possible to find the people involved and appropriate action must be taken against them, regardless of their religion.”

Earlier in the day, Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader reiterated the prime minister’s call for strict action against those who are creating chaos by inciting communal tensions.

"Those who are angry about the peaceful worship taking place in every puja venue across the country want to pull the country backwards. One of their tactics is to stoke animosity between Hindus and Muslims," he said while inspecting Ramakrishna Mission's puja venue in Dhaka.

Quader urged the public to stay vigilant against any kind of communal incitement. "Sheikh Hasina's government will not allow this evil force to rise. The prime minister has already directed the authorities to take action against all kinds of activities that provoke communal unrest."

"In the run-up to the national elections, extremist groups are working to destroy communal harmony in several places," said Quader, the general secretary of the Awami League, adding ruling party leaders and activists of the party will be on alert.

He called on everyone to stand firm and united against extremist forces.