Bangladesh: Islamist violence against Hindu and Buddhist community places

On the 28th of February, in reaction to the convictions of the Bangladeshi Islamist movement’s leaders for crimes during its 1971 Liberation War/war of independence, Islamists initiated a wave of hate crimes that caused ‘déjà vu‘. Jamaat-Shibir fanatics unleashed havoc on Bangladesh’s Hindu and Buddhist communities that was reminiscent precisely of the crimes of the 1971 war. At least 85 people have been killed in the last two weeks.

I’ve tried to gather as much evidence as possible of specific attacks on cultural and community property, to understand the nature of the violence, and to confirm the identity of the masterminds of the violence.

(You’ll have to excuse the flood of links; I had to rearrange a lot of the records of violence to put them in chronological order, so I added a link to every claim.)

Looted, vandalised, burned, destroyed – Hindu and Buddhist community places

On the 28th, they ‘damaged’ at least five Hindu temples and one Buddhist temple, and ‘torched’ Hindu homes and businesses across the country.

Either Jamaat-Shibir burned down one (Harishiva) temple and the homes of fifty villagers, or Jamaat-e-Islami burned down a number of temples and the thirty homes of seventy-six families, in Rajganj Bazar in Noakhali district; there, they threatened, robbed or removed journalists to prevent news coverage.

They destroyed Hindu artefacts in Aladin Nagar, and left the village (in Noakhali district) ‘strewn with torn tin sheets, broken glass, food grain, damaged books and burnt bicycles’; they looted, then vandalised 40 homes in Aladin Nagar and burned 36 homes in Alampur. They also ‘looted‘ a jeweller’s shop in Begumganj town, where they outnumbered the police.

They burned three Hindu shops in Kaliaish union in Satkania upazila (subdistrict), a Buddhist temple also in Satkania subdistrict, and Hindu homes in Dhopapara and Mohajonpara (in Jaldi union in Banshkhali subdistrict).

Activists of Jamaat-e-Islami and (its student movement) Chhatra Shibir ‘attacked’ a Hindu temple and Hindu businesses in Bhelkobazar and vandalised Hindu homes in Shovaganj (in Sundarganj subdistrict).

An unidentified faction’s ‘attackers’ vandalised the Kali mandir (temple) in Kansat village (in Chapai Nawabganj district); vandalised Mithapukar/Mithapukur subdistrict’s central Kali temple; and committed ‘vandalism, arson and looting‘ of Hindu temples, homes and businesses elsewhere.

On the 2nd of March, about a hundred young, male Jamaat-e-Islami supporters vandalised a Hindu temple and looted four Hindu shops in Satkania village (in Chittagong district). They also damaged two other temples in Morrelganj town (in Chitalmari district). There was ‘damaging and torching‘ of Hindu goddess idols in Sarbojoneen Durga temple (in Gournadi subdistrict).

On the 3rd, a fire damaged ‘many idols‘ in the Kali temple in Goalimandra Monipara (village).

Late on the 5th, Jamaat-e-Islami ‘goons’ vandalised and burned the Shitalabari Kali temple in Bagerhat city. Early on the 6th, they damaged a Kali temple and vandalised all of its idols in Hijla union (in Chitalmari subdistrict).

On the 7th March, ‘a gang of goons’, ‘suspect[ed] anti-liberation elements‘ ‘vandalised idols and torched‘ the Sree Sree Kali temple in Bejgram village (in Tongbhanga union in Hatibandha subdistrict); and they ‘vandalised and burned down‘ a Hindu temple in Daudkandi (in Comilla district). By the end of the first week, violent Islamists had vandalised more than 40 Hindu temples.

‘Unidentified miscreants vandalised and set fire to three more Kali temples of the Hindu community in Bagerhat and Lalmonirhat districts on Wednesday and Thursday [6th and 7th].’

By the 9th of March, ‘more than 50 temples [had] been damaged and more than 1,500 houses [had been] destroyed‘.

On the 11th of March, ‘hoodlums’ smashed the Swarasati idol in the Kali temple in Achim Bazar (in Phulbaria district); but they left the other ones intact.

Co-ordinated, systematic, mainstream communal persecution

According to Hindu community leaders, the communal violence is ‘co-ordinated’, ‘systematic’; it is even ‘mainstream’, as it is conducted by Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and Bangladesh People’s League (Awami League) supporters as well as Jamaat-Shibir supporters, in order ‘to grab land and other property’. But it is definitely communal rather than commercial, as Hindus and Buddhists are ‘persecuted’, “cleansed” from a place that Islamists believe is Muslim territory.

On top of the evidence of the mobs’ banners, statements and targets, the Bangladeshi police appear to have found forensic evidence for the Hindu community’s fears.

Police found bombs in Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BJP) headquarters

The Bangladesh Nationalist Party condemned a police raid on BJP headquarters as ‘illegal and disgusting’. But the police raided their HQ (on the 11th of March) because their activists had thrown bombs at police officers and brickbats at buildings, looted shops and damaged public property. And the police found ten such ‘hand bombs’/’crude bombs’ in the BJP’s offices (which the BJP dismissed as ‘stage-managed‘).

Continued violence

On the 12th of March, unidentified persons vandalised twenty-three Shiva idols, in a temple within the Angita cremation ground (in Kaliganj district); and others damaged a Swaraswati idol in a temple in Solonka Daspara village (in Kalihati district).

On the 13th of March, unidentified persons, a suspected ‘gang’, vandalised five idols in Hori Thakur temple in Dwipakunia village (in Singra district).

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