The International Commission for Human Rights and Religious Freedom (ICHRRF) expressed grave concern at ongoing killings of Hindu minorities and desecration of Hindu temples in Bangladesh during the festive season of Durga Puja.
Durga Puja is the year's biggest religious festivity in traditional Bengali Hindu culture, and is a time of great celebration, musical performance, dioramas, feasts, parades and personal reflection, observed across social divides in Bengali society. However, this iconic Hindu religious festival has come under gruesome attack from Muslim mobs this year in Bangladesh, vandalizing Hindu temples, smashing icons, and assaulting devotees.
Across 22 districts of Bangladesh, major and minor incidents of attacks and vandalism have so far claimed the lives of at least 4 people and injured over 60 others, some critically. The violence erupted in Cumilla after rumors of an act of blasphemy at a Hindu religious gathering. Attacks followed in quick succession at several other locations. The latest attack a few hours ago vandalized an ISKCON Krishna temple in Noakhali, leaving at least one person critically injured. ISKCON is a Hindu religious organization founded in New York and with temples across the world. Noakhali is a part of Bangladesh infamous for the genocide of Hindus by Islamists in 1946 (link).
To stop the attacks, Bangladesh police authorities have enforced a ban on all kinds of gatherings and rallies in several districts, effectively squelching public festivities and giving in to Islamist demands to exterminate overtly Hindu observances. The police also opened fire on a gathering of over 500 people, which is reported to have resulted in some casualties.
The Durga Puja attacks this year are not isolated. They form part of a continuing series of attacks on Bangladeshi Hindus since early this year, which in turn are part of a decades long process of ethnic cleansing of minorities from Bangladesh. Hindus today form less than 10% of Bangladesh's 169 million population, down from 25% in 1947 when the country split from India as part of Pakistan. As with all Islamist attacks on minorities in Bangladesh, the violence this festival season also began with the declaration by Islamists that an act of blasphemy had been committed. The ruling Awami League party's general secretary Obaidul Qader himself admitted that such rumors are spurious excuses to disrupt interfaith harmony.
Just earlier this year, ICHRRF published a position paper on the existential threat facing religious and ethnic minorities in Bangladesh. The government of Bangladesh has laws that openly discriminate against non-Muslim communities and hold them hostage. Yet, Bangladesh continues to benefit from preferential trade and investment arrangements from neighboring India, including military assistance. Bangladesh security forces continue to benefit from contracts with the United Nations peacekeeping forces. ICHRRF urges the
international community to make Bangladesh's participation contingent upon a marked and sustained improvement in the situation of Hindu, Buddhist, Chakma tribal and Christian minorities in Bangladesh, including the abrogation of all laws and institutions that discriminate against or oppress minorities and the
reinstatement of properties and rights that have been confiscated. ICHRRF demands that Bangladesh's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina take immediate steps to prevent motivated and targeted killings of Hindus in Bangladesh.