Those attacking Durga Puja pandals will be hunted down, punished: Sheikh Hasina
Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has issued a tough warning against those involved in the attacks on Hindu temples and Durga Puja venues at several places, including Cumilla in the Chittagong division, and promised to bring to justice the culprits behind the violence. "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 while exchanging greetings with members of the Hindu community during an event at Dhakeshwari National Temple in Dhaka on the occasion of Durga Puja.
"We are getting a large amount of information. This is an era of technology and those involved in the incident will definitely be tracked down with the use of the technology," Hasina said as joined the programme from her official Ganabhaban residence virtually.
She also urged India to remain vigilant against an escalation of any communal violence. "We expect that nothing happens there (in India) which could influence any situation in Bangladesh affecting our Hindu community here," she said.
At least four people were killed in the violence after some Hindu temples in Bangladesh were vandalised by mobs during Durga Puja celebrations, prompting the government to deploy paramilitary force in 22 districts on Thursday to stop the spread of violence. Three people were killed and several others injured during clashes at Hajiganj sub-district in Chandpur bordering Cumilla on Wednesday and the fourth person succumbed to his wounds later. The police have said that two others were critically injured in the clashes. They also said police officials were also injured as the mob attacked them and vandalised their and local administrators' cars.
The attacks were carried out on mandaps, pandals and temples in Cumilla starting the afternoon of October 13 over rumours that a copy of the Quran was allegedly placed near the feet of Durga’s idol at a pandal. Violent attacks were also reported on pandals in Noakhali, Chandpur, Cox’s Bazaar, Chattogram, Chapainawabganj, Pabna, Moulvibazara and Kurigram.
Probe against attacks underway
Officials also said that the elite anti-crime Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and armed police were also ordered to be on guard along with the Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB) in 22 of the 64 administrative districts and elsewhere to contain any violence. Authorities enforced a ban on rallies in Haziganj where officials confirmed the deaths of the four people. They, however, did not give the reason behind the casualties but media reports said that the police opened fire on a mob of more than 500 people.
"Investigations are underway and we are identifying the culprits also using security camera footage," police's deputy inspector general Anwar Hossain told the media in Cumilla, according to news agency PTI.
Also watch | Durga puja pandals, Hindu temples attacked in Bangladesh: What India said
Bangladesh’s religious affairs ministry urged people not to take the law into their hands as it reiterated calls to maintain communal harmony and peace. Meanwhile, Hindu religious leaders called the violence as part of a plot to upset the Durga Puja celebrations and demanded action against those behind it and protection of their temples and establishments.
On Thursday, India 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 told a regular news briefing.
There are more than 3,000 pandals in Bangladesh observing Durga Puja in Bangladesh, where Hindus make up some 10 per cent of the Muslim-majority couontry's 169 million population. There have been reports of sporadic violence, mostly sparked by rumours spread on social media, in the past several years.
(With agency inputs)