By: India Weekly Staff
HUNDREDS of people protested in Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka on Monday (18) calling for an end to religious violence that has gripped the country for four days, leading to at least five deaths and several injured.
The violence began last Friday (15), when hundreds of Muslims protested in the southeastern Noakhali district over an allegedly blasphemous incident.
Two Hindu men died following that protest, Mohammed Shahidul Islam, the police chief in Noakhali, said by phone.
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“There is some confusion about whether they died due to the unlawful assembly, or otherwise,” Islam said, adding that police are investigating the deaths. “They (the protestors) were miscreants, actually, that is all we can say.”
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Islam declined to share further details.
Protests began last Wednesday (13) after footage emerged of a Qu’ran being placed on the knee of a Hindu god during celebrations for the Hindu festival Durga Puja. Hindus make up around 10 per cent of the Muslim-majority country’s population.
More than 200 protesters attacked a temple where members of the Hindu community were preparing to perform the last rites of the 10-day festival, local police station chief Shah Imran told reporters.
The attackers beat and stabbed to death an executive member of the temple committee, he said.
Anti-Hindu violence spread to more than a dozen districts across Bangladesh in recent days after footage emerged on social media of the Qu’ran incident.
At least four people were killed late last Wednesday when police opened fire on a crowd of around 500 people attacking a Hindu temple in Hajiganj, one of several towns hit by the disturbances.
At least 150 Hindus were injured across the country, community leader Gobinda Chandra Pramanik said, and at least 80 makeshift temples had been attacked. Authorities did not confirm the figures.
Bangladesh’s home minister Asaduzzaman Khan said were attacks aimed at destroying the communal harmony in Bangladesh.
“No incident has been reported since Saturday night. Our security forces are working patiently based on intelligence information,” Khan told the news agency ANI.
Unidentified “miscreants” attacked some homes in the Rangpur city on Monday, police told the agency.
Local authorities said they have deployed extra security including paramilitary border guards to control any further unrest.
Last Friday violence broke out in the capital Dhaka and Chittagong, prompting police to fire tear gas and rubber bullets at thousands of brick-throwing Muslim protesters.
High-speed mobile phone internet services were shut down in an apparent bid to prevent the violence from spreading.
Bangladesh prime minister Sheikh Hasina met leaders of the Hindu community last Thursday (14) and promised stern action.
“So far around 90 people have been arrested. We will also hunt down all the masterminds,” the home minister said.
The unrest is some of the worst in Bangladesh since the prime minister’s Awami League party came to power there in 2009. It poses a challenge to her party, which is seen as the more secular one of the two political groups that have alternated power in Bangladesh for most of its independent history.
Some of those gathered to protest near the Dhaka University in the capital city on Monday held up banners that demanded the police identify the attackers and bring them to justice.
“Safety of minorities in the country must be ensured,” one of the banners read.