Rajat Sharma

Can Bangladesh become another Afghanistan?


During the festive time when Hindus across the world were busy celebrating Durga Mahanavami on Thursday, came disturbing reports from neighbouring Bangladesh, where frenzied mobs vandalized Durga Puja pandals and Hindu temples after a fake news was spread on social media about the Holy Quran being found at a Puja pandal in Comilla.

Official sources in Bangladesh said, nearly 23 temples and puja pandals were attacked by mobs and idols of goddesses were damaged, leading to clashes between police and rioters, resulting in four deaths and injuries to more than 150 people. Border Guard Bangladesh paramilitary force has been deployed outside temples and Puja pandals in 22 districts as a preventive measure. Rapid Action Battalion and armed police have also been deployed.

Bangladesh prime minister Sheikh Hasina, in a video speech to Hindu devotees assembled at Dhakeshwari Jatiyo Mandir puja pandal on Thursday, vowed to take strong action against mischief makers. “Nobody will be spared in the incident that happened in Comilla. The matter will be probed and mischief makers, whichsoever religion they belong to, will have to face the full force of law”, Sheikh Hasina said. Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan, after a meeting with top police, IB and BGB officials, promised to round up all those who triggered communal tension in Comilla.

Comilla police have arrested Mohammed Faiz along with 41 other rioters. Mohammed Faiz had carried out a live video screening on Facebook alleging that a copy of Holy Quran was found at a puja pandal in Nanua Dighi. Mohd. Faiz has been arrested under Digital Security law. As this fake news spread on social media, communally frenzied mobs congregated at several puja pandals in 22 districts across Bangladesh and started vandalizing temples and idols.

In Hajiganj near Chandpur, on Wednesday night, after Ash’aar namaaz prayers, mobs attacked Laxminarayan Jeu Akhaada (Trinayani temple), Vivekanand Vidyapeeth temple, and puja pandals at Zamindar Baadi and near municipal crematorium, and broke idols of goddesses. During clashes, police used tear gas and resorted to firing in which four rioters were killed. Section 144 prohibitory orders have been clamped, border guards have been deployed and a 5-member probe committee led by the district magistrate has been formed. Local politicians along with DIG Chittagong range held peace meetings with both community leaders and the situation continues to be tense.

The disturbance soon spread to Lama, where a huge mob vandalized the Lama Hari Mandir temple puja pandal, and damaged idols and shops. More than 100 people were injured, when police fired teargas shells and rubber bullets. Army, BGB, Ansar and armed police have been deployed in the area.

In Ghazipur near Kasimpur, three temples were attacked and idols were destroyed within a span of 30 minutes on Thursday morning. The mob was 300 strong, and police have so far arrested 20 rioters. Five temples were attacked in Ramganj (Lakhmiganj) and the miscreants damaged 16 idols.

In another mob attack, rioters damaged idols at Sri Sri Ramthakurangan Mandir puja pandal in Ramgati municipality. Police had to resort to teargas, lathicharge and firing to quell the rioters. 15 people including policemen were injured, and more than 250 rioters have been booked.

In Ulipur near Kudigram, seven temples were vandalized and set on fire by mobs. 18 rioters were arrested. Violence spread to Bhabaniganj in Rajshahi, where 15 people were injured in riots. A puja pandal in Daudkandi in Comilla district was also vandalized.

A YouTuber Gholam Mowlah was arrested for posting inflammatory posters and videos on Facebook and YouTube under the banner of GM Sunny HD Media.

Mischief makers also tried to spread communal tension in neighbouring West Bengal through fake social media posts, but their attempts were nipped in the bud by the alert administration. West Bengal BJP leaders, including Suvendu Adhikari and Rahul Sinha, immediately contacted party central leadership, and requested Prime Minister Narendra Modi to intervene.

There has been a significant rise in Islamic fundamentalism in Bangladesh in recent years. Local police officials in Bangladesh say that Thursday’s communal violence appears to be an orchestrated one, with support from Jamaat-e-Islami, Hifazat-e-Islam and Begum Khaleda Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).

Police sources say, supporters of these three outfits assembled outside puja pandals and started vandalizing. They also point out to the fact that three months ago, when Taliban swept to power in Afghanistan, the banned Jamaat-e-Islami set up a new front called Hifazat-e-Islam and started targeting minorities. This outfit has given a new slogan, ‘Bangladesh will become Afghanistan’. Bangladesh Hindu Unity Council has alleged that these elements started desecration of Durga Puja idols, even when they were being made in potter workshops. A procession carrying Durga Puja idols was prevented by such jihadi elements in Dhaka.

The Hindu community in Bangladesh is presently in a state of shock. Ruling Awami League general secretary and Bangladesh road transport minister Obaidul Quader met Hindus and promised that they would be allowed to celebrate the Durga Puja festival peacefully. He appealed to them not to be afraid of mischievous elements who are trying to spread communal hatred. India’s Ministry of External Affairs is in constant touch with Bangladeshi counterparts through its embassy in Dhaka.

The desecration of Maa Durga idols during Puja in Bangladesh has not only caused consternation among more than a billion Hindus living in India, but has left a deep scar on the minds of nearly 1.5 crore Hindus living in fear in the neighbouring country. For the moment, Bangladesh government, in order to stem communal frenzy, has prohibited dissemination of news and images relating to violence at Puja pandals.

The objective behind this order is to ensure that the feelings of Hindus are not hurt and radical outfits should not get chance to rake up tension. But we have to understand that forces that are behind these acts of vandalization are those who have announced that they intend to make Bangladesh as another Afghanistan. It is a fact that Islamic fundamentalist forces are on the rise after Taliban swept to power in Afghanistan in August this year. While the Jamaat-e-Islami is active under another name in Bangladesh, Islamic separatists in Kashmir have started targeting minorities in the Valley.

The entire world must join hands to counter Islamic fundamentalism which gives birth to Taliban mentality. Terrorists must be made to realize that vandalization and bloodbath will get them nowhere. In the midst of this gloom, has come a good message from the Grand Mufti of Kashmir who has issued an appeal to all Hindus and Sikhs not to leave the Valley because of targeted killings by terrorists.

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