Revenge Attacks Target Bangladesh Hindus for Islamist Leader's Death Sentence

See our special coverage of Bangladesh's #Shahbag Protests

Bangladesh's Hindus have come under attack as Islamists, angry over the death sentence handed down to top Jamaat-e-Islami party leader Delwar Hossain Sayeedi by a special war crimes tribunal, engage in a fiery rampage nationwide.

The country's war crimes tribunal sentenced Sayeedi on February 28, 2013 to be hanged for crimes committed during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War from Pakistan. While the verdict was met with cheers from supporters of the Shahbag movement, who have protested for more than a month to demand death for war criminals, the sentence also sparked violent demonstrations countrywide led by Jamaat-e-Islami and its student wing, Bangladesh Islami Chhatra Shibir. Protesters attacked police, blocked roads, torched vehicles, and destroyed homes and businesses.

The minority Hindu community of Bangladesh, where the majority of the population is Muslim, has found itself in the group's angry crosshairs. More than 500 homes, 300 temples, and 300 businesses across the country have so far been burned or vandalized, the chairman of Janmashtomi Udjapon Porishad [editors note: an organization of the Hindus, which arranges the Janmastami festivities celebrating the birth of Lord Krishna], Debashish Palit, said in a press conference on March 14, 2013 in Chittagong, the country's second largest city.

During the mayhem, Dayal Hari Shil, a 60 year old Hindu, was killed [bn] in the southeastern city of Banshkhali.

Bangladesh's High Court ordered on March 10, 2013 the arrest of those involved in the atrocities in Banshkhali within seven days. The court also ordered the government to ensure the safety of the minorities in nearby Noakhali, which has also experienced Hindu-targeted violence.

The destruction by Jamaat in Banshkhai, Chittagong. The Hindu victims are living with fear under open sky.

The Hindu community of Banshkhali in Chittagong is in tatters from the atrocities committed by Jamaat. They now live under the open sky with constant fear in their hearts. Image by Mehedi Hasan Khan, used with permission

The brutal attacks directed at the Hindu community are peculiar because Bangladesh's Hindus have no ties to the Sayeedi verdict. But this is not the first time in the country's history that minorities have been targeted – only recently, a Buddhist community in Ramu in Chittagong was attacked.

Blogger Arif Jebtik described the underlying reason for the violence:

রাজাকারের বিচারের সঙ্গে কিন্তু হিন্দুদের কোনো ধর্মীয় সম্পর্ক নেই, অথচ পরিকল্পনা করে হিন্দুদেরকে আক্রমন করা হচ্ছে। এর কারণ হচ্ছে ভারতের সঙ্গে বাংলাদেশের সম্পর্ককে উস্কে দেয়া। যখনই শোনা গেল যে ইন্ডিয়ার রাষ্ট্রপতি এদেশ সফরে নিশ্চিতই আসছেন, তখন হিন্দুদের উপর এই আক্রমন শুরু হলো। […]

এখন যদি একই সঙ্গে বাংলাদেশের হিন্দুদেরকে বিপন্ন করে তোলা যায় এবং সেটি ইন্ডিয়াতে সরবরাহ করা যায় তাহলে ইন্ডিয়ার জামায়াত-শিবির তথা শিবসেনা-বিজেপি গোষ্ঠি সেখানে হইচই করার সুযোগ পায়। সেই হইচইয়ে বৃহৎ প্রতিবেশী ভারতের সঙ্গে একটি অস্থিরতা তৈরির সুযোগ তৈরি হয়।

Though there is no link between the trial of war criminals and the Hindu community, they are being attacked according to a deliberate plan. The reason is to incite tension in Bangladesh-India relations. The attacks started as soon as it was reported that the Indian President was to visit the country. […]

If the Hindu community is put in peril here, then the Indian Jamaat a.k.a. the Hindu-militant right wing parties will get a chance to cause mayhem there. From that, tensions with the neighbouring India can be created.

Blogger Gita Das, quoting an acquaintance, wrote on blog Mukto Mona (Liberal Thinking) that Hindus are being attacked for the crime of testifying against Sayeedi.

human chain

Human chain protesting the attack of Hindus. Image courtesy Facebook page I am Hindu.

Many people have risen up across the country in protest of the violence against the Hindu community. Strong condemnation of the attacks has also circulated on social networking websites and blogs. Oli Syed Mahbub, sharing a report about the violence on minorities from the Daily Kaler Kontho [bn], wrote satirically:

ভালোই লাগে এদের রক্তের স্রোতে আমি-আমরা বেঁচে আছি। এই সনাতন ধর্মাবলম্বী ভাইদের, এই পুলিশ ভাইদের খুনের রক্তে আমরা নিরাপদ আছি। এরা মরে গেছে বলেই আমাদের মরতে হয় নি। ঢাকা সুরক্ষিত আছে। আরো সুরক্ষিত শাহবাগে আমি যাই-আসি। বাসায় খাই দাই। ভালোই আছি। এদিকে পুড়ে যাচ্ছে ওদের গা-জীবন-স্বপ্ন-স্বাধীনতা! দিগন্ত জুড়ে আমার কেবল অক্ষম  আক্রোশ!

It feels good to be living on their tide of blood. We are safe and alive shedding the blood of the Hindus and members of the police force. We live because they died. Dhaka is safe. I go to and come back from the safe zone of Shahbag. I eat well at home. Life is good. In the meantime their bodies-life-dreams-independence go up in flames! My impotent anger flashes across the horizon!

In a call to save the country from Jamaat-Shibir's violence, Sabrina (@sabrina_S71) tweeted:

@সাবরিনা_এস৭১: জামাত-শিবির হায়েনার হাত থেকে #দেশ বাঁচান। ওরা #হিন্দু মন্দির ধ্বংস করছে। সংখ্যালঘু #হিন্দু সম্প্রদায়ের ওপর আক্রমণ করছে। #শাহবাগ। (লিন্ক)

@sabrina_S71: Save the country from the Jamaat Shibir hyenas. They destroyed Hindu temples. Attacked the Hindu minorities. #Shahbagh.

Religion is personal

Poster: Religion is personal, the country is for everybody.

Shehab (@omarshehab) tweeted:

@ওমরশিহাব: আজকে জামাতের মেনুতে কয়টি হিন্দু পরিবার আছে? আজকের শেফ স্পেশাল কী? ধর্ষণ না অগ্নিসংযোগ? #শাহবাগ #সেভ বাংলাদেশ

@omarshehab: How many Hindu families are there on the menu of Jamaat today? What is the Chef's special? Rape or arson? #Shahbagh #Save Bangladesh

The Hindu, Buddhist, and Christian minorities live side by side in Bangladesh with the country's Muslim majority. As a reminder to that, Twitter user Lenin (@nine_L) tweeted:

হিন্দু-বৌদ্ধ-খ্রিস্টান সবাই আমাদের ভাই। চলুন জামাত-শিবিরের হাত থেকে তাদের রক্ষা করি। #shahbag …

@nine_L: Hindus-Buddhists-Christians are my brothers. Let’s save them from the violence of Jamaat-Shibir. #shahbag



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