Dhaka, Nov 2 (PTI) Some radical Islamists vandalised and set on fire the houses of several Hindu families in Bangladesh's Comilla district over rumours about an alleged Facebook post slandering Islam, prompting authorities to order stern punitive actions against the culprits, officials said on Monday.
The households were vandalised and later set on fire on Sunday after a Bangladeshi man, who lives in France, allegedly praised President Emmanuel Macron for taking steps against 'inhumane ideologies' after a teacher in Paris was decapitated for showing caricatures of the Prophet, officials said.
The headmaster of a kindergarten school in Purbo Dhour and another person reportedly shared his comments welcoming Macron’s action in a comment on the post which was spread on social media with the claim that the headmaster supported caricatures of the Prophet.
As the rumours about the Facebook post spread, tension mounted in the area on Saturday.
The village chief, himself a Hindu, handed them to police. They were produced before a local court which denied bail and sent them to jail pending trial. The police launched a case under the Digital Security Act against them.
'Orders have been issued to arrest anyone who appeared as suspects alongside launching routine legal procedures against those involved,' Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal told PTI.
He said extra police forces were sent to the affected village to ensure security of people in the neighbourhood.
'We have mobilised mobile courts to award punishment to the suspects as immediate actions but the culprits will face sterner punitive actions after detailed investigations,' Kamal said.
Cumilla's police chief Syed Nuril Islam told PTI over phone that five people have been arrested and a mobile court has sentenced each of them to one and half years of imprisonment identifying them from a video footage.
'Three cases were lodged by now and another two are being framed over the incident,' Islam said.
He said youth activists of an 'anti-government political party' reportedly mobilized the mob which carried out the vandalism in which two Hindu temples were also damaged'.
'The situation is under control now,” Md Abul Fazal Mir, deputy commissioner of Cumilla district, said.
The deputy commissioner said the locals carried out arson attacks on homes, including those of the two arrestees.
Demonstrations against France over caricatures of the Prophet have been taking place in different Muslim-majority countries for some days.
Bangladeshi authorities have deployed four platoons of police in Kurbanpur and Andikot villages to keep the situation under control.
Reached by phone, a resident of the village at Muradnagar sub-district of Cumilla, referred to as Laxmi Babu, said the culprits torched nine houses and two temples on Sunday 'but the situation is now normal after police held a meeting with villagers'.
Bangladesh Hindu-Buddhis-Christian Unity Council, meanwhile, said they sent a delegation to the scene for gathering detailed information.
'Right now, I can just tell you the incident is pathetic...religious sentiment is not a one way traffic,' council's presidium member Kajol Debnath told PTI.
He said that the vandalism came two days after the Islamists killed an elderly Muslim teacher in northwestern Lalmonirhat on an identical plea 'which is more pathetic as it cost a human life there'. PTI AR/NSA ZH AKJ ZH ZH