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Man held for attack on popular Hindu poet in Bangladesh

With polls due in January, religious minorities say they are witnessing an increase in attacks
Hindu spiritual poet and singer Radhapodo Roy, 80, was attacked on Sept.

Hindu spiritual poet and singer Radhapodo Roy, 80, was attacked on Sept. 30 in Bangladesh's Kurigram district while heading towards a river to collect crabs. (Photo: YouTube screenshot)

Published: October 05, 2023 07:34 AM GMT
Updated: October 05, 2023 07:59 AM GMT

One person has been arrested for an attack on a popular Hindu spiritual poet and singer in Bangladesh that drew widespread condemnation in the South Asian nation.

Radhapodo Roy, 80, who was beaten up on Sept. 30 in Kurigram district, in the northern Rangpur Division, while heading towards a river to collect crabs. 

Police arrested Rafiqul Islam, 35, from Kurigram, on Oct. 4 while his brother and alleged accomplice, Kadur Rahman, 45, is still at large.

Roy is also a popular figure on social media and in one video the poet is seen making a scathing attack on corruption in the country. 

“I will recover from my injuries today or tomorrow,” Roy told journalists while receiving treatment in hospital.

“But, I will never forget the mental pain. I will go to my grave with the pain,” said the inventor of a musical instrument called a "rongtal" in Bangladesh.

At the time of the attack, Roy was heading to a river to sift through leftovers of fishermen to get small crabs.

The poet’s son, Sri Jugol Roy, said his father was beaten with a bamboo stick by Kadur on the instruction of Rafiqul.

“This was a revenge attack,” he added.

The son said that Kadur insulted his father’s Hindu religion at the time of the attack.

On Oct. 1, the son filed a police complaint. Police, however, ruled out communal hatred behind the attack.

“The pair had been harassing the old man for a while,” said Sarwar Parvez, officer-in-charge of  Nageswari police station, where the case was filed by Roy's son.

However, Rana Dasgupta, general secretary of the Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council general secretary, termed it a communal attack.

“Communalism is the motive behind the attack,” he said.

The young attackers thought the old man powerless because of “his religious identity,” Dasgupta added.

Attackers in such cases often get off scot-free. There is a culture of immunity, alleged Dasgupta.

After Roy was attacked, 25 eminent citizens on Oct. 3 issued a statement in which they said that “the attack was not an isolated incident.”

"Cultural activists are coming under attack almost every day in Bangladesh,” they said in the statement.

With the general election due in January, minorities in Bangladesh say they are are witnessing an increase in attacks.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, 76, and her ruling Awami League are seeking a fourth consecutive term in power.

The day before Roy was attacked, Mohammad Faisal Biplob, mayor of Munshiganj in a central Bangladesh district, called local lawmaker, Mrinal Kanti Das, a “malaun,” a slang term for Hindus in Bangladesh.

“The attacks are part of an effort to end cultural practices across Bangladesh,” the eminent citizens said in their statement.

Religious and ethnic minorities in Bangladesh formed 8.98 percent of the 165 million population in 2022, according to official data. 

Their number has been dwindling since 1971 when Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan) gained independence from Pakistan.

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