Dhaka, October 18 (AFP) – Protests continued Monday in the Bangladeshi capital to denounce a wave of violence against Hindus after an image posted on social media was seen as an insult to the country’s Muslim majority. New attacks took place Sunday night in a northern village, where as many as 26 Hindu homes were burned by unidentified men, despite the government warning that such attacks would be severely punished.
The violence prompted the United Nations to urge the government to take measures to stop it. On Monday, students and teachers from the University of Dhaka joined followers of Hindu group ‘International Society for Krishna Consciousness’ in cutting a major road junction in Dhaka to demand justice. Several other Hindu groups also joined the peaceful protest at Shahbagh Junction.
Attacks on Hindu temples have escalated since last Wednesday, after a photo was posted on social media showing a copy of the Holy Quran at the feet of a statue in a Hindu temple in the eastern Comilla region. Local media reported that six Hindus were killed in separate attacks, but the numbers could not be independently confirmed. Local media downplayed its coverage of the violence, apparently under pressure from the government to control any new attacks as Hindus celebrated their biggest religious festival, Durga Puja, which ended on Friday.
Muslims also organized street protests after the pictures spread on social networking sites, especially Facebook. Mia Sibu, the UN Resident Coordinator in Bangladesh, said in a tweet on Twitter on Monday that attacks on Hindus are against the values of Bangladesh’s constitution and must stop.
We call on the government to ensure the protection of minorities and an impartial investigation, Sibu said. We call on everyone to join hands to promote comprehensive tolerance. Asif Hassan, the chief government administrator in the northern Rangpur district, said on Monday that the attackers had set fire to Hindu homes in a fishing village on Sunday night. He also said that they stole cash, livestock, and other valuables during the attack. Hassan said 42 people were arrested.
On Monday, the Interior Ministry removed seven police officials from the restive areas for their failure to control the violence. About 9 percent of Bangladesh’s 160 million people are Hindus. Bangladesh has a largely secular legal system based on British common law. (AFP).
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