Islamist Radicals Attack 14 Hindu Temples In Bangladesh, Trigger Migration Of Hindus

Islamist Radicals Attack 14 Hindu Temples In Bangladesh, Trigger Migration Of Hindus

by Jaideep Mazumdar - Monday, February 6, 2023 12:47 PM IST
Islamist Radicals Attack 14 Hindu Temples In Bangladesh, Trigger Migration Of HindusRadicals vandalise idols at 14 Hindu temples in Bangladesh (Image via Twitter)
  • The 5 February attacks were suspected to have been carried out by radicals belonging to the Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami and affiliated Islamist organisations. 

Fourteen Hindu temples were desecrated by Muslim fundamentalists at Baliadangi in northwestern Bangladesh’s Thakurgaon district, that borders Uttar Dinajpur district of Bengal. 

Radicals suspected of belonging to the Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami and affiliated radical Islamist organisations carried out orchestrated attacks on the 14 temples in the early hours of Sunday (5 February). 

The bigots either uprooted murtis (idols) of gods and goddesses from some of the temples and smashed them to pieces before throwing them by the roadside, or demolished them. 

The police seems clueless about the identity of the attackers and issued statements that they are “investigating the incidents”. 

Bidyanath Barman, a Hindu community leader in Baliadangi, an upazila (sub-district) in Thakurgaon, said that the desecration of the temples has spread fear once again among Hindus. 

Bholanath Das, another community leader who also organises Durga Puja, told Swarajya from the district headquarters that the shocking incident has spread fear among the Hindus. 

“I have received reports that Hindus in some Muslim-majority areas have started migrating to safer places fearing attacks on them,” said Das. 

Das said that such incidents follow a sinister script. 

“They (Islamist radicals) attack our temples or Puja pandals and desecrate them. Then the administration cracks down on the extremist organisations like the Jamaat, the Islami Chhatra Shibir and other organisations and arrests people. The crackdown is then used by these extremist organisations to whip up passions against the Hindus," Das explained. 

"Leaders of these outfits tell people that the administration is siding with Hindus and punishing Muslims. That angers Muslims who then attack us,” he added. 

Thakurgaon’s Superintendent of Police Mohammad Jahangir Hossain told Swarajya that the police are “vigorously investigating the attacks” and “the guilty will not be spared”. 

“This is an orchestrated attack to disrupt peace and communal harmony. We’re in touch with Hindu community leaders and have assured them of quick action,” said Hossain.

However, such assurances have failed to instil trust among the embattled Hindus who have been facing repeated attacks in Bangladesh. 

Rudranath Mondal, a former teacher at Thakurgaon Government College, said that Hindus fear more attacks on them since parliamentary elections (due in January 2024) are approaching. 

“We remember the largescale attacks on Hindus after the January 2014 elections. Activists of the Jamaat, Chhatra Shibir and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) attacked Hindus in Thakurgaon and also many other parts of Bangladesh. They accused Hindus of voting for the Awami League and bringing that party to power,” said Mondal. 

Hindu community leaders say that attacks on Hindus will increase in the run up to the parliamentary elections.

“It is all aimed at discouraging Hindus from voting. It is always assumed that Hindus vote overwhelmingly for the Awami League (AL) and the AL’s opponents resent that. They say that since AL comes to power due to support from Hindus, our community should be punished,” said Debabrata Kar, a businessman and community leader in Dhaka. 

In January 2014, immediately after the results of the elections were announced, Jamaat-Shibir-BNP cadres went on a rampage and torched nearly a hundred homes and business establishments belonging to Hindus in Thakurgaon. Hindus in other parts of Bangladesh also faced fierce attacks. 

These largescale attacks on Hindus happened in the aftermath of the December 2018 parliamentary elections also. The AL government, though, had taken a number of precautionary measures that thwarted the extensive attacks on Hindus that happened in January 2014. 

Kar, who is active in a number of organisations fighting for rights of minorities in Bangladesh, told Swarajya that despite the Awami League government’s vigil against Islamists, attacks on Hindus have been happening regularly in Bangladesh. 

“The Islamists are very much active and have been able to radicalise a large section of Muslims, especially the illiterate and semi-literate sections of the majority community in the rural areas. They have become anti-Hindu and attacks on Hindus take place regularly. Many attacks on Hindus and our places of worship by radicalised Muslims are quite spontaneous. What's worse is that some AL leaders, especially at the grassroots level, are hand-in-glove with the Islamists,” said Kar. 

Thakurgaon’s Bholanath Das said a number of Hindu families living in Muslim-majority villages in Haripur, Ranisankail and Pirganj upazilas (sub-districts) of Thakurgaon district have migrated to Thakurgaon city (the eponymous district headquarters) where they have taken temporary shelter at the homes of their relatives and friends. 

“The atmosphere is tense and all Hindus are on tenterhooks. If the administration launches a strong crackdown on the Jamaat and its associates, including the (opposition) BNP, there will be backlash against innocent Hindus,” he said. 

Thakurgaon was once ruled by Maithili and Bengali Brahmins. The place is said to have got its name from Barun Thakur, a Maithili Brahmin who was a local ruler. Thakurgaon is just about 30 kms from Kishanganj in present-day Bihar.

Thakurgaon was a Hindu-majority area in 1947 and was unfairly hived off to East Pakistan at the insistence of Muslim League leaders and due to the callousness of the Congress who did not resist its inclusion in East Pakistan. 

A vast swathe of Jalpaiguri extending over areas under the jurisdiction of three police stations (police stations had huge areas under their jurisdictions in those days) and one police station area in Cooch Behar (both these are districts of Bengal now) were added to Thakurgaon which became a mahakuma; sub-division, in East Pakistan’s Rangpur division. 

In 1947, Thakurgaon mahakuma was a Hindu-majority area. Hindus made up 55 per cent of the population. Thanks to systematic cleansing of Hindus since 1947, Hindus account for just a little over 20 per cent of the district’s population. 

Hindus have faced repeated attacks since 1947. Thousands of Hindus in Thakurgaon have been killed, their womenfolk raped, a huge number forcibly converted to Islam and lakhs have been driven away from their homes and properties that have been forcibly taken over by Muslim radicals. 

Hindus of Thakurgaon faced a planned genocide in 1971 by Pakistani Army and their Islamist collaborators; called Razakars, whose crimes have been extensively documented. 

Jaideep Mazumdar is an associate editor at Swarajya.

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