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Fallout of rising anti-Muslim incidents in India: 20 homes of Hindus set on fire in Bangladesh

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A mob has damaged 66 houses and set on fire at least 20 homes of Hindus in Bangladesh over an alleged blasphemous social-media post amidst protests by the minority community against temple-vandalism incidents during the Durga Puja celebrations last week, Indian news agency ANI reported Monday.

The arson attack by the mob of over a hundred people happened late on Sunday on a village in Rangpur district's Pirganj upazila, about 255 kms from the capital Dhaka.

The police rushed to a fishermen neighborhood as tension mounted over a rumor that a young Hindu man of the village had 'dishonored religion' in a Facebook post, Assistant Police Superintendent Mohammad Kamruzzaman told reporters. "The [arson] incident took place after 10 PM yesterday but fire fighters doused the blaze within a short period (and) the situation is now under full control," he said. No casualties were reported but 66 houses were damaged and 20 burnt during the attack, the officer said.

The arson incident occurred amid rising communal tension over an alleged blasphemy incident at a Durga Puja venue in Cumilla that led to attacks on Hindu temples and clashes between vandals and the police in Cumilla, Chandpur, Chattogram, Cox's Bazar, Bandarban, Moulvibazar, Gazipur, Chapainawabganj, Feni and other districts.

Dozens of people have been arrested over the attacks and the spread of communal hatred on social media. Four Muslims were killed in Haziganj, the worst scene of the violence, on Wednesday and Thursday, while the body of a Hindu devotee was found at a pond in nearby Begumbanj of Noakhali district.

Muslim and Hindu protestors took to the streets at different areas of the country, including the capital Dhaka, in the past several days. The Bangladesh Hindu-Buddhist-Christian Unity Council said at least 70 puja pavilions and temples were attacked in the previous three days of violence.

The Council alleges that at least four Hindu devotees have died in the attacks in Chandpur and Noakhali. Meanwhile, the elite anti-crime force Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) has arrested two more men in connection with the looting and vandalism of temples and shops belonging to the Hindu minority community in Feni, about 155 kms from Dhaka, the ANI reported.

Meanwhile on Monday, a group of Dhaka University students joined hands with protesting religious groups against the attacks on the temples, puja venues and homes of the Hindu community across Bangladesh, according to the ANI.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina

In a virtual interaction with members of the Hindu community to mark Durga Puja, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has vowed to hunt down those who vandalized some Hindu temples during Durga Puja celebrations. Hasina warned, "Nobody will be spared. It doesn't matter which religion they belong to. They will be hunted down and punished."

However, Hasina also used the occasion to urge India to remain vigilant against the escalation of any communal violence (meaning anti-Muslim hate crimes). "We expect that nothing happens there (in India), which could influence any situation in Bangladesh affecting our Hindu community here," Hasina said.

The Telegraph quoted Hasina as saying, "You all know that those who came to power in our country after 1975 used religion to divide people... The rise of global terrorism also has had its impact on our country. Countering this is not only our responsibility, and neighboring countries like India should also remain vigilant... India did help us in the liberation war (of 1971) and we will remain ever grateful for the support... But they (India) have to be aware that such incidents should not take place there which would have an impact on Bangladesh, and the Hindus in our country face attacks."

Tellingly, in March 2021, at least 12 people were killed in demonstrations against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's two-day visit to Bangladesh to attend 50th independence day of Bangladesh. Modi arrived in Dhaka for a two-day visit on March 26 and left the next day but anti-Modi demonstrations continued for several days after his departure.

Why anti-India feelings in Bangladesh?

The anti-Modi demonstrations came amid reports of growing concern in Bangladesh over controversial measures by the extreme rightist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government of Modi such as the passage of the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Act.

The CAA provide a pathway to Indian citizenship for persecuted religious minorities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan who are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis or Christians. The law does not grant such eligibility to Muslims from these Muslim countries.

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Author and journalist. Author of Islamic Pakistan: Illusions & Reality; Islam in the Post-Cold War Era; Islam & Modernism; Islam & Muslims in the Post-9/11 America. Currently working as free lance journalist. Executive Editor of American (more...)
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