More Hindu-owned properties were targeted by violence in eastern Bangladesh on Friday as unidentified culprits set at least five homes on fire that belonged to members of the religious minority, police said.
No one was reported hurt in the early morning acts of arson in Nasirnagar, a sub-district of Brahmanbaria district, but they occurred five days after Muslim mobs ransacked at least 24 Hindu temples and some 300 Hindu homes and properties in Nasirnagar and Madhabpur, a sub-district in neighboring Habiganj district.
Sunday’s mass vandalism was allegedly carried out by scores of Muslims who were enraged by an image posted on Facebook that was seen as defaming Islam. The picture showed the Hindu God Lord Shiva near the Kaaba – the building that lies at the heart of the al-Masjid al-Haram, the mosque in Islam’s holy city of Mecca.
“We posted police personnel in the Hindu-majority villages and we are certain that no outsider could enter; so this is a mystery how the arson attack took place amid police guard. We have yet to find out who carried out the arson attack,” Iqbal Hossain, an additional superintendent of police in Brahmanbaria district, told BenarNews on Friday.
“The paramilitary BGB [Border Guard Bangladesh] has been deployed to stop escalation of the attack. Besides, one hundred special police forces have been deployed,” he said.
Police have arrested 11 and identified 40 more perpetrators linked to Sunday’s attack, Hossain said Friday.
At least 11 people have been arrested and 40 other suspects have been identified in connection with the weekend violence, Hossain said. A Hindu fisherman was also taken into custody prior to Sunday for allegedly posting the offensive image on Facebook. He was charged with violating the country’s Information and Technology Act, which prohibits online defamation of any religion.
On Thursday, police were granted a five-day remand to question the fisherman, Rasraj Basu Das. He has claimed he did not post the picture.
Meanwhile in Bangladesh’s capital, protesters angered by the anti-Hindu attacks stopped traffic as they demonstrated at Dhaka’s busy Shahbag intersection on Friday.
Bangladesh is predominantly Sunni Muslim, but relations between the religious majority and Hindus, who form 9.5 percent of a population of 169 million, have largely been peaceful. But, since last year, Hindus have been targeted in several incidents of violence carried out by Muslim zealots.
On Friday a group of Hindu students from Dhaka University blocked the intersection for half an hour.
According to protester Shubol Saha, a member of parliament visited the Nasirnagar area on Thursday and claimed that the situation there was fine.
“But the next day, fresh attacks took place. We demand his resignation,” Saha said.
In a separate protest, members of the Bangladesh Hindu-Buddhist-Christian Oikya Parishad (BHBCOP) – and inter-religious association – the Bangladesh Christian Association and other groups formed human chains in front of the National Press Club in protest of the attacks on Friday.
“The administration and the police have failed to protect Hindus. We want the immediate arrest of the perpetrators and their punishment. So we have demanded a judicial inquiry into the attacks,” Rana Dasgupta, the BHBCOP general secretary, told BenarNews.
Md Abdul Kader, the police officer-in-charge in Nasirnagar, was withdrawn from the investigation on Wednesday, Bangladesh media reported. Hindus had accused him of not adequately preparing to foil Sunday attacks.
Meanwhile, the National Human Rights Commission, an independent body, sent a team to Nasirnagar on Wednesday to investigate those incidents.
“We have seen some lapses from the police and local administration to stop the attack on the Hindus. …They (the police and the administration) cannot shrug off their responsibilities,” Kazi Reazul Hoque, chairman of the commission, told BenarNews.
On Thursday, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal supported police, telling reporters that officers did not lapse in their response to the Nasirnagar attack.