Attacks against minorities as well as secular bloggers have witnessed a perceptible rise in Bangladesh in recent years, as Islamist outfits such as Hefazat-e-Islam have become increasingly popular in the predominantly Muslim nation. In fact, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was faced with deadly protests during his visit to Dhaka in March.
Mobs of Islamists allegedly targeted over 50 Hindu homes and vandalised at least four temples in Bangladesh’s Khulna district on Saturday.
As per the Bengali-language newspaper Samakal, the incident was triggered after a cleric from the local mosque in the district’s Siali village objected to a Hindu religious procession on Friday evening. On Saturday evening, Islamist mobs attacked Hindu homes in the village.
The frenzied mob reportedly comprised Muslims from nearby villages and the attackers wielded axes and other sharp objects, as per eyewitnesses. Several Hindus who resisted the attackers were injured in the incident. The situation in the region is said to be tense, with police currently patrolling the streets.
Law enforcement is currently investigating the matter.
Local community leaders say that this is the first time that sectarian violence has been reported in the region.
As per a 2011 federal census, nearly 8.5 percent of Bangladesh’s 149 million-strong population reported that it adhered to Hinduism. Khulna boasts one of the bigger Hindu communities among Bangladesh’s 64 districts, with more than 16 percent of the residents there being followers of the Hindu faith, which is higher than the national average.
The incident has triggered outrage in India, with top Hindu outfit Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) demanding a “speedy probe” against the miscreants who carried out the attack.
“It is an unfortunate and condemnable incident. We urge the Bangladeshi government to arrest the perpetrators and compensate the Hindu community members for damage to the property”, VHP’s spokesperson Vinod Bansal told Sputnik.
“We also request the Indian government to take the matter up with the Bangladeshi authorities”, added Bansal.
The VHP is an ally of India’s governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and is one of the three outfits that form the “Sangh Parivar” (Sangh family). The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological parent of the BJP, is the third member of the triumvirate.
Bansal further argued that such attacks also present a strong case for the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), a 2019 law that fast-tracks citizenship applications for persecuted minorities from the predominantly Muslim Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. The passing of the legislation in the parliament led to massive protests by India’s Muslims, who fear that excluding Muslims from the CAA’s purview could ultimately lead to them being stripped of their Indian citizenship.
Both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and federal Home Minister Amit Shah have repeatedly clarified that the CAA is a means of granting citizenship and not “snatching” it from existing Indian citizens.
“Incidents like these are a tight slap on the face of those people who oppose the CAA”, the VHP spokesperson stated.