Bangladesh on edge after Durga Puja violence, security tightened
Bangladesh was on tenterhooks on Friday as Muslims will offer their weekly prayers and Hindus in the country will immerse the idols of Durga as the violence over the alleged desecration of the Quran continued overnight even as authorities deployed security personnel in large numbers to bring the situation under control.
The violence erupted in Cumilla after news broke on social media about the alleged desecration of the Quran at a Durga Puja venue on the bank of Nanuar Dighi and Hindu temples were vandalised by mobs during Durga Puja celebrations. At least four people were killed during clashes at Hajiganj sub-district in Chandpur bordering Cumilla on Wednesday and dozens injured in clashes in multiple districts so far. The violence later spread to a number of Durga Puja venues in Noakhali, Chandpur, Cox’s Bazaar, Chattogram, Chapainawabganj, Pabna, Moulvibazara and Kurigram.
People familiar with the matter said the Jamaat-e-Islami (JEI) was behind the violence in Durga Puja pandals in southern Bangladesh and that the attacks were perpetrated with the motive to embarrass the Sheikh Hasina government and stoke communal fires.
Authorities in Bangladesh moved promptly and deployed paramilitary forces in several districts to stop the violence from spreading, a move acknowledged by India.
Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said that anyone involved in the attacks on Hindu temples and Durga Puja venues in Cumilla will not be spared irrespective of which religion they belong to. "The incidents in Cumilla are being thoroughly investigated. Nobody will be spared. It doesn't matter which religion they belong to. They will be hunted down and punished," she said on Thursday, reported Dhaka Tribune.
Hasina made the remarks as she exchanged greetings with people of the Hindu community during an event at Dhakeshwari National Temple in Dhaka on the occasion of Durga Puja. She said the vandalism of temples in Cumilla was” very unfortunate" and that those who are unable to earn the confidence and trust of the people and have no ideology can carry out such attacks.
"We are getting a large amount of information. We will definitely trace those who carried out the attacks... This is the age of technology," she added. "They must be found. We did so in the past and will do it in the future, too. They must face due punishment. Exemplary punishment will be given so that none can dare to engage in this type of incident in future," she said, according to the Dhaka Tribune.
India has said it is in “very close contact” with Bangladesh over the attacks on Durga Puja gatherings and that the neighbouring country’s government “reacted promptly to ensure control of the situation, including the deployment of the law enforcement machinery”. “We also understand that the ongoing festive celebrations of Durga Puja continue in Bangladesh with the support of the government of Bangladesh agencies and, of course, a large majority of the public,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said during a press briefing.