The Amnesty International has called upon the Bangladesh government for giving better protection to the minority Hindus in the country.
In a Mar 6 report, titled ‘Bangladesh: Wave of Violent Attacks Against Hindu Minority’, the Amnesty said as many as 40 Hindu temples were vandalised in attacks by supporters of an Islamic party. Several hundred were rendered homeless as shops and houses belonging to the Hindu community were burnt down over the past week, it said.
The report gave Bangladesh's war crimes trial as the context to the violence against the Hindus.
“The Hindu community in Bangladesh is at extreme risk, in particular at such a tense time in the country. It is shocking that they appear to be targeted simply for their religion. The authorities must ensure that they receive the protection they need,” said Amnesty’s Bangladesh Researcher Abbas Faiz.
“All political parties in Bangladesh should condemn strongly any violence against the Hindu community, and to instruct all their members and supporters not to take part in such attacks.”
Victims told the Amnesty that the attackers were taking part in rallies organised by the Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) and its student group, Islami Chhatra Shibir.
The global rights watchdog, however, said the Jamaat had publicly denied any involvement in the anti-Hindu violence.
The report said attacks on Hindus and other minorities were often reported from Bangladesh, especially from the far-flung areas.
The latest attack took place on Mar 6 at Daudkandi village in Comilla, where a Hindu temple was vandalised and burnt down.
A victim told the Amnesty on Feb 28 that his village of Rajganj Bazar in Noakhali was set on fire by the Jamaat supporters.
“They set fire to 30 of our houses. Seventy-six families lived in those houses. They also set fire to our temples – all have now been destroyed,” the victim said.
He said the authorities provided them with temporary accommodation.
Another survivor said on March 2, a group of about 100 Jamaat supporters looted and damaged four shops owned by Hindus in Satkania and vandalised a Hindu temple in the village.
According to the Amnesty, Bangladesh’s Hindu minority constitutes only eight per cent of the population and has historically been at risk of violence. They suffered heavily during the 1971 independence war and again after the 2001 parliament elections, it said.
“Given the obvious risks the Hindu minority faces in Bangladesh, these attacks were sadly predictable. We urge the authorities to take note of the violence and act to prevent further attacks,” said Faiz.
The report talked of high tension across Bangladesh in recent weeks as Jamaat and its student affiliate called for strikes and mass protests against the war crimes tribunals, which handed down punishment to some of its leaders for crimes against humanity during the 1971 war.
“Protesters have also been involved in violent clashes with police, who have used teargas, rubber bullets or live ammunition against them,” said the report.
At least 60 people had been killed, mostly in police firing, but among the dead were also several policemen, said the report put up on the AI’s official website.
“While there are credible reports that police firing may have followed violent attacks against them by protesters, use of excessive force by police cannot be discounted,” Faiz said.