Bangladesh: Hindu Leader Claims IS Hired Someone to Issue Threat

Kamran Reza Chowdhury
Dhaka
2016-06-24
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160624-BD-priest-620 Swami Dhruveshananda sits in his office at the Ramakrishna Mission in Dhaka, recounting details of a death-threat letter sent to him earlier this month, June 23, 2016.
Kamran Reza Chowdhury/BenarNews

The head priest at an Indian-run Hindu mission in Dhaka says he believes that the extremist group Islamic State (IS) paid a courier to deliver a letter threatening to hack him to death before the end of June.

“The IS will not do it [kill someone] by themselves; they will outsource it to locals,” Swami Dhruveshananda told BenarNews.

“If you want to kill me, you will hire someone to do it for you,” he said, referring to a letter addressed to him and which he received on June 15.

The swami showed BenarNews the letter. It called on Hindus to leave majority Muslim Bangladesh and directed a specific threat against him.

“You will be hacked to death between June 20 and 30. Eat whatever you want. (I) will hack you with machete inside (your) room,” the letter said.

Since February 2013, Hindus have been among at least 36 members of religious minorities, secular writers, intellectuals, gay-rights activists and foreigners targeted in killings by suspected Islamic militants.

IS has claimed responsibility for a handful of the killings, but Bangladesh’s government has consistently denied that Islamic State has a presence in the country, and has blamed home-grown extremist groups for the killings.

Meanwhile on Thursday and Friday in Washington, U.S. Under Secretary of State Thomas Shannon hosted Bangladeshi Foreign Secretary Md. Shahidul Haque at a bilateral meeting on cooperation between the two countries in countering violent extremism and terrorism in Bangladesh, according to a press release issued by the country’s foreign ministry, Bangladeshi media reported.

Violence in Bangladesh hit close to home for the State Department in April when an employee at the U.S. embassy, Xulhaz Mannan, a Bangladeshi gay-rights activist who worked for the U.S. Agency for International Development, was hacked to death in his Dhaka home along with another man.

‘Ready to die’

“The killers do not fear death; they are ready to die. What were the faults of the slain priests in Pabna and Jhenaidah? These are murders for faith,” Dhruveshananda said, referring to the recent killings of two Hindu priests in other districts of Bangladesh.

On June 7, Hindu priest Anando Gopal Ganguly, 69, was hacked to death in an attack by suspected Islamic militant Jhenaidah district.

Three days later, Nitya Ranjan Pandey, 60, a staff member at the Sri Sri Thakur Aunukul Chandra Satsangha Ashram in Hemayetpur, Pabna, met a similar end in another machete attack by suspected militants, according to police.

The case of the death-threat letter sent to the Hindu mission, whose home branch is in Kolkata, in the neighboring Indian state of West Bengal, prompted a rare diplomatic intervention.

The Indian government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), last week voiced its concern to Bangladeshi officials over the threat made to the Hindu priest.

A spokesman for Dhaka police told BenarNews that the department was taking the threat seriously and investigating the case.

Letter’s contents

According to Dhruveshananda, the letter was delivered by a motorcyclist who came to the mission (pictured below) while he was out to lunch on June 15.

The man handed the letter to a staff member at the mission, and claimed that he represented a private transport company, S.R. Paribahan.

“He left in a few seconds. We played the CCTV footage; he was between 35 and 40 years old and was wearing a red shirt and pants,” Dhruveshananda said.

“His head was covered with a helmet, so we cannot see his face.”

The nine-line letter carried the heading “Islamic States Bangladesh (IS) (Secret Agent)” and claimed that it came from a person in Kishoreganj district named A.B. Siddique.

“Leave this country before time ends. This country is for the Muslims. India is the country of the Hindus. Spreading Hinduism in this country is not acceptable.”

A suspect matching that name and geographic origin was arrested but released, Dhaka Metropolitan Police Spokesman Masudur Rahman told BenarNews on Friday.

A.B. Siddique did not write the letter, according to police.

“He was a retired soldier. He had some enmity with the local criminals over construction of a petrol pump. So, the criminals used his name to victimize him,” Rahman said, adding that police were looking for the people who sent the letter.

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