The Islamic nation of Bangladesh is turning intolerant with each passing day and is rife with religious persecution against minority communities primarily Hindus and Buddhists. Extremism and radicalisation are the two generals or wheels that drive the vehicle of persecution in Bangladesh. The Hindus in particular face gruesome behaviour from authorities as well as the masses. Temple destruction is their signature step followed by the iconoclasts.
One such case study is that of recent attacks during the celebration of Durga Puja. The Durga Puja and Navaratri are festivals which are central to the Hindu denomination called “Shaktism”. Many Bengali Hindus in West Bengal and Bangladesh are “Shaktas” or followers of Devi. This is because the majority of the Shakti-Piths are located in Bengal and some in Bangladesh. These festivals are celebrated on an enormous scale by the Hindus.
On the 2nd of October 2022, a man was arrested while keeping the “Quran Sharif” in a Durga Puja mandap in Bangladesh. He was caught by the temple management and locals. A similar incident occurred in the previous year 2021, violent attacks were carried out against Hindus during the Durga Puja Festival. These included vandalism, killings, rapes and attack on temples.
On the 13th of October 2021, some miscreants led by Iqbal Hossein entered the Nanuar Dighir Par Durga Mandir in the Cumila District. These rogues had placed a copy of the Quran on the feet of Lord Hanuman. Within hours, this news spread like wildfire on social media. Many places were targeted by the miscreants which included: Cox Bazaar (where three religious sites and 21 homes were damaged.) Ten religious sites were damaged in Maulvi Bazaar. Seventeen religious sites were attacked in Cumila, and 16 sites were vandalised in Chandpur.
In Kurigram, 9 religious places and 17 homes were destroyed. 24 more places were attacked in Noakhali and Chattogram (Chittagong). The former two locations witnessed violence on the 14th as well as the 15th of October 2021, On the 16th and 17th of October religious places such as Munshiganj, Feni and Rangpur were torched.
According to the Statistics compiled by a human rights outfit called Legal and Reconciliation Center, a total of 3,679 Hindus were attacked during the last nine years. Out of these, 1559 Hindu Homes were destroyed, 442 Hindu Businesses were vandalised and 1678 idols in Hindu temples were desecrated. 862 Hindus were grievously injured and 11 of them were killed.
Around 301 Hindus were killed in 2021 alone. Various armed gangs attacked and engaged with the Hindus 1898 times. The Butchery did not stop there: Rapes, Kidnapping and forceful consumption of beef under pressure from Islamic Radicals. 9000 were forced to leave the country. 2130 idols of Hindu deities were destroyed, and 2400 temples were attacked. A total of more than 1,35,000 households, temples and businesses were severely affected in the year 2021.
Four Puja pandals were destroyed by miscreants in Kashempur, three temples were targeted in Gazipur. Seven more temples were destroyed in Lakshmipur. Nine sites were vandalised in Kurigram. Six Puja Pandals were attacked in Sylhet (known for its silk and textiles). Nearly 200 Hindu families were looted and attacked in the four unions of Chakaria and Pekua. (Cox Bazaar) Religious places in Bandarban, Jessore and Khulna were looted and all jewellery on the deities was stolen. Eighteen Crude Bombs were found in Khulna.
Temples dedicated to the goddess Kali were destroyed in Rajbari and Bogra Sadar. Areas like Nilphamari, Kalia Upazila and Faridpur have been targeted. A temple dedicated to Lord Shiva was attacked in Jhalokhati. Temples and pandals in Bagerhat Pirojpur and Narsingdi were vandalised to a great extent.
On the 11th of September 2022, idols of Hindu deities were vandalised in Gazipur reported by the Dhaka Tribune. The Police Station in Charge Alamgir Hossein Bhuiyan stated that some alleged Miscreants were responsible for the attack. A Human Rights Activist called Pradip Chandra posted the pictures on Twitter.
Bangladeshi Hindus labelled October 13 as a Black Day after a stray Facebook comment on social media triggered widespread violence against the minority community in Bangladesh. 150 families and several Durga Temples were targeted by armed Islamists in Chandpur’s Hajiganj, Chattogram’s Banshkhali and Chapainnawabganj’s Shibganj and Pekua in Cox Bazaar were brutally attacked.
Unknown vandals had smashed the idols at Kashipur Sarbajanin Durga Temple in Mehendiganj Upazila in Barisal. The Officer in Charge Shafiqul Islam is planning to install CCTV Cameras in the temple after members of the Parishad demanded strict and legal action against the perpetrators. 1,682 idols for the next Durga Puja have been remoulded.
In the city of Khulna, Bangladeshi Security Officials found 18 crude bombs from a gate of a Hindu Temple. The live bombs were spotted around 5:30 pm and quickly destabilised by the Bomb Disposal Squad in a safe environment according to Lt Col. Mostak Ahmed, the director of the Rapid Action Battalion.
On the 16th of October 2021, six idols were vandalised in Munshiganj Temple (Kali Temple). According to the Daily Star, the lock on the main entrance gate was broken and the incident took place from 3-4 am as stated by Rashedul Islam, the Assistant Superintendent of Police.
On the 17th of October 2021, violent mobs began to torch and set fire to 25 houses and shops that belonged to the Hindu community. The attacks took place in Majhipara, Bottola and Hathibanda villages in Pirganj Upazila. The attacks were confirmed by Soroj Kumar the officer in charge of the police station. A total of 42 people have been detained so far. On the same day, petrol bombs were hurled by Muslim radicals at Durga Puja Pandals in Feni District in Chittagong Division. Fire trucks were vandalised and temples in Jagannathbari, JoyKali and Gaziganj Ashram were attacked.
Hooligans and Goons too have a lion’s share in the religious persecution of Hindus. The violence went to such an extent that the government deployed paramilitary forces to control the situation. Three Hindus were killed in this event. Incidents of vandalism have also been reported in Hindu temples in Chandpur’s Hajiganj, Chattogram’s Banshkhali and Cox’s Bazar’s Pekua.
Several instances of vandalism have been reported in Bangladesh after communal tensions erupted in Chittagong. The Bangladeshi Hindu Council has claimed that an idol of Goddess Durga was vandalised in Kotwali, Chattogram. Another statue was vandalised in Rustampur Village in Dhaka District. A third incident was reported in Joypurhat which involved the vandalization of idols of Hindu Deities.
On the 14th of October 2021, another set of Hindu religious places was vandalised by miscreants. The Bangladesh Government had to deploy paramilitary forces in 22 districts and had to open fire on a mob of 500 people over an alleged incident regarding insult to the Quran. The mob attacked a Hindu temple and clashed with police in Hajiganj. The Hindu worshippers were viciously assaulted and thrashed by the radicals.
The Bangladesh Police have identified a man responsible for attacks on the Hindu temples in Comilla District in Bangladesh on the 13th of October 2021. His name is Iqbal Hossein. The Superintendent of Bangladesh Police Farooq Ahmed has successfully identified the culprit.
Attacks on Hindus in Bangladesh have not stopped. Two Hindu Temples in different villages were attacked by a mob on the night of 11th October 2021 (Monday) in Naugaon village. These incidents occurred on the eve of Kali Puja and Diwali. The SP of the district, Mohammed Nazmul Hamid Raza visited the site on Tuesday. The matter is under investigation. On the 15th of October 2021, the miscreants also targeted the ISKCON Temple in Bangladesh. They also had a scuffle with the devotees present there.
The Bangladesh police have identified the culprit who was responsible for placing the Quran on the Durga Puja Mandap. His name is Iqbal Hossein and He is now declared a fugitive and the police is after him. After the violence in Camila District, a total of 41 people have been arrested and out of these, four are related to Iqbal. According to Bangladeshi Home Minister Assad-uj-Zaman Khan, he is rapidly changing his location from one place to the other.
In the Chandpur District of Bangladesh, an armed mob of radicals and extremists attacked a temple after a stray Facebook post. Four Hindus were killed due to firing. On the occasion of Durga Ashtami and Dussehra, many pandals and temples have been badly damaged by armed Muslim Gangs. The Facebook post has spread akin to that of a forest fire in the domain of social media.
The main sinister agency or organisation behind all attacks on the Durga Puja Pandals and other Hindu temples, in General, is suspected to be Jamaat-e-Islami. Their main motive is to embarrass the Sheikh Hasina Government and stoke communal fire and tensions, especially in Camila District. As the news went viral on social media, there were violent attacks on pandals in Noakhali, Chandpur, Cox Bazaar, Kurigram, and Chattogram (Chittagong) along with Chapainnawabganj.
On the 2nd of October 2022, the people of Dinajpur Khansama Upazila, especially Hindus are not celebrating the Durga Puja Festivities and instead are waving Black Flags and demanding the arrest and punishment of a person involved in the rape and murder of a woman. Her name is Upobala and she was attacked while returning home.
A case has been filed but no one was arrested and there is a halt in the progress said Dhiman Das the president of Khansama Upazila Parishad. Anant Kumar Roy who joined the protest stated that people have pledged that no one will celebrate any festivals or take part in festivities until she is given justice.
On the 5th of October 2022, the man involved in placing the Quran on the mandap of Durga Devi was arrested by the Bangladeshi Police.
The continuous attacks on the Hindu Community, their religion, culture and livelihood have gravely impacted the relations between India and Bangladesh. The Indian and Bangladeshi Security Forces must curb terrorist organisations and Islamic Extremism that is rampant in Bangladesh via counter-terrorist operations. Secular Schools and secular education must be promoted in all Bangladeshi Schools and even in Islamic Madrassas. Teachings based on communal harmony and conflict resolution methods can do wonders if they are properly implemented by the Awami Party led by Sheikh Hasina.
Bangladesh must also realise that it was India who gave birth to their nation. Cultural, people-to-people talks are the need of the hour.