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Bangladesh sees ‘dubious political mileage of certain quarters’ behind communal attacks

  • News Desk,
    Published: 2021-10-19 20:06:06 BdST

Chandmoni Rakshakali Temple in Cumilla’s Kapriapotti came under attack by religious fanatics following the spread of inciteful posts on social media. Photo: Mahmud Zaman Ovi

The Bangladesh government has said “certain” quarters with vested interests are carrying out pre-meditated attacks on Hindus to gain some “dubious political mileage”.

“It is regrettable that the local elements that opposed Bangladesh’s independence 50 years ago are still propagating their toxic narratives to instigate violence, hatred and bigotry,” the foreign ministry said in a statement on Tuesday. 

“They are trying to undermine Bangladesh’s secular, non-communal and pluralistic credentials in the international context by deliberately targeting one of the biggest religious festivals of the country. The Government appreciates the Hindu community for concluding the festivities in a befitting spirit and also welcomes the overwhelming show of solidarity by people in general.”

On Oct 13, Hindu temples were attacked and vandalised in Cumilla amid Durga Puja, over an incident where a copy of the Quran was “dishonoured” at a Hindu place of worship.

Anti-Hindu violence then spread to Chandpur, Chattogram, Noakhali, Feni and Rangpur where the minority community’s houses, businesses and places of worship were attacked.

Police have, so far, arrested 450 people over the 71 cases filed over the attacks in different districts as attacks continued after the festival ended on Friday.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has vowed to bring to justice those who are inciting “violence using religion”. Exemplary punishment will be meted out to the culprits to deter communal incitement in future, she said in her address to Hindu devotees during the puja on Thursday.

The foreign ministry said Hasina urged the people to exercise restraint under any provocation and to refrain from spreading or acting on unfounded rumours, calling upon all to maintain communal harmony at any cost.

“The government of Bangladesh unequivocally condemned those incidents and took serious note of the reactions from within and outside the Hindu community,” the ministry said, describing the steps taken by the government to tackle the situation.

It said border guards were deployed and senior government leaders visited a number of affected sites assuring the members of the Hindu community of “adequate” protection and compensation for the damage.

“In this context, the government would like to reiterate that communal harmony and peaceful co-existence are cornerstones of our democratic polity. For centuries, people from different faiths, ethnicities and religions have been living in this land in peace and harmony.”

“Our long-standing commitment to tolerance and inclusion is safeguarded by Constitutional provisions. While the supreme law of the land guarantees the protection of all its citizens from any kind of discrimination and intolerance, the democratic governance of the country ensures the enjoyment of fundamental rights of its citizens irrespective of their religions, beliefs and ethnicity.

“The government of Bangladesh strongly upholds that every religious community has the right to establish, maintain and manage its own religious institutions and to perform religious rituals.”

The ministry claimed the Hasina administration has “set an example” by advocating the motto of “Each unto his or her religion, festivals are for all.”

“Bangladesh is perhaps the only country where the major religious festivals of all religions are observed as public holidays,” the statement said. 

It also urged all to uphold the spirit of tolerance, inclusivity, peace and pluralism and to stand guard against “further efforts to malign the state institutions and tarnish the image of the country”.

“The government remains committed to preventing the recurrence of such untoward incidents and would expect that further complication or misunderstanding would be averted through responsible and fact-based reporting through all media platforms.”