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Bangladesh police hold 13 over attacks on Hindus

Facebook posts that 'defamed Mohammed' spark rampage

ucanews.com reporter, Dhaka

ucanews.com reporter, Dhaka

Published: April 30, 2014 03:39 AM GMT

Updated: April 29, 2014 06:11 PM GMT

Bangladesh police hold 13 over attacks on Hindus

Hindu women in southwestern Bangladesh who were attacked for voting in the January 5 elections. (File Photo: Shahadat Hossain)

At least 13 people were arrested on Monday in connection with attacks on Hindu villagers in the Comilla district, about 100 kms south east of Dhaka.

Hindus in Bakhsitarampur village came under attack from neighboring Muslims on Monday after rumors spread that two Hindu men in the village had made Facebook posts that defamed the Prophet Mohammed. Several hundred Muslims reacted by going on a rampage that lasted a couple of hours, vandalizing and looting about 30 Hindu homes and a temple.

There were no casualties, but dozens of Hindus were forced to flee their homes and take shelter for safety, according to local police. 

“We have arrested and questioned two Hindu men who are accused of writing blasphemous posts, but they denied the allegations. We also arrested 11 people for instigating the violence,” said Aslam Shikder, the local police chief.

The situation is calm now and most Hindus have returned to their homes, while police are combing the area for more suspects involved in the violence, Shikder added.

Tofazzal Hossain, chief government official in Comilla, visited the village later on Monday and promised the victims quick compensation and reconstruction.

“Police have been instructed to check to see if any religious fanatic group was behind the attacks,” Hossain said.

Hindus are the largest minority group in Bangladesh, accounting for nine percent of the country’s total population. However, they have been the target of frequent attacks by opposition political parties and fundamentalist groups in the past couple of years.

The majority of Hindus favor the ruling Awami League, which is semi-secular. Before and after the volatile January 5 elections, Hindus were attacked by activists from the Bangladesh Nationalist Party and the Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami for voting for the Awami League.

In November of last year, Muslims ransacked 25 Hindu homes, 12 temples and several shops after a blasphemous picture of the Prophet Mohammed was allegedly posted on Facebook by a Hindu teenager.  

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Since February 2013, Hindus have also been the target of systematic violence after the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT), tasked with prosecuting people accused of war crimes during the 1971 Bangladesh war of liberation from Pakistan, began handing out death sentences and life terms to top leaders of the Jamaat party.

The ICT has sentenced eight Jamaat leaders to death or life imprisonment, while several other top leaders are awaiting judgment.

Rana Dasgupta, a Hindu lawyer and secretary of the United Council for Hindus Buddhists Christians in Bangladesh said the attacks on Hindus in Comilla is part of a Jamaat plan to create anarchy ahead of the ICT’s upcoming verdict against two top leaders.

“Attacking Hindus to upset the government is Jamaat’s age-old tactic. We have information that Jamaat will try to destabilize the country as the ICT will deliver war crimes judgment on Jamaat chief Matiur Rahman Nizami and top spiritual leader Delwar Hossain Sayedee anytime,” Dasgupta said.

Mokbul Hossain, acting chief of Jamaat, said “These allegations are baseless and intended to malign the image of our party."

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