Durga puja pandal attacks | Sheikh Hasina promises action

Durga idols immersion peaceful in Bangladesh.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has said her Government will deliver justice in the violence of Comilla district on October 13 that was marked by mobs targeting Durga puja pandals. The disturbances quickly snowballed into the largest communal violence in the recent history of Bangladesh and dented the spirit of Durga puja. At least 4 persons died in police firing and several were arrested in a countrywide crackdown.

“A thorough investigation is under way in the incidents in Comilla. Nobody will be spared. We are getting a lot of information about the incident. It doesn’t matter which religion they belong to. They will be hunted down and punished,” said Sheikh Hasina at a virtual event on Thursday during which she interacted with worshippers at the historic Dhakeshwari temple in Dhaka on the occasion of the puja celebrations.

According to the World Hindu Federation Bangladesh Chapter, the disturbances began on Wednesday when social media images depicting desecration of an Islamic holy book went viral. Soon thereafter, a mob targeted some of the prominent puja pandals in the town. The police department has faced criticism for not acting on receiving first complaints. Fuelled by social media, the violence spread fast to other parts of Bangladesh. On Wednesday alone approximately 80 locations in Comilla were attacked.

The worst violence took place in Hajiganj of Chittagong where the police had to open fire on a mob that had attacked a temple. Four persons died in the firing and many were injured. Similar incidents were reported from Noakhali where the pandals and the residences of the minority community came under attack.

The incidents created a bigger law and order challenge after a minority-run organisation called to suspend immersion of Durga idols as a mark of protest on Friday. However, immersion took place peacefully across the country after the administration requested the pandals to stick to the puja traditions.

Dhaka, which organised Durga puja in 238 pandals, also witnessed some anxious moments on Friday when a large crowd gathered outside the Baitul Mukarram mosque and began protesting against the reported incident of sacrilege. However, the police dealt with the crowd and arrested at least five persons.

The assurance from Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina came a day after Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan said the perpetrators of violence and those behind rumour mongering on social media will be dealt with sternly. Official spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs Arindam Bagchi on Thursday said the authorities had dealt with the disturbances ‘promptly’.

“We also understand that the ongoing festive celebrations of Durga puja continue in Bangladesh with the support of government agencies and of course, a large majority of the public,” he said during a media interaction on Thursday.

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