Conflict News: Violence against minorities in Bangladesh after Jamaat leader's death sentence

CourtesyHasan Jahid Tusher | March 1, 2013


Bangladesh witnessed unprecedented violence after Jamaat-Shibir activists responded to the death penalty awarded to their leader. The violence followed the verdict of the special Bangladeshi tribunal that handed down death penalty to Delwar Hossain Sayedee, vice-president of the party, amid a nationwide shutdown called by Jamaat-e-Islami (JI).


At least 33 people, including four policemen, were killed and scores injured by members of Jamaat-Shibir. Of the deceased, six people, including three cops, were killed in Gaibandha, four in Thakurgaon, three in Satkhira, two each in Rangpur, Noakhali, Chittagong, Moulvibazar and Sirajganj while one each in Dinajpur, Natore, Cox's Bazar and Chapainawabganj.


Unleashing terror on the Hindu community, the Jamaat-Shibir activists damaged at least six temples, including one of Buddhists, and torched houses and business establishments belonging to Hindus in Noakhali, Gaibandha, Chittagong, Rangpur, Sylhet, Chapainawabganj and elsewhere in the country.


After pronouncement of the verdict, protesters attacked a police outpost in Gaibandha and killed three cops, stabbed to death a police constable in Chittagong and set fire to a temple and some houses of the Hindu community in Noakhali. Police had a hard time containing the violence in the area as the protesters had outnumbered the policemen. When they tried to bring the situation under control, an exchange of gunshots took place in Datterhat under Sadar Police Station and in Rajganj under Begumganj Police Station, leaving two people dead.


According to eyewitnesses, hours after the verdict the Jamaat-Shibir activists set fire to Harishiva temple in Rajganj market area under Begumganj Police Station of Dhaka. “The Jammat-Shibir men returned later and we had no choice but to flee. They poured kerosene and set eight houses on fire,” said Shankar Chandra, a schoolteacher who lost his house in the attack. About 50 Hindus used to live in the houses that were burnt down, he said, adding that all but a few people had managed to escape to safety.


Those left behind had been beaten up and kicked out of their houses by the Jamaat-Shibir attackers. “We ran for our lives and left everything behind, or else we would have been killed. I have never felt this insecure before, even during the Liberation War in 1971,” said Shankar Chandra.


Incidents of vandalism, arson and looting in temples, houses and business establishments of Hindus were also reported in Sylhet, Rangpur, Thakurgaon, Laxmipur and Chapainawabganj of Gaibanda district. According to leaders of the Hindu community, the attackers had vandalised the central Kali temple at Mithapukur upazila in Rangpur and another at Kansat in Chapainawabganj.


“We are observing the situation. We are hearing of widespread violence against the Hindu community. So far they have attacked and vandalised temples, houses and business establishments belonged to Hindu people in at least 10 districts,” said Nirmal Chatterjee, secretary general of Dhaka Mahanagar Puja Committee.  “We have informed the policemen about the situation and sought security for the Hindu community,” he added.


In Natore, around 200 Jamaat-Shibir activists swooped on the house of a Jubo League leader in Kadamchilan under Lalpur upazila and hacked him to death. They also torched a police van, injuring five policemen. During the attack, the Jamaat-Shibir men also threatened newsmen to keep away from covering the incident.


As the news of deaths continued pouring in from different parts of the country, panic gripped the Dhaka residents as unknown miscreants exploded bombs in the city's Mirpur-1 area.


Even before the verdict was delivered, Jamaat-Shibir activists took to the streets to enforce a day-long shutdown to strike fear into the hearts of people, most of whom expressed solidarity with the ongoing Shahbagh demonstrations demanding capital punishment for the war criminals.




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