More Deadly Violence Grips Bangladesh as Indian Leader Ends Trip

Kamran Reza Chowdhury
2021.03.27
Dhaka
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More Deadly Violence Grips Bangladesh as Indian Leader Ends Trip Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi performs a ritual during a visit to the Guru Harichand Thakur Temple in Orakandi, Bangladesh, March 27, 2021.
[AFP Photo / Indian Press Information Bureau]

At least five more people were killed Saturday during another day of clashes in Bangladesh between police and members of a hardline Muslim group opposed to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit, doctors said, as the Hindu nationalist leader concluded his trip.

The killings, which took place in Brahmanbaria district as Hefazat-e-Islam activists staged an anti-Modi protest, brought to at least 10 the number of people killed in two days of violence across the country over his visit.

The group also held demonstrations elsewhere on Saturday to denounce the other killings a day earlier, including a protest outside the national mosque that drew more than a thousand people in Dhaka.

“Hitherto five people injured in the clash died Saturday. We are yet to find out the causes of the deaths,” Rana Nurus Shams, the resident medical officer at the Brahmanbaria General Hospital, told BenarNews on Saturday evening (local time).

“Three bullet-hit people were brought to the hospital in the evening. But they died before being taken to hospital. Two more injured people who were undergoing treatment at the hospital died later in the evening,” Abdullah-al-Mamun, a physician in the hospital’s emergency room, told journalists.

“We cannot confirm exactly how many people got injured. But the number is high,” he said.

Dr Mohammad Ekram Ullah, who heads the health office in the district located about 65 miles (105 km) east of the capital Dhaka, said doctors told him that “many injured people have been taken to the hospital since the afternoon.”

“We are facing a huge task of giving treatment to the injured persons,” he told BenarNews but declined to give a precise estimate for casualties.

Witnesses said Hefazat workers clashed with police officers and paramilitary border guards along the Comilla-Sylhet highway in Nandanpur, a village in Brahmanbaria district.

Hefazat supporters also clashed with activists from the Awami League, Bangladesh’s ruling party, and its front organizations in Kandirpara, a neighborhood of Brahmanbaria city, according to witnesses.

“The protesters turned violent and they attacked us. So, we had to fire in self-defense,” Mohammad Anisur Rahman, a senior assistant superintendent of police, told BenarNews on Saturday night.

“We cannot say whether anyone died. But what I can say is the violence was like hell,” he said, adding that at least nine police personnel were injured in Saturday’s clashes.

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Members of the Hefazat-e-Islam group demonstrate outside the Baitul Mukarram National Mosque in Dhaka, March 27, 2021. [Sabrina Yesmin/BenarNews]

Hefazat has announced that it will hold a nationwide dawn-to-dusk strike on Sunday to protest the killings and the government’s refusal to agree to its demand that Bangladesh rescind an invitation to Modi to attend Friday’s 50th anniversary celebration of the country’s independence from Pakistan.

The group and other critics in Bangladesh accuse Modi’s government, led by his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), of discriminating against Muslims.

Salahuddin Nanupuri, the organizing secretary of Hefazat-e-Islam, said that “several Hefazat workers in Brahmanbaria” were killed in Saturday’s violence.

“We hope the government would not obstruct our peaceful hartal program Sunday,” he said.

Earlier in the day, the government deployed Border Guard Bangladesh units to maintain law and order during the second and final day of Modi’s visit and Sunday’s national strike by Hefazat.

“[W]e have deployed BGB members in at least 18 districts, including Dhaka and Chittagong, to aid the civil administration in maintaining law and order,” Lt. Col. Faizur Rahman, the BGB’s director of operations, told BenarNews.

Meanwhile, services on Facebook and its Messenger platform were down in Bangladesh throughout Saturday, according to reports.

“We’re aware that our services have been restricted in Bangladesh,” a Facebook company spokesperson said in a statement. “We’re working to understand more and hope to have full access restored as soon as possible.”

Officials with the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) did not immediately respond to queries from BenarNews about whether it had blocked Facebook.  

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (center), accompanied by Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina (right) and her sister Sheikh Rehana, pay homage to Bangladesh’s founder, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, at his mausoleum in the Bangabandhu complex in Tungipara, March 27, 2021. [AFP Photo / Indian Information Bureau]

During the day, the Indian prime minister visited the mausoleum of Bangladesh’s founder, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman – the father of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina – and traveled to two Hindu temples in the southern part of the country.

One of the temples is near Bangladesh’s border with India’s West Bengal state, where local polls that are crucial to his BJP party’s hopes of gaining control of the state legislature began on Saturday. While visiting one of the temples, Modi paid tribute to the founder of the Matua Hindu sect and spoke to local members of the Matua community, whose Indian counterparts in West Bengal are considered as important constituents for the state elections.

Before leaving on a flight home at around 9 p.m., the Indian leader held talks with senior Bangladeshi officials, including Hasina. They discussed long-running efforts by Bangladesh to persuade India to sign a deal to share the waters of the Teesta River, and the two leaders also presided over the signing of MoUs, officials said.   

Modi said the memoranda covered a range of bilateral issues including disaster management, sports and youth affairs, and trade and technology.

“Had a productive meeting with PM Sheikh Hasina. We reviewed the full range of India-Bangladesh relations and discussed ways to deepen economic and cultural linkages in the times to come,” the Indian prime minister said on his Twitter channel.

But on Saturday, neither he nor Hasina publicly addressed the violence that had marred Bangladesh’s golden jubilee so far.

“I would like to thank the people of Bangladesh for their affection during my visit,” Modi tweeted.

“I would also like to thank PM Sheikh Hasina and the Bangladesh Government for the warm hospitality. I am sure this visit will lead to further strengthening of bilateral ties between our nations.”

Sabrina Yesmin contributed to this report from Dhaka.

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